Teaching Statement - Heather McKee Hurwitz, Ph.D.
I value collaborative learning: I guide students to new ideas, we critically reflect on social problems using texts and our own experiences, we discuss and exchange feedback to learn from our mistakes, and we write, revise and report our analyses. I teach my students as if we are a research team at a vibrant field site with the goal of transforming our communities.
Students explore texts, cutting-edge research, and reading comprehension questions on a current syllabus designed to maximize opportunities for critical reflection. For example, in my Women and Work course, students compare how Swedish and U.S. policies and practices value reproductive labor or devalue domestics in an interactive debate. Students divide into groups of six that closely read and analyze Bowman and Cole’s scholarly article on “The Swedish Maid Debate.” Each group prepares a role play on the standpoint of a government official, employer, domestic worker or mother. Whether auditory, visual or kinetic learners, students find opportunities to express themselves and develop leadership skills using visual aids, theatrics and sharing the presentation tasks. The debate allows us to compare global household labor issues with the challenges local immigrant women overcome to work in California homes.
The debate is one of many ways that I facilitate student-driven classroom experiences to workshop questions and problem solve. In my Global Inequalities class we watch the short film, A Message from Pandora, that compares the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, the movie Avatar, and the Brazilian Belo Monte mega-dam project. Because the film is relevant to students’ lives, it features the cherished Amazon region as well as the much-loved actors and characters of Avatar, students are compelled to accomplish the course learning goals: synthesize the concept of primitive accumulation and apply historic and theoretical analyses of race and globalization to a modern case study.
In all of my classes I use a variety of assessment techniques to help students become better writers and critical thinkers. I design and teach a course on Global Feminism and the Internet to commemorate Tyler Clemente, a gay college student cyber-bullied into suicide. Students summarize and critique course readings daily in online “logs.” At the end of each class period, students recap the main ideas of lectures and films using one-minute writing exercises on index cards and raise questions to address the following day. The course culminates in public sociology projects dedicated to Tyler. Students design websites that evaluate representations of gender and sexuality online and argue for feminist netiquette to limit gender inequalities online.
Beyond the classroom, I bring students into doing research in actual field sites. We collaborate on research teams and learn skills together such as qualitative open coding in ATLAS.ti, content coding using Access and Excel, transcribing in-depth interviews, Endnote, grants management, paper archive management, and website archiving techniques. I have mentored seventeen undergraduate research assistants at UC Santa Barbara and five Barnard undergraduate research assistants. Also at Barnard, I developed Feminist Fieldtrips to build community and informally mentor students. We practice networking through immersion in feminist culture and politics in New York City. The trips include visiting Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party at the Brooklyn Museum and the U.S. Mission at the United Nations. By collaborating with students and gleaning insights from feminist research, I will continue to improve the ways I teach critical thinking and reflection, teamwork, and excellent writing.