Kristen Conway-Gómez, Ph.D.

Kristen Conway-Gómez, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Geography & Anthropology, College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences

My Teaching Philosophy

Teaching geography is an extension of my research, one I enjoy because it keeps me attentive and open to new perspectives.  This reciprocity strengthens my work in the classroom and outside it because one is constantly refreshing the other.  Furthermore, I believe knowledge retention is increased and geography highlighted when students see a real life application of classroom lectures or can make a connection between classroom lessons and their lives.  I like to actively engage students in the learning process and emphasize several outcomes through my teaching: critical thinking, integrated research and design, and effective communication.  One of the most important outcomes of education and a vital component of life is the ability to interpret and critically analyze information.  To guide students toward critical thinking I aim to set up a learning environment for students where it is safe to ask questions and where coming away from the experience with more questions than answers is a productive exercise.  Answering a question with a question is one way of demonstrating to students that the pursuit of knowledge is an ongoing process, a vital component of research. 

Introducing students to research design or helping them develop these skills is as important for conducting research as it is for assessment.  My strategy here is to link my teaching materials and research experiences directly to make the learning process more exciting and relevant for students.  I have succeeded in making the connection between theory and application through creating and implementing research projects, which I have done in the classroom, around campus and beyond.  For example, demonstrating the principals of a GIS by having groups determine viable locations for a school based on predetermined criteria compared to characteristics they map out on a raster system on overhead transparencies.

During courses I periodically solicit feedback on my teaching style and content as well as ideas from my students.  This allows us to adjust and improve before the term is over.  It is also a means of actively involving students in their learning.  I have found this to be a positive exercise in fostering collaborative learning, satisfaction in and ownership of the process.