As an educator – especially one teaching political science and international relations – I believe I have a responsibility to impart academic knowledge and professional skills as well as prepare students to become better community members. I want my classes to be challenging but fair and, most importantly, valuable to students beyond their time in our classroom. It is important that we teach students how to process and evaluate information, form and communicate arguments backed by evidence, write well-constructed papers, and see the value of viewpoints different than their own. Encouraging students to question what they know results in fruitful and revealing classroom discussions and has allowed me to identify and address common misconceptions. I am intentional about bringing in marginalized voices, perspectives, theories, and issue areas through readings and examples. It is my hope that when students in my classes critically examine an aspect of the world, they also consider, though perhaps not always consciously, their role in its creation, perpetuation, and transformation. To this end, I have found drawing on critical theories and real-world examples about the construction of knowledge throughout the semester to be key as well as getting students involved through real-world scenarios and active engagement where they are reminded that they themselves are actively adding to and changing the space we are in. The value I place in the transparency of knowledge production within the field is also reflected in the value I place in transparency of course design when creating culturally responsive teaching environments.
I strive to create learning environments which establish inclusion and empower students while remaining engaging and rigorous. Research shows the creation of an environment that is conducive to student learning through facilitating connection and confidence can be accomplished through collaborative approaches and cooperative learning groups. To do this well, it is important to get a sense of who your students are. For example, placing student in Harry Potter Houses at the start of the semester based on their responses to a series of question prompts, and then providing groups with House Fact Sheets with information about things they would be responsible for during the semester facilitated a sense of community and curiosity in an Intro to IR classroom. I had each group create a chat and discuss their expectations of each other. Students then signed a House Sheet and returned it to me acknowledging they understood their responsibilities to each other and the rest of the class – for example, each group was responsible for reviewing a particular theory for the rest of the class in preparation for exams or at the end of units. This, in conjunction with other in-class activities, such as Team Jeopardy and a fast-paced Securitization game, encouraged mutual respect and a shared responsibility for learning.
Getting students involved in learning often means being inventive with one’s teaching methods, which is why I use more than one method of instruction during a semester and offer various avenues for participation. I enjoy designing and using interactive learning opportunities for students: simulations, policy creation groups, and debates using a theoretical framework are staples that push students to work with the course material but also apply it. With the tenets of a pedagogy of play (choice, wonder, delight) in mind, I found that when students are tasked with being government officials or heading international organizations and solving a problem, they combine theoretical and conceptual knowledge with practical skills and critical thinking while also enjoying being in the classroom. They are presented with learning objectives sure, but they are also asked to be creative and to make their own choices based on lived experiences and their unique cultural and personal perspectives. These types of activities, which employ a variety of pedagogical tools, reinforce inclusivity while assessing student knowledge retention, research capabilities, teamwork ethics, and communication skills – all important characteristics of the global citizens and community-minded people I hope to play a role in helping them be. These are also skills valued in the legal, non-profit, and government sectors to which many of my students aspire to be employed in.
Within the classroom, these activities also reinforce the commitment I make to students at the start of the semester regarding openness of discussion. In doing so, students are more likely to express their opinions, share stories, and question previously held beliefs. This then, often, leads to conversations about bias, critical thinking, and knowledge production. For example, after completing writing assignments about interest groups and public opinion and during a discussion on a photo journalist’s piece on refugees, I asked students to reflect on why they make particular choices when it comes to consuming information, where they get information from, how they determine credibility of sources, their social media habits, Twitter content saturation, and other related themes. They were open in discussing the moments when they stopped caring about the assassination of Soleimani or the dying elephants and moved on to the next trending topic; they admitted to choosing interest groups based on exposure level or hearing a parent mention it. Students felt comfortable saying they chose a topic or formed an opinion because it came up on Google first. This openness and reflection helps to create community members who are much more aware of the processes by which they receive and negotiate with information in a modern world that continuously asks them to pay attention to everything and nothing at once. In a world where information cannot always be trusted at first glance, my students learn to dig deeper.
When I talk to students about the co-responsibility for learning, I also make commitments to them about my own responsibilities within the learning environments we create. I provide agendas for each class meeting and schedule time for meetings before large assignments and to go over exams/essays. I set grading and feedback deadlines for myself and share that timeline with them. I believe that good teaching responds to the needs of the student without diminishing their own capacities or enabling entitled behaviors. Additionally, good teachers are reflective and always interested in self-improvement. I integrate things I have learned from taking classes towards my degrees, from workshops, and have found in a variety of studies and books. Teaching, like learning, is a constantly evolving process, and I make a conscious effort to workshop activities and teaching strategies with students as well as create space at various points of the semester to reflect with them about what is working and what may not be; they are also given opportunities to make choices about what we allocate time to on occasion or between curated assignment options.
