You are on page 1of 6

Teaching Statement

Dr. Breanna Boppre

Since 2017, I've taught undergraduate and graduate courses related to corrections/ the
carceral system, victimization, gender, inequality, and crime, and research methods, in
multiple formats: in-person, online, and hybrid. I consistently seek out the most effective
teaching approaches backed by pedagogical research and the scholarship of teaching and
learning. I've participated in numerous trainings to improve my pedagogy, including a
semester-long course and year-long certificate programs. I read about new approaches and
have an entire library of books on teaching in higher ed by diverse educators. I consider
myself a lifelong learner and strive to always have a growth mindset to my teaching.

Every term, I ask students for anonymous feedback to engage in reflective pedagogy
(Neuhaus, 2019). Below is a summary of students' descriptions of my teaching style. The
most common words they used to describe my teaching were "fun" and "creative."

Students’ summaries of my teaching directly reflect my approaches. My mission as an


educator is to build students’ critical thinking and social awareness, facilitate hands-on
projects in which students create their own content to share beyond the course, and support
underserved students, particularly first generation college students and those with personal
experiences related to the courses I teach. I challenge traditional teaching approaches that
can be biased against underserved students and use engaging active learning methods found
to be more inclusive and accessible while maintaining the same standards in the
demonstration of learning outcomes. The foundations of my teaching include 1) an
inclusive learning community, 2) developmental learning, 3) experiential learning, and 4)
project-based finals.

1) Inclusive Learning Community


My methods are highly learner-centered, accessible, and relational-based. This foundation
was developed through my participation in several faculty development trainings and
courses, including one specifically on humanizing online teaching and learning. I recognize
that each student enters the class with their own experiences, strengths, and needs. I
distribute pre-course surveys to get to know students and their learning needs. Students set
their own goals for the course and reflect on the learning objectives. I facilitate opportunities
to build authentic connections with students through personalized introductions, icebreaker
discussions, external social sites (e.g., Discord), and group music playlists. Building
supportive relationships in the classroom has been shown to increase students' success and
connections to others, which is especially important for the retention of underserved
students (Gehlbach et al., 2016).

"I could feel the engagement and the excitement of Dr. B. I can feel that she wanted me to
learn and do my best. I could tell she was passionate and excited about the material which
always makes it more fun to learn." -Student feedback

As a former first-generation college student myself, I am mindful of underserved students'


needs. I purposefully seek out professional development opportunities to increase my
awareness and inclusivity. I develop my classes to be accessible and representative from the
ground up through Universal Design for Learning (UDL), from the syllabus and course
policies to assignment formats. I strive for an inclusive learning environment with the
structure to support all students' success (Sathy & Hogan, 2019). I use the transparency
teaching model to identify the 1) purpose, 2) required assignment tasks, and 3) criteria for
success. Such approaches have been shown to improve students' sense of belonging and
academic success (Winkelmes et al., 2016). I also provide students structure and support
through my external course sites, which contain all my syllabi, welcome videos, instructions
for onboarding, FAQs, and instructions with video tutorials for assignments (see Pacansky-
Brock, 2017 and this blog post for more). I learned about the importance of humanizing pre-
course content and onboarding from workshops with Fabiola Torres and Michelle
Pacansky-Brock.

Teaching victimization and crime related courses has shown me that many students have
experienced victimization, adversity, and trauma themselves. Therefore, I teach using
survivor-centered trauma-aware methods (Bedera, 2020; Costa, 2021; Daniels, 2022). I
proactively work to ensure students are empowered and informed about resources
throughout the semester. I include a module early on that discusses survival, PTSD
symptoms, trauma responses, grounding techniques, disclosure and reporting protocols, and
resources both on and off campus. I am conducting pedagogical research on this area with
graduate students for a service-learning project (see more below in section 3). When in a
supportive environment, higher education can be a transformative experience. One student
in my violence against women course noted in their final reflection:

“This course helped me see just how much I have grown as an individual who was once a
victim, but now a survivor.”

