I am a firm believer in active, collaborative learning, and I try to maintain an engaging and interactive classroom. In each class session I bring some background conceptual material to the class through a short lecture. Then I work to stimulate discussion in which students can question and critique the theories, concepts, and empirical material from the reading. I try to accomplish an engaging approach not only in the classroom, but also in writing assignments. For example, in my research methods class I have students listen to transcripts of environment-related interviews from National Public Radio and read the transcripts of oral histories from resource-dependent people around the world. Students then analyze this primary data in terms of what makes a good interview, how to record interviews and what constitutes valuable qualitative data.
I have found that students can best apply the concepts that they learn in the classroom, through the real life application of the tools. Particularly in courses which focus on different cultures and their relationship with natural resources, students’ level of engagement with other cultures is crucial. On a limited budget, one way to bring these experiences into the classroom is through documentary, educational films. I have found each time that I have shown a film, classroom discussion has risen to a new level. With a larger budget, my goal is to start a field training program. I would like to focus such training opportunities on teaching participatory research tools, qualitative research techniques, and to expose student to both the joys and challenges encountered daily in field work. Not only would a field school provide opportunities for students to apply their new knowledge in the field, but it would also bridge the divide between research and teaching, theory and practice. Social science is not a collection of facts, but rather, field of inquiry that is alive with problems to solve. Only through the hands-on experiences with other people in other countries can tools be mastered to develop workable solutions.