Junior Faculty Spotlight: Elizabeth Self
Each month, the CFT highlights the work of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, Elizabeth Self, Teaching and Learning, talks about her teaching philosophy and interests.
I have been a lecturer at Peabody College in the Department of Teaching and Learning for the last two years but have been at Vanderbilt University for much longer, having completed both my master’s and doctoral degrees here. Now as a faculty member, I teach future teachers in social foundations courses, focusing on the role of systems of oppression in everything from explicit curricular materials to disciplinary policies to how teaching is conceived of in our society.
In this class, teachers start to learn how to teach by understanding how what they do can perpetuate or interrupt these systems of oppression – and daily affect the lives of children. We pursue this learning in both traditional ways – by reading, discussing, and considering case studies – but also innovative ones.
Teachers in our department, for example, regularly participate in simulated encounters that I designed as a doctoral student and continue to do research on as a faculty member. In these encounters, modeled after standardized patient encounters in medicine, future teachers interact with actors, who play the role of a student, parent, or coworker, in a moment of teaching. Teachers engage with actors one-on-one, but afterwards, we use the video-recordings and group debriefs to think together about how these seemingly small moments require sociopolitical consciousness, asset orientations, and professional judgment to respond in a way that is educative. We also use the group debrief, as part of regular class time, to make sense of these small moments in the long timelines that are part of teaching, and in the broad context of the work of teaching and U.S. schools. In this sense, a big part of my job as a teacher educator is to help future teachers move back and forth like this – from small moments to long timelines, from one classroom to an entire school system, from the here-and-now to the historical context.
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