Finally, I teach with a pedagogy of kindness (Denial, 2019). I am caring and empathetic to
students. I structure my classes to be inclusive of our many students who work fulltime,
have caretaking roles, and other realities, especially during the pandemic, that can be
potential challenges in traditional settings. I implemented a "best by" policy thanks
to Joshua Eyler. Students are able to submit anything, no questions asked, no permission
required, up until finals week without any penalties. The majority of students submit on-
time, but this approach is inclusive to students who might be having a tough week, illness,
or struggling with the heavy content. There are due dates in the LMS, but they are
conceptualized as best by dates: the content is freshest and best consumed by the due dates,
but can still be consumed a little later if needed. I emphasize feedback and allow for
resubmissions to support students’ growth (see Ungrading, Blum, 2020). I found removing
strict policies on late work and attendance has made my teaching much more inclusive and
learner-centered. Students note that the policy allows them to learn without the usual
stressors or conflict. I also feel less stressors and conflict as we are able to focus on learning.

The approaches outlined in this section have helped me be an ally to students (Gannon,
2020). Our classes are communal spaces, both online and in-person. We form authentic
connections where I am able to support learners holistically through their educational
experiences and advocate for social change (hooks, 1994).

2) Developmental Learning
I emphasize developmental learning approaches to support mastery of the material
(Ambrose et al., 2010; Barkley, 2009; Nilson, 2010). An activity-based format allows for
active learning appraisals (e.g., discussion, team-based learning, case studies, problem-
solving, and applications to media and pop culture) in comparison traditional lecture-style
teaching (Eng, 2017; Talbert, 2017). I assign "interactivities" in which students must
complete tasks and reflect on how the activities expanded upon the content. The activity-
based format has been especially effective in teaching my research methods classes to make
an often “boring” and difficult subject more approachable

I also utilize low-stakes formative assessment in class to gauge students’ learning with
interactive tools such as Kahoot and Quizizz. These tools help students engage who may
not be as comfortable speaking out in front of an entire class. Instead of large-stake
assignments, such as exams, I assign incremental or creative projects that are more
accessible and support long-term engagement without the test-anxiety. This provides
students with a high-structured learning environment for success (Hogan & Sathy, 2022).
These techniques relate to gamification, in which students are motivated intrinsically
through game-like activities and point structures (Sheldon, 2012). I use formative
assessment as strengths-based rather than deficit-based approaches (i.e., penalizing or
deducting points).

"I enjoyed all the assignments. All of the material really went together and built off each
other to further enhance my knowledge and the overall learning experience. Everything was
very engaging." -Student feedback

3) Experiential Learning
I use experiential learning in my courses to help students generate and apply knowledge
through hands-on activities. Such approaches encourage students' long-term engagement
with the material and build empathy (Belisle et al., 2020). Students attend tours of local
agencies, interact with system-impacted guest speakers, and engage in direct volunteer
work. I facilitate service-learning to support community engagement with the campus and
local agencies (e.g., Texas Women’s Storybook Project, Hospitality House, Wichita Family
Crisis Center, Child Advocacy Center, and Sedgwick County Drug Court). For example,
students in my women, crime, and criminal justice course volunteer at a local shelter for
domestic violence and human trafficking survivors. Honors students in my violence against
women course this semester will volunteer with Texas Women’s Story Book project to help
incarcerated women record themselves reading books to their children to send home.

“I enjoyed the service learning component because it allowed me to apply knowledge from
the class to the real world.” -Student feedback

We also engage in research-based service-learning, which I argue can be a more inclusive


and trauma-aware approach for survivors in comparison to direct service-learning (Boppre
et al., in press). For example, we created a campus survey on perceptions of safety
and disseminated the results with recommendations for community stakeholders. In the
following spring, we partnered with Wichita State's CARE team to develop and analyze
student client testimonials. Graduate students then created an infographic flyer for CARE to
disseminate and build awareness for self-referrals. This semester, students in research
methods are conducting a study about students as survivors to identify how adversity and
victimization experienced by students throughout their lives can shape their major decisions
and experiences in the classroom. Students are creating the recruitment flyers, data visuals,
and interpretation of the results towards a final report and social media campaign.

