Teaching - My Philosophy
There is nothing more fulfilling as a professor than seeing the light bulb turn on within students who are excited and captivated by the knowledge they received from my classes. The Latin root of the word educate is educe, which means to bring out. This is consistent with Afrocentric philosophy that guides teachers to bring out of the students inner knowledge that they often possess. I do not see students as empty vessels. All students possess life experiences that can benefit their classmates, contribute to a class discussion, and help me continue to learn and grow as a professor. The psychologists shown on this page continue to have an influence on my academic life.
I believe that teaching is more of an art than a science. There are pedagogical techniques that make someone a more effective teacher. But there are certain characteristics of a master teacher that cannot be “taught” in a traditional sense - passion for your discipline or area of specialty cannot be taught. If students sense that a professor is not genuinely excited about a topic, how can the professor expect the students to be excited?
I believe that exceptional professors are “performers,” that the classroom is the stage, and the students are the participatory audience. I know from experience that rigid lecture-style classes are one of the quickest ways to lose the interest and enthusiasm of students. Depending on the class and the topic, I minimize lecturing and maximize opportunities for classroom participation and discussion. Each class should be an unforgettable, dynamic experience, one where students tell their friends and family how much they are learning.
As a researcher who has studied the academic motivation of college students, I have learned that it is not solely the students’ responsibility to be intrinsically motivated. On some level, every student wants to learn. Skilled teachers should be able to “read” their classes, and teach in such a way that messages reach and motivate all students.
By constantly exposing the most sacrosanct ideas in psychology to the most stringent critique, I teach students to be self-reflective, critical “scientists.” There are no “sacred cows” in my classes. I encourage students to critically read my ideas and critique them the way they would any other ideas. Taking myself off the intellectual pedestal allows students to see themselves as developing scholars capable of engaging in rigorous intellectual discourse, which facilitates their intrinsic motivation.
Having said this, I also know that there should not be a “one size fit all” approach in teaching classes. Each requires a particular pedagogical approach with specific structured learning activities that help students achieve the goals and objectives for the class.
Psychology of the African American Experience is an introduction to understanding the psychology of people of African descent. The course examines the psychology of people of African descent using an African-centered (Afrocentric) liberatory conceptual model. Alternative conceptual models of African/Black psychology are examined. Topics covered include Ancient African philosophical underpinnings of African/African American psychology, the psychological impact of enslavement, Black/African/African American identity and personality development, psychological issues in educating Africans/African Americans, aggression, violence, crime, mental health, and the psychological impact of hip hop.
Politics of Black Identity surveys the diversity and politics of Black identities and critically analyzes the idea that the behaviors, attitudes, and philosophies of certain Black celebrities, leaders, and intellectuals undermine or advance Black progress. While a common bond through skin color is assumed among people identified as Black, there exists a tremendous amount of diversity based on ethnicity, socio-economic status, values, political ideology, and beliefs around racial allegiance. Throughout history there has existed a tradition whereby Black individuals whose attitudes, behavior, and politics differ from the Black majority have been labeled as Uncle Toms, negros, sellouts, and various other denigrating names. Underlying these labels is an orthodoxy of Black identity that prescribes what is, and isn’t, authentic and normative Blackness.
Multicultural Issues in Counseling is an introduction to issues of cultural diversity and multiculturalism in counseling. This course helps students gain basic knowledge of important cultural issues and various cultural groups, as well as self- awareness of oneself as a cultural being influenced by one’s own values and experiences.
Issues in Multicultural Research introduces students to multicultural and cross-cultural issues in psychological research. The course focuses on the conceptual, theoretical and methodological issues central to psychological research involving culture, ethnicity, and race. The course emphasizes the challenges in conducting rigorous, culturally sound research, and is heavily influenced by social, developmental, counseling, and clinical psychology research.