To educate a wide variety of students, it is necessary to provide a vibrant learning environment. Learning involves thinking and feeling and positive outcomes are obtained by enhancing both the knowledge and the motivation of individual students. It is essential to stimulate interest through reinforcements and punishments that express the need to learn meanings in addition to facts. My objective is to ensure that a high number of students seek to enroll in the classes I teach and that their initial interest flourishes into an in-depth knowledge of the subject material.
I have built many strong relationships with both faculty and students. Those successes are due in part to the strong personal connections I can make with individuals. I continually seek to facilitate the same type of individual connection between each student and the material. The primary approach I employ is teaching social problems that enable students to (i) understand theory; (ii) appropriately utilize methods; and (iii) combine the two into an application to a social problem. As the students draw connections to things relevant to their primary interests, they then attach that interest to the subject matter.
Each student brings with them a prior set of knowledge to the class. Teaching social problems accomplishes (i) a realization of where and how newly learned sociological practice is currently taking place; (ii) a relevant view of theoretical framework; and (iii) an introduction to social processes in a socio-cultural setting. When students apply their newly acquired knowledge to prior interests through current application, a blend of theoretical framework, social process, and socio-cultural setting occurs. This well-rounded technique allows each student to present a strength while incorporating a weakness to improve their entire comprehension of the material.
When more students contribute, the greatest gain occurs for all. Therefore, I assign both individual and group work. Some students are more confident writing individual journals while others prefer to express their critiques through a public discourse during the class period. I administer lectures (auditory), multimedia presentations (visual), individual written assignments, and group presentations. This variety of methods enables contributions through many different means and allows a diverse course of learning. Student involvement is encouraged within a risk-free environment.
FROM RALPH PYLE: http://sociology.msu.edu/documents/RalphPyleVita05-2008.pdf
Teaching evaluations indicate that students appreciate the enthusiasm I display and my
use of personal examples to illustrate various sociological concepts. The evaluations also show
that I encourage student discussions and provide straight-forward presentations in the classroom.
The highest evaluations are in the area of student-instructor interaction.
I am also involved in mentoring graduate students who serve as assistants in the courses I
teach. The graduate teaching assistants need guidance in grading papers, writing test questions,
and giving classroom presentations. I have developed good working relationships with
undergraduates and graduate students that I have worked with on joint research projects. I have
served on the dissertation committees of several graduate students, and an article that I co-
authored with a graduate student was published in Social Compass. Each summer I informally
mentor several graduate students who are teaching for the first time. I also give a presentation
each fall on the topic of teaching for the new Sociology graduate students during their orientation
session. I have also served as a mentor for recipients of undergraduate scholarships, including
the Social Science Dean’s Assistantship and the McNair/SROP scholarship.