(Video of me describing a course I taught. This also captures my general teaching philosophy)

Teaching Statement

I am still not sure how it exactly happened. The Department of Economics at The Ohio State University took a chance on allowing me to teach a 7:30am Principles of Macroeconomics course in the fall of 2001. That was all they were willing to offer, since I only had a Masters degree (from the London School of Economics). But five years later, I was teaching three classes a quarter (none fortunately at 7:30am), had created my own class on the economics of war, was instructing courses to MBA students at the Fisher College of Business, and teaching senior level classes in international trade, international finance, and the political economy of globalization (for the international studies program). I even offered a course on the Japanese Economy (assigned to me after making a remark about keiretsu around a senior colleague).

The approach to teaching that I developed during my years as a lecturer at OSU was only enhanced when I moved to Michigan to pursue my PhD. As a gradudate student instructor at Michigan, I helped Arthur "Skip" Lupia and William Roberts Clark develop a first year graduate game theory sequence, and received the Rackham Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award. Hence, I was more than ready to handle the responsibilities of graduate and undergraduate teaching by the time I became an assistant professor, first at Rutgers University and now at the University of Chicago.

I will describe below my approach to teaching undergraduate students (which will illustrate my overall teaching philosophy), how I structure courses for graduate students, the manner by which I advise a thesis, and the opportunities I pursue to educate individuals outside the UChicago student body.

Undergraduate Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is to teach according to the three principles: (1) Be a Facilitator, (2) Be Organized, and (3) Be Enthusiastic and Focused. I will now describe each of these principles and illustrate how I actualize them using two undergraduate courses I teach at UChicago: my Introduction to International Relations course and the Social Science Inquiry II course in The Core.

(1) Be a Facilitator: As I explain in the above video, my role is to assist students in exploring concepts and gaining knowledge for themselves. Make no mistake: there is a time and place for conveying knowledge via a lecture. But I am always looking for ways to have the students engage with me and with one another.

This is most easily done in small seminars, such as those in The Core or in graduate seminars. In my Core courses, I often begin class by dividing the students into groups of 4 or 5. Next, I present the students (commonly by writing on the board) a question (or series of questions). I then ask the students to talk with the members of their small group for 10 to 15 minutes to see if they can come to a consensus answer (or, if not, be able to explain the points of disagreement). For example, I might write on the board, "What is a Democracy?" and then turn it over to the groups. After the 10 to 15 minutes, each group chooses a "spokesperson" who will state for the class her/his group's answer. It is at this point that I ask each spokesperson, one at a time, to share with the class his/her group's answer to the question. I then keep track of commonalities and differences between the answers offered by the groups (commonly by writing a few notes on the board that summarizes a group's response). The benefit of this approach is (i) the small groups encourage students who would otherwise be reluctant to speak to share their views (as the student now feels that he/she is "having a conversation" with 3 or 4 others, rather than "performing" in front of 19 or 20 other people), (ii) the students gain a better understanding of the concept (e.g. Democracy) and, compared to be simply telling them the meaning of a concept, are more likely to retain the information pertaining to the concept.

While playing the role of "facilitator" is most easily done in small seminars, it is possible to take on this role intermittently in large lectures. Specifically, prior to lecture I identify the points in the lecture where I can stop and ask the class to provide the answer. For example, in one lecture in my Introduction to International Relations course, I show the students that democracies have an empirical tendency to not fight wars against one another. Rather than simply tell them the leading theories seeking to explain this empirical regularity (though I eventually do this too), I stop and ask, "Hmmmm, why might that be? Anyone have any ideas?" I am not looking for the students to provide the "correct answer", but to simply be willing to "throw an idea out there" (though the students inevitably do share some answers that are also given by scholars). To encourage the students to give answers, I will walk towards the student so that he/she has the sense that he/she is giving the answer to me, rather than to a class of 150+ people. This is just one way in which I try to play the role of facilitator and make a large lecture feel smaller and more personalized.

(2) Be Organized: This component is about more than ensuring that the course has a syllabus on the first day (though that should be a given). Instead, it is about the course structure and the individual class structure.

First, I must ensure that the course has a overarching and coherent structure. In Social Science Inquiry II, the class is divided into three parts: Concepts (i.e. what social scientific concept are we interested in studying?), Data (i.e. how can we measure and quantify that concept?), and Analysis (i.e. how do we properly explore patterns and draw inferences from the data?). More directly, the students in my Social Science Inquiry course spend the quarter exploring the intentionally broad question: Is Democracy Good? They have to think about what is meant by "Democracy" and "Good" (i.e. commonly some desirable policy outcome, such as low infant mortality or internal peace), how should both concepts be measured, and then determine if the data support the notion that democracy leads to desirable outcomes. In Introduction to International Relations, the course progresses from defining sovereignty, identifying that the world has been marked by the existence of multiple seperate territorial-states as the primary sovereign units throughout most of history, exploring the three primary ways that territorial-states interact (violence, exchange, and contracts), and then determining if separate territorial-states will ever disappear be replaced by a single world government? In other words, the course is divided into three parts: who are the sovereigns? how do sovereigns interact? Will the sovereigns stop being sovereign?

Having crafted this structure, I ensure that the students know how each class fits into this arc. This is one reason why I begin each class with an overview of the previous class and a reminder of the classes' overall narrative arc (a secondary reason is that it gives the students a few minutes to focus their minds away from what they were doing prior to the start of class and turn their attention to me and the material of this class). Some students might find opening each class this way a bit repetitive. However, that is a worthwhile price to ensure that the class is "on the same page" in terms of understanding what they are expected to be learning in the course.

