Teaching stories

Veronica Kitchen | Learning through play

Veronica KitchenIf you walk into Dr. Veronica Kitchen’s World Politics class, you might think you’ve taken a wrong turn into the Drama department. Unlike a typical political science lecture, her students spend class time participating in games and active demonstrations that subtly mimic the real-world circumstances of politics. These games, according to Kitchen, allow students to take a break from sitting still and listening, as well as allow them to organically reach conclusions that mirror what academics have learned by observing the real world of politics.

In her eight years of teaching, Kitchen has always aimed to make her political science courses flexible, interesting, and memorable for each student. "That's because," she says, “students are unique and interesting people.” In her experience, two sections of the same course can turn out radically different depending on the students in the class and their interests. This perspective leads Kitchen to experience teaching as novel and exciting in every class. It’s also part of why she chooses to have a public Twitter account, where she creates a hashtag for each of her courses (like this one), which she uses to post extra content related to each course. By following her Twitter feed, students can see that she’s human just like them. “It makes the looks of shock when they see me at the grocery store go away,“ she laughs.

Kitchen’s perspective on teaching closely parallels her ideas about interaction, new technology, and student individuality. “Google will always win for mere answers,” she explains, “but students will still need a toolbox to help them interpret and act on information, and that’s what I hope to provide.” In her upper year classes, Kitchen allows her students to guide the topics they discuss each class. This way, they can use their existing skills and foundational knowledge to explore what they truly find interesting. To get them to this level, Kitchen has learned to act as a guide in the first-year courses, allowing students to get to answers in their own way in order to build their confidence and their ability to navigate information.

The experiential learning in World Politics parallels this exploration. By providing interactive learning games for her students, Kitchen hopes that they’ll learn the ”deeper” lessons of political science. These go beyond theories to examine the interaction of factors such as frustration, anger, and trust – base human emotions that can influence negotiations in positive or negative ways. So far, it seems to be working. While fully integrating experiential learning into World Politics was just an experiment last year, she plans to continue it with slight modifications in the future. She’s looking forward to seeing students who have experienced experiential learning in her fourth-year seminars and beyond, and discovering where political science takes them in the future.

Written by Sarah Forbes, Special Projects (Teaching Stories), CTE, Content originally posted on Centre for Teaching Excellence | Teaching Stories

Bessma Momani 

Bessma MomaniAfter teaching Introduction to the Middle East (PSCI 257 and HIST 230) for more than 10 years, with approximately 90 students every year, I felt students still wanted an experiential course to truly understand the challenges of the Middle East. So this past summer, I decided to take approximately 20 students to attend the Model Arab League in Washington DC. This was a great opportunity to see experiential learning at its finest. Political Science research into experiential learning is heavily focused on the use of simulations like Model United Nations, NATO, European Union where students role-play in either international organizations, parliaments, or crisis situations. Upon arrival in Washington, DC we attended a lecture at the Brookings Institution, featuring Managing Director Christine Lagarde, who spoke about financing the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, along with the issues and role of the IMF in the Greek financial crisis. Students toured the city taking in sites such as the outside of the White House and the Treasury Department, and received private tours of the CTV News studio and the Canadian Embassy. Students were also able to see policymakers talk at prominent places like the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Middle East Institute. Our week ended with the Model Arab League conference and awards were given to three of our Waterloo students that had done particularly well. This was a great teaching moment and a happy day for University of Waterloo.

Content originally from Arts | Teacher profiles.


Jasmin Habib | Story-teller, nurturer & mentor

Jasmin HabibHow 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.

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 theProf” 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.”

Written by Hina Ahmed, Special Projects (Teaching Stories), CTE. Content originally from Centre for Teaching Excellence | Teaching Stories