My Philosophy

My approach to teaching is grounded in four areas which I believe are important to my students’ academic growth: the extensive use of writing assignments (stemming from my experience with Writing in the Disciplines, I focus on the effective use of sources and revision/resubmission as key elements in the writing process); the personalization of politics (I employ anecdotes from visits to more than twenty-five European and Asian countries to evoke local and national political culture); the use of instructional technologies (all of my classes utilize interactive course resource management platforms that add to the learning environment, encourage and support substantive research, and help cut down on energy and paper consumption); and the use of the Socratic method (I challenge my students to reassess their notions of basic concepts such as the “religion,” “terrorism,” “race,” etc.). My primary learning outcomes focus on developing critical thinking skills through written analysis, effective use of case studies, and in-class debates and conceptual analysis exercises. I strive to bring my research into the classroom whenever possible and tend to develop research questions with my own undergraduates in mind, often considering the question: "Would my students want to read this?" At Farmingdale State College, I have also developed my ability to use humor as a teaching tool, which I have found to be a highly effective method for engaging students who are less than enthusiastic about studying subjects that are not directly related to their majors (engineering, nursing, etc.). I bring a high level of energy and intellectual vigor to the classroom, and strive to make my course content as relevant as possible to my students. I do this with the ultimate goal of preparing my students for a lifetime of civic engagement, global interaction, and cross-cultural understanding.

Watch a video from CNN's Your Bottom Line featuring my Comparative Religions/Cultures class and Michael Kelly, one of my star History and STS students here.

Course Offerings and Development of New Courses

In terms of my teaching versatility, I have sought every opportunity to expand my course offerings at Farmingdale State College. Since joining the faculty, I have developed and taught the following new courses:
HISTORY

HIS 200—Introduction to Historical Methods

HIS 211—The World and Its Peoples

HIS 216—History of Central Asia - From Genghis to Borat

HIS 231—Europe and Its Peoples

HIS 341—Terrorism and the Modern World

HIS 318—Israel: A History of the Jewish State

HIS 319—Islam: The 20th Century and Beyond

HIS 351—The Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey

POLITICS

POL 262—Global Politics

POL 267—Politics of the Muslim World

POL 370—International Relations

POL 371—Geopolitics

POL 391—Mass Media and Politics

POL 392—Religion and Politics

POL 393—Politics and Popular Culture
In addition to these courses, I also teach Comparative Religions & Cultures, The World of Islam, World Civilization I and II, Comparative Politics, European Politics, History of the Twentieth Century, Russia since 1917, and the capstone course in Science, Technology & Society (STS). I have also introduced separate minor programs in both History, Politics, and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (MEIS) since joinging the college.

Online Course Methodology

As an experienced online educator, I have developed a research-centric model for Discussion Board work in my online classes (one which I have now adapted for use in my face-to-face classes as well). Each student must select and claim their topic and then conduct independent research for their Main Assignment. In each forum, they must also make two other “substantive posts,” in addition to the Main Assignment. The requirements for these posts are as follows:

1) includes a unique and thoughtful response to a posted assignment;
2) is well-written and grammatically correct and in excess of 400 words;
and 3) includes at least two citations (one from the assigned readings for the module and one from a scholarly source that students must locate through independent research).

This forces students to engage with more authoritative and probing materials, including primary sources. While students are initially taken aback by the amount of reading, critical thinking, and genuine research required as well as the demand for attention to detail, I have had a significant number of students thank me for instructing them how to properly conduct online research, avoid plagiarism, and improve their digital literacy skills.

Student Feedback

"Overall, this course has opened my eyes to a whole new world and the way I view my life. I now understand that in everything I do there will be some sort of trace left behind, some sort of encounter, and that I should not take my surroundings for granted."

“The discussion boards showed a great deal of clarity and participation. The back-and-forth posts helped to educate the other classmates on different topics that were not specific to our own individual assignments.”

“I liked the way in which Professor Saunders assigned the essays, especially since we were required to interact with our classmates. With this being a part of our grade, there was participation and interactions in all of the discussions.”

“I learned more about citing and using sources in this class than in any of my English classes.”

Using Technology to Enhance Pedagogy

In order to provide an increasingly dynamic online learning environment, I strive to integrate emerging new media technologies into the classroom. At the most basic level, this includes the use of recorded lectures of 15-20 minutes in duration on key topics.
More recently, I have begun to incorporate Cloud-based teaching tools into the classroom. I use the online Prezi
presentation software system for providing syllabus and introductory information, as well as for purposes of "academic storytelling." I have found the platform to be highly effective in improving learning outcomes among my students who tend to be visual learners. The functionality of the program allows for the simultaneous presentation of text, maps, images, and videos on a Z-axis, which most of my students find quite pleasing.
SAMPLES

Introduction (The World and Its Peoples)



In addition to these tools, I also use VoiceThread as a mechanism for increasing my social presence in the classrooms and promoting a greater sense of community among students.