My pedagogical training and experiences in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at The Pennsylvania State University has provided opportunities to develop a teaching philosophy that focuses on building a positive and engaging learning environment. I have experience in large undergraduate communications courses, where I served as a teaching assistance in the introductory COMM 100: Mass Media and Society and COMM 150: The Art of Cinema, courses that enrolled approximately 300 students. I have also been fortunate to develop and independently teach two upper-level undergraduate courses including COMM 410: International Mass Communications and COMM 419: World Media Systems, a comparative international communications course. I also have experience teaching online courses. In addition to assisting with these courses and teaching classes independently, I have given a number of lectures in various courses including: Gender, Diversity, and the Media, and the Political Economy of Communications. I have also served as a graduate assistant for a senior-level honors class that involved embedded travel to the Czech Republic. I am strongly committed to excellence in teaching, as evidenced by my students’ quantitative and qualitative evaluations of my performance in the classroom.
In the past three courses I have taught at Penn State, I have received an average rating of 6.63 out of 7 in overall quality. I have received an average rating above 6.5 in every other category, including effectiveness in stimulating student thinking and skills in creating a climate conducive to learning.
Student evaluations indicate a positive experience as well. One student wrote in my senior-level comparative media systems class that,
"Professor Hatef has created one of the most engaging and thought-provoking learning environments I have ever been privy to in my 4 years at Penn State. She consistently arrived to class with an energy and attitude that was contagious and I have never once left feeling as if I didn't take something away. She was incredibly resourceful and always encouraged the class to reach out if we had any questions about the material and made herself available via email and office hours. I wish more of my teachers were this attentive and cared as much for their students as Professor Hatef did throughout this semester."
My approach to teaching involves three related elements. The first element that I believe is crucial to effective teaching and learning is creating a positive environment, where students feel valued and respected. I do this by encouraging students to share their thoughts often. I believe that each student brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the classroom. Teaching international communications at an institution like Penn State, many of the students in my classroom have the privilege of traveling abroad. I also have a significant number of students who have never traveled abroad for various reasons, including economic hardships. Whether or not a student has traveled abroad, their experiences carry the same merit in the classroom, as they provide a different perspective that we can all learn from.
This is closely connected to the second element, where I strive to teach to diverse needs and ways of learning. Students are able to exercise their strengths through writing activities, group projects, and class discussions. This inclusive environment allows students of diverse social, economic, age, gender, and learning abilities to engage with the class in ways that they are most comfortable. The students’ diverse experiences and backgrounds helps us learn from one another, creating meaningful connections and a community of understanding.
These factors lead to the third element I believe is important to learning, which is to promote critical thinking. I aim to provide students with the resources to critically examine media structures and processes that will help produce a community of socially and politically aware students. I do this by providing clear and engaging information through lectures and other class activities to help students understand theoretically complex topics. I hold students to high standards, as I believe they think critically when rigorously engaged in the content. I am sincerely interested in working alongside my students to develop individual plans to help them reach their academic and career goals. I do this by learning each student’s name, regardless of the class size and learning about their personal aspirations.
As a child of refugees with little guidance through the higher education system, I understand the challenges that students from similar backgrounds may experience. By fully embracing diversity and striving to be a resource for students who may experience hardships navigating the higher education system, I am strongly committed to inclusion and excellence in teaching.
My teaching was recognized by the Harold F. Martin Graduate Assistant Outstanding Teaching Award in 2016-2017, a University-wide award acknowledging excellence in teaching.