I believe university education can offer students not only key skills and knowledge but also intellectual emancipatory tools, following Paolo Freire’s concept of liberatory education and “knowledge as empowerment” (Freire, 1993). Through the study of film and media in particular, students can gain important intellectual tools for their future work and their way of being in the world. My teaching goals are therefore not limited to conveying knowledge and inciting my students’ motivation through my own passion for film and media studies. I also seek to empower students by guiding them towards independent learning, to develop a meta-critical awareness of their studies, to strengthen their informational and media literacy and their abilities of deep thinking and critical analysis. I feel strongly that higher education should seek to level the playing field for students from different backgrounds as far as possible. Through the study of film and media, I seek to equip students with the critical tools needed to analyse the popular texts and moving images that they may take for granted in their everyday lives. This is a political commitment as much as it is a pedagogical one.
In my classroom, I want all students to feel encouraged to speak, to have each voice heard and presence felt, for the sake of both their own and everyone’s learning. 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.
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. 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. I understand myself as a curator with a particular positionality, who has gained “situated knowledge” (Haraway, 1988), rather than an expert and dispenser of information. Instead, I aim to facilitate students’ queries, to give them the terminology, historical frameworks, and methods of analysis that they can bring to any media object—from the past, present, or future—in order to critically engage with it and understand it more deeply. I also show students my own process of growing and learning, for instance, by engaging with new challenges through different learning formats and by populating my syllabi with films, media texts, and contemporary topics that I’ve never taught before. This keeps the material fresh, allows me to learn alongside the students and model passionate inquiry for them. 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.
I approach my students with warmth and curiosity and I seek to give them both space and reliability. Through my own life and work experience (in France, the US, Chile, Germany and the United Kingdom), I have been made aware of my own privilege and have encountered many different ways of being. I address my own positionality –a white, cisgender, able-bodied, Western woman with a particular historical experience– and I invite other class members to do so as well. This shifts the power dynamics at play, and we can reflect on our own position and intersectional identities, in order to teach empathy and to avoid decontextualised or ahistorical assumptions and normative thinking.
I plan towards modifying courses to the needs of every class and I seek to strengthen students’ sense of ownership and intrinsic motivation by using a syllabus that invites suggestions, anticipates changes, and offers pre-structured alternatives. I alternate teaching methods as much as practical and useful. This ensures that students learn to practice different forms of communicating and expressing themselves; more importantly, this strategy aims to speak to all learning preferences and to be as inclusive as possible to students from all backgrounds, who may be more or less accustomed to particular skills and discourses. 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. Supporting my students improve their essay writing skills is always an important part of my teaching. In the act of committing ideas to paper, even in short, informal and/or formative assignments, students are required to develop and organize their thoughts, which necessitates a significant level of wrestling with the material. I use formative assessment and first drafts as scaffolding exercises, and I focus on developing core skills such as how to develop thesis statements.
Continuing Professional development and reflective practice
I will give and ask for regular feedback and make sure to catch and address challenges early, of whatever nature these might be. In addition to from official evaluations, I use varied mechanisms, such as short, anonymous end-of-session questions to determine if concepts were grasped. I also maintain an ongoing dialogue with colleagues in a group where we reflect on experiences and play out alternative scenarios.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, I focus increasingly on questions around online pedagogy and online learning. Initial seminars were intended to smooth the transition to dual delivery teaching, to address legal questions and to introduce methods and formats for online teaching. While Blended Learning concepts in principle enable a structural openness, technology is not economically or politically neutral. Infrastructural and other divides have been thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic as well as an increasing culture of surveillance in HE communities which undermine trust in educational settings. The question now is to think through and expand or adapt teaching strategies in order to teach inclusively online and mitigate barriers to access (Boyd, 2016).
Boyd, D. (2016), “What Would Paulo Freire Think Of Blackboard: Critical Pedagogy In An Age Of Online Learning” International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 7(1), 166-186.
Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Haraway, H. (1988). “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Feminist Studies, 14(3), 575-599.
Recently Taught Modules (selection)
University of Groningen
Film History (BA module)
Cinema & Social Change (MA module)
Introduction to Film Analysis (BA and pre-Master)
Film Analysis (BA module)
French New Wave (2nd year BA module)
Genres: The Hollywood Musical (3rd year BA module)
World Cinema (2nd year BA module)
Stardom & Performance (3rd year BA module)
Film Studies Contexts (1st year BA module)
University of Tubingen
Digital Media Theory (BA module)
“A fiction like no other” – Documentary Cinema (BA module)
Discovering Cinema: Film Analysis (BA module)
Cinema & Social Change (BA module)
University of Warwick (as GTA)
Transnational Cinema & Globalization (3rd year BA module)
Film History (1st year BA module)