Second, each class must not only coherently fit into the course structure, but itself by structured and coherent. The structure I give to seminars was described above (i.e. dividing the students into small groups and posing questions for them to explore in their groups). When giving a lecture, I share witht he students the goal for that lecture (after reminding the students what we discussed last time and where we are in the overall course structure). My lectures then follow a similar pattern: begin with a concrete historical example, tie that example to a larger question, show that the question is still relevant today, then present the answers scholars have offered to that question. For example, when lecturing on the "Democratic Peace", I open with the claim by Woodrow Wilson that the United States had to enter World War I in order to "Make the world safe for democracy" because democracies are peace loving nations. I then show how every US President since Wilson has made similar statements. This naturally leads to the question: "Is that really the case? Are democracies peaceful?" I then show the students the empirical data used by scholars to evaluate this claim and then present the arguments scholars have given for this claim. I conclude the lecture (and every lecture) with a "Wrapping Up" slide. You can see the slides that I use for this lecture here.

(3) Be Enthusiastic and Focused: Being focused and being enthusiastic go hand and hand. With respect to being focused, I am upfront with the students at the beginning of each term: my job is first and foremost to do research. But I then say, "however, when I'm hear, it's my job to be focused on you. I have to forget what I was just working on, forget the recent rejection notice from XYZ journal, etc and focus on you." I then ask the students to do the same -- when they are here, to be focused on the class.

Once focused, my goal is to bring energy to the classroom (if this requires drinking a caffeinated beverage throughout class, so be it). I do not stand beind a podium. I "break the wall" by, for example, sitting on a table at the front of the room and by moving throughout the room (even a large lecture hall like in Kent Hall). I also use slides that (barring a need to post a long direct quote) keeps text to a minimum. I prefer having an image, figure, table, or map on the slide. My goal is that my words and the slide work together, rather than compete with one another. While I post my slides after class, students know that the slides really only convey about half of the information from lecture.

Graduate Teaching

I attempt to apply the same teaching philosophy principles to my graduate courses. However, I recognize that a primary reason I was brought to Chicago was to help bolsters the quantitative training of our graduate students, both in the PhD and MA programs. To that end, I have offered the past two winter quarters a course titled Quantitative Security. The syllabus to be used winter 2019 is here.

The course has two goals. First, it is structured as an intellectual history. The goal is for students to understand why scholars came to view the collection of machine readable data as a useful way of studying international politics, that this practice began at the University of Chicago through the effort of Quincy Wright, and that Wright's legacy moved on to become embodied in the Correlates of War Project, the Peace Science Society, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, and a large segment of international relations scholars in general (and most recently scholars of internal wars, such as those affiliated with Pearson Institute here at Chicago). Second, in the course of providing this intellectual history, students will eventually see work that seeks to analyze such data. This creates an opening for me to introduce students to modern methods of data analysis, ranging from maximum likelihood estimation to quasi-experimental approaches. Students gain further exposure to these methods by being required to replicate three recently published studies (one from the Journal of Conflict Resolution, one from the Journal of Peace Research, and one of their own choosing). I view replication as a critical component of graduate training, as it comprised a significant portion of my graduate training (i.e. I would frequently locate the data used in papers were read in a seminar to see if I could reproduce the findings reported in the paper).

Since Quantitative Security is taught in the winter quarter, I will begin this fall teaching a new course titled Inference in Diplomatic History and International Relations. This course will introduce students to issues such as (1) the role of theory in diplomatic history and international relations, (2) when is a scholar doing one and not the other (if it is even possible to separate the two), and (3) force students to think about how inferences are a combination of a scholar's assumptions and the data (in the form of documents) read by the scholar. This final point goes to the heart of conducting empirical inference in international relations research (or social science in general) and will serve as an excellent foundation for entering the Quantitative Security course. Hence, my plan is for the two classes to be a two-course sequence for the PhD and CIR MA students titled, Evidence and Analysis in International Relations Research.

Thesis Advising

Teaching at UChicago is not limited to the classroom. From B.A. honors thesis, to terminal Masters degree thesis, to PhD dissertations, a critical function of faculty at UChicago is to advise the writing of such papers. Fortunately, my time at Rutgers University left me well prepared for this effort. I advised a number of B.A. honors thesis papers, MA thesis papers (through a student exchange program with Konstanz University), and PhD students at Rutgers (and am still a member of a few remaining PhD committees of Rutgers students). Due to this experience, I was quite comfortable with the advising responsibilities I took on once I came to UChicago. I have already advised a number of BA and MA theses (the MA theses being from both the MAPSS and CIR programs) and am a member of several PhD committees.

The writing of a thesis is the pinnacle educational experience at any degree level. Hence, I take this responsibility seriously. When I advise a thesis, regardless of degree level, my advisee is required to start their thesis writing in the same manner: produce a "one-pager". This document must answer in a single page (I stress to the students that I am serious about "one page") three questions: (1) What is your research question? (2) What is your (proposed) argument? (3) Why do they (the question and argument) matter (both to the scholarship on the topic and for policy purposes)? Only after the students and I are satisfied with their answers to these three questions (which can entail multiple drafts of the "one-pager" and extensive reading by the student) are we then ready to discuss research design, data, evidence, and analysis. In short, I want the students to concentrate on concepts and theory before thinking about data and evidence.

Outside UChicago

My role as a educator should not stop on UChicago's campus or with UChicago students. Fortunately, UChicago has been a direct platform to educating a broader community of leaners. This includes teaching classes at other universities (such as through the Graham School's program with CEU in Madrid), offering lectures at local community colleagues (as being one of several UChicago faculty who participate in the Passport program at Oakton Community College), and holding events for the general public (such as through the public "Talking Trump" event I helped organize before the 2017 Inauguration of Donald Trump as President or as part of the University's "Nuclear Reactions" series of public events).

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