Teaching Stories

Jasmin Habib: Giving Voice to Global Stories

Jasmin Habib

Dr. Jasmin Habib teaches in the Department of Political Science

Written by Hina Ahmed, Special Projects (Teaching Stories), CTE. 

How do you know that you have met a Professor who not only has a magic way with words, but also has the key to unlock hidden pieces of knowledge you may already have? You go in for a short interview, and come out hours later having learned so much not only about the professor, but also about yourself!  Dr. Jasmin Habib is the embodiment of such a thought-provoking and insightful instructor. She wears many hats: she is a story-teller, a nurturer of curiosity, a supportive mentor, and a facilitator of self-reflective knowledge acquisition.

My greatest hope is that we have piqued our students’ curiosity and that we have inspired them to want to learn more. Enormous satisfaction comes when, at the end of a course, students ask me for another set of readings.

Dr. Jasmin Habib’s “Transnational Migration” course started as a special topics course in Political Science with just 12 students. When it was next offered it attracted more than 60 excited undergraduates as well as quite a few auditors. The classroom was full to the brim. “Anthropologists like to share stories of their experiences,” states Habib, “but we also have some responsibility to share our understandings, to place those experiences within some political framing or perspective, and at times to give voice to those whose stories have been marginalized by power, conflict, or location.” Habib lectures in ways that promotes discussion rather than passive listening. She believes that class time provides students the opportunity to challenge the ideas that she presents to them – through lectures, films, assigned readings and assignments -- and she fosters a safe space for students to share their own narratives. A strong believer that open dialogue promotes deeper learning, Habib always ends her classes with an “Ask the Prof” session.

Instructors like Habib have the capacity to unravel the assumptions we carry as humans with diverse backgrounds, identities, and experiences. They realize that instructors should learn from their students as much as students should learn from them.  Former student Trieneke Gastmeier says that “In her classroom, Habib facilitates a dialogue where the students’ and the professor’s voices come together to create meanings -- there is no one ‘truth’ and the politics in and of the classroom are constantly deconstructed.”

In Habib’s course “The Political Documentary” students develop a critical lens through which they can interpret, navigate, and interrogate how controversial political subjects like the Holocaust, the US War in Vietnam, the attacks of September 11, or torture in Iraq have been represented in documentary form.  Students choose to write about topics that are of interest to them with each step carefully designed to help them develop the necessary skills for completing their projects. What makes her teaching so effective is her ability to weave a range of teaching components and assessment tools that allow students with diverse learning styles to achieve their course learning outcomes.

Using a combination of peer teaching through group facilitation exercises, small and large group discussions, reflective and research writing, and self-evaluation reports, Habib ensures that students maximize their learning both in and outside the classroom. Habib’s dedication to teaching can be seen through her refusal to shy away from more time-consuming methods of assessment. Former student Zainab Ramahi shares that “Professor Habib’s assignments were far from arbitrary assessment mechanisms -- they prepared us for further and deeper exploration into our chosen topics. We were not assessed in terms of the content we memorized, but rather on the critical thinking and transferrable skills that we gained.”  

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CTE has developed more than 100 Teaching Tips. Each one is a succinct document that conveys useful ideas and practical methods for effective teaching. Some of the Teaching Tips that are relevant to the strategies mentioned in this Teaching Story include the following: