Lead Instructor/Instructor of Record
- SOWK 4001: Clinical Social Work Skills Lab - Individuals and Small Groups (Fall 2021)
- SOWK 4990: Photovoice as Intervention and Research (Spring 2021)
- SOWK 4201: Evidence for Practice (Summer 2020)
- SOWK 4990: Social Work Amid Place (Spring 2021)
- SOWK 4990: Social Work Program Evaluation: Qualitative Methods (Winter 2021)
Teaching Philosophy Statement
My teaching philosophy is deeply informed by my experiences as a participatory researcher, artist, and social work practitioner. Drawing heavily upon constructivist (Hein, 1991) and critical (Freire, 1968) pedagogies, my teaching embraces participatory learning, critical reflexivity, and arts-based methods. As such, I consistently encourage students to be active, creative, and critical in co-constructing our collective learning in the classroom and beyond.
Participatory learning. Participation is at the heart of my work. As with my research, my teaching strives towards participatory tenets such as power sharing, co-learning, and shared decision-making (Bergold & Thomas, 2012). As such, I often embody the role of facilitator in how I shape the learning space and encourage others to show up. I prefer to teach in a circle, symbolizing a flattening of the teacher-student hierarchy. I use ritual throughout my teaching, such as “check-ins” at the beginning of each class in which students share something about their lives or experiences in the course. This serves to create a relational learning environment and offers a clear structure upon which students can build; as such, students may take on facilitating check-ins or other rituals as time goes on. During classes, I spend little time lecturing in favor of facilitating dialogue and other constructive learning activities. While some students feel comfortable speaking in front of others, I recognize that participation opportunities need to be multifaceted and inclusive to align with students’ learning and sharing styles. As such, I incorporate opportunities for students to make individual and collective decisions how they would like to engage in our work – they may prefer to write alone, work in a small group, or as a large group – my classes are thus flexible to allow for choices as to how students participate. This participatory pedagogical approach is reflected in a student evaluation from an Evidence for Practice (beginning research) course: I was always relieved to attend this course because of the well-developed, accessible learning space that Danielle created. The material is not the most riveting for me personally, but Danielle made it engaging. I also appreciated the level of authentic interaction I got to have with my peers in this class. A student from a Clinical Skills course shared: Good listener and facilitator, brought an appropriate level of disclosure into the classroom, felt very authentic and genuine in all her interactions. Did a good job of discussing explicitly how we can decide what level of sharing or self-reflection we wanted to do for the day, and set up activities and small groups in a way that gave multiple ways to engage. I really appreciated this approach, which differed from other professors.
Critical reflexivity. My pedagogical approach takes up Freire's (1968) charge for instructors to build learning environments which foster critical consciousness - in such learning environments, individual and collective transformation may catalyze. In order to actualize such critical consciousness, my teaching is invested in reflexivity - the “dynamic relationship between thoughts and feelings” which may help us understand precisely how we – as individuals and a collective – show up in our learning and practice (D’Cruz et al., 2007, p. 80). Reflexivity in the classroom begins with me: I am clear with students about how my social location as a white, cisgender, traditionally educated woman shapes how I show up to the work. To encourage reflexivity among students, I often ask students to write “open letters” - short pieces of writing I refer to as personal writing, purposefully shared – about how they show up and make decisions in their learning and practice. Writing open letters encourages critical reflexivity; sharing one’s writing builds a community of learners who grapple with the necessarily complex nature of social work practice. Without critical reflexivity, we may accept things as they are (undermining the change work inherent in the social work enterprise), or worse, harm those with whom we learn and work without critically attending to the impacts of such harm. As a student from a Clinical Skills course shared: [Danielle] handled difficult conversations related to power, privilege, and oppression, and emphasized that we should always act as if someone with the identities we were speaking about were in the room. I found this framing incredibly useful and will hang onto it going forward. Another Clinical Skills student reflected: Danielle helped students feel both heard and challenged with care in discussions both easy and difficult.
Arts-based pedagogy. I am a trained theatre artist and writer, and have taught arts-based courses for several years in K-12 and community settings; my teaching in the social work classroom is informed by these artistic experiences. Drawing upon Boal (1974), a student of Freire's, I often incorporate arts-based methods into my teaching such as participatory performance, creative writing, and visual art. Arts-based research methods such as photovoice have been associated with both individual and group wellbeing while catalyzing community action (Wang et al., 2000); when incorporated into classroom learning, such creative approaches offer students nontraditional ways of connecting with one another while imagining and acting upon social change. To scaffold creativity across the syllabus, I invite students to engage with assignments in a creative manner, such as poetry, collage, and photography, among other creative approaches. While academic writing is a necessary skill in social work education and beyond, I find that students meaningfully learn about and share their authentic selves when given the opportunity to respond to prompts through creative means.
The social work classroom is a place for imagination and possibility in an ever-changing world. As such, I take my role as a social work educator very seriously. I have been told by students that I create a safe environment to learn and grow and have open and honest conversations with one another; I have also been referred to as passionate, enthusiastic, engaging, and very supportive of students. I strive to live up to these words, and am committed to continual learning on how to most meaningfully actualize my values and philosophies as the teacher I know my students deserve.
Bergold, J., & Thomas, S. (2012). Participatory research methods : A methodological approach in motion. Historical Social Research, 37(4), 191–222.
Boal, A. (1979). Theatre of the oppressed. Theatre Communications Group.
D’Cruz, H., Gillingham, P., Melendez, S. (2007) Reflexivity, its meaning and relevance for social work: a critical review of the literature. British Journal of Social Work, 37, 73–90.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Herder and Herder.
Hein, G. (1991) Constructivist Learning Theory, (Institute for Inquiry, at: http://www.exploratorium.edu/IFI/resources/constructivistlearning.html
Wang, C. C., Cash, J. L., & Powers, L. S. (2000). Who knows the streets as well as the homeless? Promoting personal and community action through photovoice. Health Promotion Practice, 1(1), 81–89. https://doi.org/10.1177/152483990000100113