Communication scholar at USC Annenberg
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Teaching

 

Teaching

In my teaching, like in my research, I am a social scientist at heart. However, also like in my research, I approach instruction in social science disciplines in a particular way. Specifically, I work to create a balance between, on the one end, critical work that theorizes society at the expense of the materiality of the issues at play and, on the other, prescriptive positivist work that often collapses the complexities of society into easily legible, but artificially standardized forms. In teaching about gender identity, for example, I center discussion on research that explores the materiality of transgender life that is so often ignored in work of critical theoretical orientations, but that also identifies, critiques, and offers alternatives to cisnormative and binaristic models of identity.

My philosophy on syllabus development is two-fold. First, I teach from an historical perspective, structuring my courses such that students are led chronologically through changes in society and the parallel development of theoretical ideas devised to explain those changes. Central questions in every course I teach are: What are the current theories? How did we arrive at them? Why do we think this way? And where are we going next? Second, I orient my syllabi toward multi-level and systemic perspectives on social issues that bridge the gap between individual experience and broader social forces. In the context of communication studies, this means focusing syllabi on theories that address the relationship between communication (at multiple levels) and the social system, with attention to mass-mediated, community-level, and interpersonal communications.

My approaches to classroom management and assessment, I feel, follow naturally from this structuring of courses. I aim to engage students in interactive learning environments that synthesize lecture-based instruction and student-oriented group discussion. At the same time, I strive to assess student learning not through exercises of recitation or direct practical application, but based on their ability to marshal course materials as analytic resources in the development and articulation of their own understandings about the nature of the social world.

 
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Thomas is extremely intelligent, passionate about his field of study, and facilitates conversation extremely well. I also really value your knowledge on the election. I enjoyed having you as a TA, you’ll make a great professor one day!
— Anonymous student evaluation from comm 313: communication and mass media
TJ was a great TA. He was really chill with us and this was a discussion section where he worked on creating a conversation rather than a lecture or forced questions. He was really relaxed and just asked us our thoughts and then used concrete examples to illustrate the concept. Additionally, TJ is very knowledgable on current communications research and relevant things to what we are learning.
— Anonymous student evaluation from comm 313: communication and mass media
Very good at explaining particular concepts that were difficult to understand in lecture. Provided up–to–date examples that made concepts more clear and relatable.
— Anonymous student evaluation from comm 209: communication and media economics
He was very relatable and understanding. Discussions were fun to come to and I always feel that I left having learned something that day. Also was accessible and responsive when needed.
— Anonymous student evaluation from comm 313: communication and mass media
He gave amazing review lectures in discussion with easy to understand slides... He never minded answering constant questions from students and was always very clear, precise, and knowledgeable about the topic. Best TA ever, so sad I won’t have him anymore!
— Anonymous student evaluation from comm 209: communication and media economics
Very intelligent and approachable intellectual that allowed for more personalized learning that reflected the course material in a more easily digestible way.
— Anonymous student evaluation from comm 209: communication and media economics
TJ should be a professor! [...] I loved his teaching style and he was very easy to understand.
— Anonymous student evaluation from comm 209: communication and media economics
TJ is very relatable, which keeps discussions interesting, yet still professional. He’s approachable and understanding, and always ready to help his students!
— Anonymous student evaluation from comm 313: communication and mass media
He was funny and made the material really interesting.
— Anonymous student evaluation from comm 313: communication and mass media

 

Syllabi