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Dr. Janni Aragon, Department of Political Science

2012-2013 Faculty of Social Sciences Teaching Excellence Award




1. Janni, what do you like about teaching at UVic?
I appreciate that teaching is important at UVIC. I am surrounded by many colleagues and other staff who are dedicated to teaching and learning on campus. There are countless opportunities to share information and learn from others. UVIC has a vibrant teaching community.

2. Who or what inspires your teaching (past/present)?
My major past inspirations for teaching include Mr. Carey, my AP History teacher from High School, and Kathy Jones from San Diego State. My present and future inspirations for teaching often come from my students in my classes or from office hour consultations. They keep me excited.

3. What is your favorite teaching tip?
Come to class - this is for students. For faculty, you must walk into the classroom and turn on the switch and be present for the class time. Nothing bothers our students more than sensing that we do not want to be there or do not take their learning seriously. Teaching is not only about the information and facilitating our students' learning processes, it’s also about performance. And, I walk into the class ready.

4. What is your philosophy towards teaching?

My overall teaching objective is to get students to think critically about the course material and to make connections between the issues discussed and how they are practiced outside of the university, and to have a better understanding of the concepts and how these concepts apply to their lives. To accomplish this, I provide an engaging atmosphere conducive to active learning. Some Political Science students bring only minimal prior knowledge of the material to the classroom and can feel intimidated by the discipline and the course material at large, while other students are committed to the discipline on a deeper level. This means that I have to provide the best learning environment for all students, whether they are Political Science majors, or shopping, or fulfilling requirements for a degree in another field, or just want to take another class with me. My challenge is to engage the passion behind students’ personal knowledge and channel it towards an understanding of the multi-faceted nature of Political Science. I bring my interdisciplinary education to the classroom and offer multiple examples in hopes of “catching” students and getting them to appreciate Political Science.

5. When you design a course/teach a class, what are the main goals you have for your students?
 I want my students to walk away from class with stronger critical thinking skills and with ample opportunities to work on their writing.  I want the assignments to be manageable, but I also know that our department prides itself on writing intensive assignments. I would hope that my students will be able to think and write, but also do so using different platforms: making zines, blogging, vlogging, papers, Wikipedia entries, and exams!

6. What do you take away from the students you teach?
My students remind me to listen. As I tell them, I have an important place in their education. My students also teach me to be present, open-minded, firm and compassionate. I also learn from them — one of my favorite moments in seminar was when one student reminded us repeatedly not to generalize. I still thank this student for this reminder.

7. What do you feel has been your most successful teaching innovation at UVic?
I am always looking for new, innovative ways to challenge myself and my students. During the last six to seven years, this has included integrating different social media platforms into my teaching and into student assignments. My students leave with transferable skills that they can place on their CVs or resumes.










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