I believe that addressing commons-types of puzzles necessarily requires understanding basic social science theories and a willingness to engage them with interdisciplinary research approaches. We use rely on different pedagogical approaches to train students. On the one hand we use reading and in-person group discussions in the classic scholarship tradition as opportunities to articulate thoughts and develop common understanding of challenging and new ideas. On the other hand we provide students with the opportunity to learn a variety of analytical tools, so that they can appreciate that there are linkages between epistemologies and methodological approaches and each has different strengths and weaknesses in relation to the question or puzzle at hand. We also expose students to learning-by-doing training through teaching in the field. We find that most life-long lessons emerge when students can internalize theoretically informed personal experiences immersed in a field setting. Through experiential education we can convey that reality is more intricate than it appears to be from the classroom, that environmental problems are part of a larger scale of complex social, political, and ecosystem dynamics, and that there are no “right and wrong” answers. Please visit our Community-based marine conservation class link for some tangible examples of my approach to experiential education.
I aim at training students (doctoral in particular) to be free thinkers. In the process, they also gain an in-depth understanding of common-pool resources theory, and a broad appreciation for basic and interdisciplinary research, the place that both have in the production of knowledge and the linkages they have in the practice and exercise of that knowledge within society.
Finding ways to explain complex concepts to students, and witnessing the path of discovery that students go through is what makes me passionate about teaching. I also find very rewarding to engage in discussions with the students when it is clear that they have invested a significant amount of time wrapping their heads around a particular issue. I believe that teaching —the way I am fortunate to do at Duke— makes me a better researcher too. Not only because of the opportunity to read new material or re-read core literature to my discipline, but also because it provides a discrete and tangible space to reflect on how to better communicate research findings and social science in general.
Across all of my courses, I teach students to be critical thinkers, capable of searching for and elucidating different ways of thinking about the environment and the causes of environmental problems across diverse contexts, and capable of performing integrative analyses. As much as possible, I refrain from providing answers to students. Instead, I strive to train them on how to generate their own questions and empower them to pursue them. As mentioned above, in addition to lecturing, I like to use a variety of pedagogical techniques oriented towards developing research capacity, self-confidence, understanding, sensitivity, respect for others’ perspectives, and communication and discussion skills. For instance, I make the teaching space into a place where students can feel safe and encouraged to venture into and share their thoughts. To accomplish it, I use simple ground rules to ensure that everyone gets a chance to speak, promote listening to understand, not to rebut, and encourage students to express their views in such a way that they can be listened to.Finally, I am aware that there is no one best way to measure our teaching effectiveness, so I encourage direct feedback from students and use mid-term evaluations, in addition to all the other traditional evaluation tools generally available to us.