Steven Surrency, Communication Sciences and Disorders

Steven Surrency, M.A., CI & CT; SC:L
Instructor II, Communication Sciences and Disorders
College of Behavioral and Community Sciences

Teaching Philosophy

In instructing undergraduates of any discipline, I seek to integrate the course material into multiple aspects of students' lives. As students transition from high school and community college experiences to the university, they often struggle to see how the bits of knowledge that they are accumulating relate to the bigger picture of their own world and to the various professions in which they plan to work. They learn vocabulary, techniques, and facts, but on their own they fail to see how these discrete details apply in real-world situations and to the other courses that they are taking. As an instructor, I facilitate the students' integrating these facts into other disciplines, into their lives outside of class, into their future careers, and into the globalized world in which we live.

Because I so highly value the integration of material into a variety of contexts, all my courses rely heavily on interdisciplinary sources and techniques. For instance, my Culture and Diversity in CSD course employs concepts from feminist studies, sociology, and linguistics. In this course, the students use ethnographic procedures developed in anthropology to complete interviews. These students also review material from psychology-based journals as they seek to understand the sources of racism and inequality. In Acquisition of Knowledge, which I teach in the Honors College, I similarly employ material from a wide range of disciplines to analyze the foundations of epistemology. The articles, books, and numerous media clips that I draw on come from philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, communication, and education. Since I cannot possibly adequately explain the intricacies of these disciplines, I frequently collaborate with colleagues across the university. In fact, I am collaborating with the Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence to lead a Faculty Learning Community that is exploring how interdisciplinary integration can revitalize course content.

It is not enough that student synthesize information from a variety of disciplines, they must also integrate that information into their lived experiences. For this reason, I am committed to creating learning opportunities outside of the classroom. I frequently lead off-campus educational experiences including scavenger hunts, museum visits, and travel opportunities. For instance, I conduct an annual trip to Washington, D.C. and an annual trip to St. Augustine, FL. These experiences integrate the historical, linguistic, and cultural information learned in the classroom into the students' memories. Moreover, I engage students in on-campus activities. Through initiatives that I have established, such as "Into Focus," or initiatives in which I partner with other campus entities, such as Residential Education, I engage students after the typical 9-5 work day in those areas of their life which would not typically be associated with academics. Through join viewings of films, Living Learning Community student events, and after hours dining hall study sessions, I hope to help students understand that learning must be an important part of who they are even outside of the lecture hall.

As I seek to apply the curriculum to other fields and venues, I also attempt to keep the real-life, professional application of the information that I teach in the students' focus. In every lesson, I emphasize the practical applications of the material. My students benefit from and are motivated by explicit reference to how the content of a class meeting will bear fruit in their future professional lives. For this reason, I also attempt to bring at least one speaker from outside academia into each course. This gives the students the opportunity to see concretely how their time spent in class can pay off in their future careers. In this way, integrating academic and professional information forms a key component in the development of all of my courses.

Finally, I integrate a global component into each of the course that I develop and deliver. Because our department offered no course in cross-cultural perspectives, I developed the Culture and Diversity in CSD course. Through a wide range of interdisciplinary sources and pre-professional activities, this course exposes students to the theoretical issues surrounding diversity and to the practical applications of these issues in clinical and professional settings. Moreover, this year I am developing a travel abroad opportunity in which students will visit Rome, Italy. There they will explore the geopolitical and social forces that will impact their professional and scientific lives even from a half a world away.

In all of the examples listed above, I have strived to help the student connect what I am teaching to other aspects of their life in the university and beyond. For learning to be effective, it must be contextualized within a rich array of experiences and perspectives. The approaches listed above ensure that students have those experiences and see those perspectives as I guide them to integrate the material that they are learning into their world.