Beyond my desire for students to learn the content of my courses, I endeavor to equip students with the critical skills and the tools required to thrive in diverse careers in a changing world. The core of my teaching objectives is furthering students’ critical thinking, reading, writing, and analytical skills. Such skills are crucial to excelling in an information economy, where information is increasingly abundant and lower in cost. I strive to strengthen students’ life-long learning skills and hopefully convince them that learning is not about pleasing me to receive the best grade possible; learning is also about teaching one another. Perhaps my loftiest goal is to expand students’ worldview. Toward that end, I have structured all of my courses with social justice as the focal lens to the content.
I employ a variety of methods focused on active, student-centered learning. Long written exercises develop critical skills as well as research and presentation skills. Short written exercises in and out of class—such as reflections on readings, film viewings, and field trips—focus students on what is most important in the course and aid in retention. Additionally, even in lecture-based courses students are at the center of my approach that casts teaching each other as part of the learning process. I include discussions in any size classroom, as a whole and in small groups and in pairs. Individual projects teach students to take charge of their learning. Meanwhile, students involved in group projects learn from each other and through the process of cooperation and conflict, which reflects the workplaces they may encounter. In addition, I favor seminar-style classes in upper-division and graduate courses, in which students each lead the group in discussion on the readings.
The key to both my scholarship and fostering an engaging classroom is the use of diverse sources of information. These include primary and secondary sources, which encompass scholarly articles and books, plans, news reporting, laws and regulations, maps, photographs, films, other multimedia, and field trips. It is essential to get students outside, together as a class or for individual assignments, observing the built environment in order to understand the full impact of planning, policy, and other actions.
Below I describe the courses I have taught at the University of Missouri-Kansas City since Fall 2013:
Planning History (UPD 260)
UPD 260: History of Planning + Urban Design is a required course for Urban Planning + Design major at UMKC. In the course, I teach planning history as both content and method. Students take exams on the content and work through methods in three assignments that respectively examine historical analysis of maps and photographs, long-range census data and neighborhood change, and plan reading (students analyze the 1947 Master Plan for Kansas City). In recent years, I modified the course to meet requirements for the general education program as well as to receive designation as a high-impact undergraduate research experience (designated as a EUReka course). As part of the latter, I meet with all students one-on-one at the beginning of the semester to encourage their research, and they post the findings of their research on a class blog.
Land Use Planning (UPD 280)
UPD 280: Land Use Planning, a required course for Urban Planning + Design students at UMKC, introduces planning processes and methods and the comprehensive plan. Students read and analyze local comprehensive plans, subdivision regulations, and zoning codes. The major assignments in the course are an existing conditions report and a future land use map for a small municipality in the Kansas City area.
Planning + Design Studio IV (UPD 412WI)
UPD 412WI: Planning + Design Studio IV is the capstone of the required six-semester studio sequence for Urban Planning + Design students at UMKC. It also fulfills the university requirements for a writing intensive course. Each year, the studio topic changes; students complete a topical plan, comprehensive plan, or planning study based on the chosen topic, often in consultation with a client. In Spring 2018, students will prepare an affordable housing planning study for the City of Kansas City, Missouri, to support public understanding of the issue. UMKC Today published a piece on the studio at the end of the semester.
Historic Preservation (UPD 430 / UPD 5743)
I have structure UPD 430: Planning For Historic Preservation and developed its graduate-level equivalent, UPD 5743: Introduction to Historic Preservation, to serve as the gateway course for the Graduate Certificate in Historic Preservation (whose curriculum I designed). In a seminar environment, students explore the history, policy, and practice of historic preservation through small assignments and a semester-long research assignment to document a previously unrecognized historic resource in the metropolitan area.
Housing (UPD 475 / UPD 5750)
I developed UPD 475 / UPD 5750: American Housing as a seminar that explores the social, cultural, political, and economic issues of American housing through history, design, and policy; students explore housing issues through short assignments, field observations, and exams.
Urban Studies (ANCH 102)
ANCH 102: Introduction to Urban Studies (formerly UPD 101) is a large lecture-format freshman general education class, which examines inequality and the city with a focus on Kansas City. Students complete an urban scavenger hunt in groups and write essays on the spatial organization of inequality in the metropolis in addition to taking four exams on the course material.