“This assignment made me feel validated. It helped me feel like I was not alone. Real
students helping others.” -Student reflection

After each experiential learning activity, students complete a reflection assignment in which
they apply course concepts to their experiences and reflect on how the activities facilitated
their learning. These reflections help students review how the activities made them feel or
react. When students have an emotional and personal connection to the material, they are
more likely to remember it beyond the semester (Bain, 2004; Kavanaugh, 2016). Students
often mention that experiential learning enhances the class by bringing course material to
life and it humanizes those directly impacted (Belisle et al., 2020). The reflection
assignments allow me to clearly identify how the activities achieve learning objectives and
the impacts on students' perceptions.

4) Creative Finale Projects


In my courses, students create content that they can engage with and share beyond the
semester. To facilitate, I started assigning e-portfolios. Students create their own websites to
house their module summaries, reflections, course glossaries, and their creations (discussed
below). This allows students to look back on what they learn outside of the LMS (e.g.,
Blackboard), which students usually lose access to after the semester ends.
“At first, I was nervous due to inexperience on creating this type of portfolio. But at the end
of finishing my e-portfolio I realize how much I enjoyed creating this page due to the feeling
of triumph I feel of creating something new by myself.” -Student feedback

Student’s e-portfolios (shared with permission)


I also assign project-based finals to end my courses as a “finale” rather than a traditional
final (Crider, 2015; Gannon, 2018). For example, students in my content-based courses
create their own infographics, social media campaigns, or podcasts on various social justice
issues (e.g., the death penalty, juvenile transfer laws, racial disparities) to provide
recommendations for local policymakers. These formats allow students to summarize
research findings and theory into more concise accessible styles. The skills they learn in
creating content in these formats help them in their future careers.

Example student infographics in corrections

“I enjoyed that the infographic required as much or even more critical thinking as writing an
essay but allowed us to use our creativity and create something visually appealing as well.” -
Student feedback
Similarly, students in my research methods courses develop proposed studies in teams to
examine local criminal justice issues. They pitch their proposals in a "Smart Tank" judging
format. Presentations are judged by fellow students based upon teams' ability to convey the
importance of their topic, the appropriateness of their chosen methodology, feasibility, and
overall presentation style. I support students throughout the semester by facilitating
incremental activities along with on-going formative feedback.

Smart Tank team presentation

The project-based finals create a sense of community and promote personal interests
through the focus on local issues. On the last day, I typically hold a communal exhibit to
share students’ final projects with fellow classmates. The exhibit makes the course feel like a
cumulative and celebratory finale to the semester, which supports lasting connections to the
material and each other (Crider, 2015).

Conclusion
In sum, I use these four main teaching approaches to help students create new content, build
their self and cultural awareness, and inspire social action. The skills students learn in my
courses extend beyond the content and help prepare them to succeed in a diverse society. I
am reflective on my pedagogy and ask students for feedback throughout each term to
improve and individualize each course. As evidenced by my course evaluations (4.8/5.0
average at SHSU), students enjoy and appreciate the critical, yet safe spaces I develop to
enhance their learning. I conduct pedagogical research and publish articles about my
teaching through peer-reviewed journals and teaching notes for professional organizations
(i.e., American Society of Criminology Divisions on Women and Crime/Feminist
Criminology, Victimology, and Corrections and Sentencing) because I am very passionate
about interactive and inclusive teaching approaches to support underserved students. I see
students’ creativity, collaboration, and transformation firsthand through the approaches
mentioned above.

You might also like