Rigor of material and empowering students are not mutually exclusive. When I am teaching, I view my responsibility as providing students with academic and professional knowledge important to the fields of international relations and political science that will empower them to think critically about the world and global affairs. I believe in order to do that effectively, students – in all their diversity of experiences and passions – must be given the opportunity to be creative problem-solvers who share a responsibility for learning in the classroom.
Pop-culture and Pedagogy: I have been involved in the teaching of international relations and comparative politics courses since 2018. I have been the instructor of record for International Protection of Human Rights and Contemporary International Problems. I have incorporated popular culture and fiction in the form of film and TV in my classroom organization, assignment design, and lecture components. For example, my contribution to Pandemic Pedagogy: Teaching International Relations amid Covid-19 includes a discussion on the use of Harry Potter Houses in an Introduction to International Relations course. Recently, I found myself telling students the true title of our Contemporary International Problems course should include “with/through pop-culture” as we explore global issues through relationality, intertextuality, public diplomacy… and the Powerpuff Girls.
Instructor of Record, FIU
- International Protection of Human Rights
- Affordability Counts Medallion awarded from State University System of Florida
- Contemporary International Problems
- Affordability Counts Medallion awarded from State University System of Florida
- Introduction to International Relations
Teaching Assistant, FIU
|Conflict, Security, and Peace Studies||Dr. Marcie Washington||Fall 2018|
|International Political Economy||Dr. Ronald Cox||Spring 2019|
|Contemporary International Problems||Dr. Marcie Washington||Summer 2019 (online)|
|International Organization||Dr. John Oates||Fall 2019|
|International Relations of Europe||Dr. Markus Thiel||Fall 2019|
|LGBT Politics||Dr. Markus Thiel||Fall 2019|
|Introduction to International Relations||Dr. Naisy Sarduy||Spring 2020 (independent section)|
|Contemporary International Problems||Dr. Marcie Washington||Summer 2020|
|Introduction to International Relations||Dr. Anjana Mishra||Fall 2020 (online)|
|Politics of Development and Underdevelopment||Dr. Anjana Mishra||Fall 2020 (online)|
|Politics of Western Europe||Dr. Anjana Mishra||Spring 2021 (online)|
|Contemporary International Problems||Dr. Anjana Mishra||Spring 2021 (online)|
|Contemporary International Problems||Dr. Naisy Sarduy||Summer 2021 (online)|
|Introduction to International Relations||Dr. Naisy Sarduy||Fall 2021 (independent section)|
|Politics of Western Europe||Dr. Anjana Mishra||Spring 2022|
Lectures prepared and delivered as a Teaching Assistant
Hernandez, Brianna N. “Samuel Huntington: Clashes, Conflicts, and Challenges.” Lecture, Conflict Security and Peace Studies, Politics and International Relations Department, Florida International University, November 2, 2018.
Hernandez, Brianna N. “Corporations and Development: A Feminist Perspective.” Lecture, International Political Economy, Politics and International Relations Department, Florida International University, April 9, 2019.
Hernandez, Brianna N. “Overview of SOGI Issues.” Lecture, LGBT Politics, Politics and International Relations Department, Florida International University, August 29, 2019.
Hernandez, Brianna N. “EU as Subsystem of IR.” Lecture, International Relations of Europe, Politics and International Relations Department, Florida International University, September 3, 2019.
Hernandez, Brianna N. “Global Gay?.” Lecture, LGBT Politics, Politics and International Relations Department, Florida International University, September 12, 2019.
Hernandez, Brianna N. “Global LGBTQ Politics and Human Rights.” Lecture, LGBT Politics, Politics and International Relations Department, Florida International University, October 29, 2019.
Hernandez, Brianna N. “Liberalism.” Lecture, Introduction to International Relations, Politics and International Relations Department, Florida International University, September 29, 2021.
Hernandez, Brianna N. “Feminism and IR.” Lecture, Introduction to International Relations, Politics and International Relations Department, Florida International University, October 13, 2021.
Hernandez, Brianna N. “Failures of Securitization: Female Terrorists.” Lecture, Contemporary International Problems, Politics and International Relations Department, Florida International University, March 23, 2022.
Hernandez, Brianna N. “Women’s Rights Movements: Road to Intersectionality.” Lecture, Feminism, Women and Gender Studies Department, Florida International University, May 17, 2022.
Hernandez, Brianna N. “Content Analysis.” Lecture, Research Design, Political Science Department, St. John Fisher University, October 31, 2022.