WHAT MY STUDENTS HAVE TO SAY

Email from Former Student

I had your [Social Problems] class last Fall [2013] and moved shortly after finishing. Interestingly, I now live [near] Ferguson MO. How different my perspective and compassion is due to your class!"

Email from Former Student

Summer 2014

"I took your Race and Ethnic Relations Course over the summer and thoroughly enjoyed your course...Not only did I find [the Star Power] game to be moving, I found your lectures overall helped to provide insight in so many areas of race relations and sociology...Thank you again for the impact you’ve made on me during your class."

Email from Former Student

Summer 2014

"I took your Race and Ethnic Relations Course over the summer and thoroughly enjoyed your course...Not only did I find [the Star Power] game to be moving I found your lectures overall helped to provide insight in so many areas of race relations and sociology. Thank you again for the impact you’ve made on me during your class."

Student Evaluation

“I've enjoyed the class. It has opened my eyes...” “Great class, wish I could take it again.”

Student Evaluation

“Erin was a great professor! She clearly knew her stuff, and the readings she chose were interesting. I loved the class activities and the exams were fair.”

Student Evaluation

“Erin was great. The class was interesting, it opened my eyes to many aspects of life that I didn't know, overlooked, or didn't before care to be educated on. She took a hands-on approach to a lot of the material which I liked...”

Student Evaluation

“She gave amazing real-life examples for us to understand the material. She also provided unique and interesting activities for us to learn. I loved her class!”

Student Evaluation

“I love her random/ out of the box activities, because the concept becomes easier for me to learn and remember.”

Student Evaluation

“Erin made this course very interactive and fun!”

Student Evaluation

"Erin Echols does a great job making sure all her students understand every issue or topic that is spoken about in class.”

Student Evaluation

“Erin was a phenomenal professor. She kept the entire class engaged throughout the entire semester.”

Student Evaluation

“Erin was really passionate about the material she taught. Her passion was apparent, because she always had so much to say.”

Student Evaluation

“Erin Echols was a great teacher. She was very enthusiastic and passionate about the subject material.”

 


 

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

I believe that education matters – that good teachers help the world to discover the power of reading and writing, teach us how to balance our checkbooks and make sure we know our own history.  But I also believe that good teachers teach us how to think critically about the world around us – to question common sense understandings of the world and, in that process, they teach us how to feel – to have empathy for other’s experiences and to aim to make the world around us a better place.

 

These goals guide my teaching today. Though the courses I teach each differ in content – some more general and others more specific – I carry three goals with me each time I walk through the classroom door.  My aim is to have students think critically about the world around them by applying course knowledge and questioning common sense understandings of the world. I do this by engaging students with course content through relevant readings, interactive activities and compelling data. My second goal is to help students experience empathy for others as they learn. Finally I aim to teach students the invaluable life skill of writing well. These goals serve as part of my own activism and reflect my belief that education matters – not just to prepare professionals for the marketplace, but, just as importantly, to prepare citizens for the world.

 

My primary goal in each class is to encourage students to engage with course content in such a way that they are required to think critically about the world around them. To facilitate this, I utilize my strengths as a teacher – presenting compelling sociological data in a way that is relevant and engaging, leading interactive activities that reinforce course material and choosing relevant readings.

 

When presenting data to classes I break down what a graph table or study is telling us and how it connects to the bigger story that the course or section is focused on. I also intersperse data with visual examples of concepts to prevent data fatigue. For example, when teaching gender inequality, I present data on the under-representation or marginalization of women in media. I intersperse this data with videos that analyze – in a comical way – the media narratives about incompetent husbands who can’t adequately perform care work and use this as a jumping off point to discuss how these negative narratives about men ultimately hurt women too. Students begin to connect the data and examples to their own experiences and engage in meaningful and relevant discussion.

 

The class activities that I utilize also require students to engage with course material in an interactive way. I believe that the best learning happens through experience, so breaking the “you sit, I lecture” model of teaching is an important part of how I teach every course. Students in my courses are expected to engage with material in a variety of ways – from writing, to group work, to games. For example, in the Star Power game and the World of 40 activity (both attached), I mimic real world inequality so that students can see firsthand how resources are distributed or how power corrupts. Students often refer back to these activities during the course as they connect concepts we learn to what they saw or experienced during in-class activities.

 

Finally, students engage with content through relevant readings. When students are asked if the readings I assign contribute to what they learn, students who completed the teaching evaluation at the end of the semester have rated my teaching effectiveness in this area as an average of 4.6 – above average. My Race and Ethnicity students have rated this question even higher – a 4.9 out of 5. As evidenced by my teaching evaluations (attached), students consistently describe my teaching as interactive, passionate and engaging and note that the class helped to “open their eyes”.

 

Opening student’s eyes to issues such as poverty, racism or the environment often encourages students to empathize with those who are affected.  However, I continue to work to increase empathy in my students by connecting the seemingly cold and impersonal data we cover to real-life individuals.  We read detailed stories about inequality in education; we debunk myths about people in poverty; and we watch videos of people who work in low wage labor or experience police harassment on the basis of race. The goal of these activities is to put a human face to the content we discuss.

 

Finally, in an effort to encourage empathy, critical thinking and improvement of writing skills, I have students complete writing assignments in each course. After encountering student papers that lacked a basic understanding of professional writing techniques, I have renewed my dedication to helping students improve their writing. In an effort to help students acquire this skill, I work with students over the course of a semester to develop a research paper that addresses course content.  In this process I help the students distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources, learn the importance of citing the work of others and assist as they learn to develop a cohesive argument through writing and engaging with course material.

 

Watching students grow and learn in the classroom reiterates every semester that education matters.  Because I believe it matters, I work to evaluate my own performance – keeping my teaching goals in mind. After trying new activities, I often ask for student feedback on what worked and didn’t work.  I ask my students to complete midterm evaluations that ask questions specific to my teaching goals, and I test for and look for marked improvements in writing, critical thinking and empathy from my students over the course of a semester by tracking their writing responses, the development of their final paper and their engagement in class activities and assignments. This strategy has served me well as I have maintained above average teaching evaluation scores and have received glowing reviews from students who cite my passion, enthusiasm and interesting activities as strengths that helped them grasp new concepts and learn the material.

 

 

 

Race and Ethnicity

Race and Ethnicity

This is one of my favorite classes to teach! The students and I explore the theoretical history of race in America utilizing a sociological perspective. We discuss the ways in which individuals and communities are impacted by the role of race in social life. This includes helping students understanding how theories of race, racial inequality and social structure shed light on the experience of race in the United States. We also explore how race intersects with other social locations like gender and social class.

Social Problems

Social Problems

In this course students explore an array of social issues through sociological perspectives. We begin the semester by briefly explaining sociology and the study of social problems. Next, I help students understand social problems related to global inequality and threats to the environment. During the middle of the course we look at problems related to social inequalities (ex. poverty, race and ethnicity and gender). Finally, we explore social problems related to major social institutions such as prisons and the justice system, families, education and healthcare.

Student Evaluations

Student Evaluations

I would love to share the results of my student evaluations with you. However, this portion of the site is password protected to ensure that student's anonymous comments are not made publicly available. To request access to this page, please e-mail me at erinvechols@gmail.com.