I believe Higher Education can offer students not only key skills and knowledge but also intellectual emancipatory tools (cf. Schulz, 1983): Students can gain important intellectual tools for their future work and their way of being in the world through the study of film and media. My goal is therefore not only to convey knowledge, to communicate my own and incite my students’ passion for film and media studies but also to guide students to “learn to learn” independently and to strengthen their informational and media literacy, as well as their abilities of deep thinking and critical analysis (cf. the revision of Bloom’s taxonomy in Anderson et al., 2001). The experience of seeing students become passionate about a topic they previously considered too difficult, mastering threshold concepts (cf. Winkler, 2018) and putting together ideas in impressive ways is what inspires me in my teaching.
In my classroom, I want all students to enjoy equal time and to feel encouraged to speak, to have each student’s voice heard and presence felt, for the sake of both their own and everyone’s learning. Teaching is about facilitating an experience for students in which they learn from each other, from their active participation and the direction of the course. My seminars are created as learner-centred, characterised by work on concrete objects in small groups who then present, compare and reflect their work in the plenum, while I moderate, support and guide as necessary. I feel that Higher Education should seek to level the playing field for students from different backgrounds as far as possible, and I strive to respond to different student needs. This is a political commitment as much as it is a pedagogical one.
My own research is deeply invested in attention to detailed close-readings, the multi-sensorial experience of audiovisual media and a politics of humanism, empathy and vulnerability. This feeds back into my inclusive attitude towards teaching, the use of varied strategies of teaching film and media to engage all aspects of its experience, and my emphasis on detailed observations and respectful engagement.
In order to create a respectful and caring environment, I invite students to agree on rules to ensure we treat the covered issues with sensitivity. I address my own positionality – as a white, cisgender, able-bodied, Western woman with a particular history and experience– and encourage students to do the same, thereby shifting focus to the power dynamics at play. I also show students my own process of growing and learning, for instance, by engaging with new challenges through topics and formats.
I plan towards modifying the schedule to the needs of every class. With a syllabus that works as a document open to suggestions, and that includes buffer sessions or suggested alternatives which I may pre-structure as necessary, I seek to strengthen students’ sense of ownership and intrinsic motivation (cf. Deci, 2000).
As much as possible and useful, I alternate teaching methods. This ensures that students learn to practice different forms of communicating and expressing themselves, but more importantly, this strategy aims to speak to all learning preferences and to support students from all backgrounds, who may be more or less accustomed to particular skills and discourses.
I pay particular attention to use the first session: to begin the forming phase of group dynamic (cf. Marks, 2001); to explain how our exercises and assessments are in “constructive alignment” with the learning outcomes (cf. Biggs & Tang, 1996); and to activate curiosity and want through a “hook” and concrete experience in order to initiate Kolb’s experiential learning cycle (cf. Kolb, 1984). I use formative assessment and first drafts (Locke & Latham, 1990) as scaffolding exercises, and I focus on developing core skills such as how to develop thesis statements. Game Based Learning (cf. Prensky, 2001) or gamification strategies help students to switch into a different mode of engagement, to create a fun session for a comparatively formal and ‘dry’ subject matter, to exit a passive comfort zone or shell for fear of making mistakes, and instead, play with trying out new thoughts and ideas.
Continuing training and reflective practice
Following Schön’s reflection-on-action of the reflective practitioner (Schön, 1983), I reflect on various feedback in order to continuously evolve my teaching skills. Apart from official evaluations and private messages, I invite student feedback by using frequent, varied feedback mechanisms, such as short, anonymous end-of-session questions, which help me to determine if concepts were grasped and therefore to better support students in their learning. I also maintain an ongoing dialogue with teachers from various universities – through a group in which we compare situations and experiences and play through alternative scenarios (cf. Gibbs’ Action Plan in Gibbs, 1988) – and I regularly visit workshops on pedagogy. The latest ones were about Peer Review and Large Group Teaching at King’s College in 2019, to prepare for an introductory lecture class with over 200 students. In 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, I have participated in several zoom seminars to smooth the transition to flexible and/or online teaching, which addressed legal questions, as well as methods to improve asynchronous teaching such as flipped classroom, and formats such as screencast or flipgrid. While Blended Learning concepts in principle enable a “structural openness” (Kergel & Heidkamp, 2015) that may improve our ethical duties of care, various infrastructural and other divides have been thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic. As Equality, Diversity & Inclusion lead at King’s and through my own research focus, I feel particularly sensitive towards issues such as inequality of access.
 Although there is some dispute about the existence of actual learning styles (cf. Coffield 2004), habits and preferences certainly exist.
 These seminars were conducted by the society of cinema and media studies.
Anderson, L.W., Krathwohl, D.R., Airasian, P.W., Cruikshank, K.A., Mayer, R.E., Pintrich, P.R., Raths, J., & Wittrock, M.C. (eds.) (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman.
Biggs, J. (1996). ‘Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment’, Higher Education 32(3), pp. 347–64.
Biggs, J. and Tang, K. (2011). Teaching for Quality Learning at University. 4th ed. Maidenhead: Oxford University Press.
Coffield, F. et al. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning. A systematic and critical review. London: Learning and Skills Research Centre.
Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning by doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. London: Further Education Unit.
Kergel, D., Heidkamp, D. (2015) Forschendes Lernen mit digitalen Medien. Ein Lehrbuch: #theorie #praxis. Münster: Waxmann Verlag.
Kolb, D. (1984). “Experiential Learning: Experience as The Source Of Learning And Development.” Journal of Business Ethics.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Game-Based Learning. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Deci, R. & E. L. (2000). “Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Socia Development, and Well-Being.” American Psychologist 55, 68–78.
Schulz, W. (1991). “Ein Hamburger Modell der Unterrichtsplanung. Seine Funktionen in der Alltagspraxis.“ Adl-Amini, B., Künzli, R. (eds.) (1991): Didaktische Modelle und Unterrichtsplanung. München, 49–87.
Schön, D.A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Winkler, E. N. (2018). “Racism as a threshold concept: Examining learning in a ‘diversity requirement’ course.” Race Ethnicity and Education, 21(6), 1–19.
Recently Taught Modules (selection)
at King’s College
World Cinema (2nd year BA module)
Stardom & Performance (3rd year BA module)
Film Studies Contexts (1st year BA introductory module)
at the University of Tubingen
Digital Media Theory
“A fiction like no other” – Documentary Cinema
Discovering Cinema: Film Analysis
Cinema & Social Change
at the University of Warwick (as GTA)
Transnational Cinema & Globalization