Political Science Now

Campus Teaching Award Winner: Janni Aragon

Excellence in teaching political science is essential to the discipline. This interview series highlights campus teaching award winners who have been recognized by APSA for their achievements. Learn more about the campus teaching award recognition program here.

Janni Aragon

Director, Technology Integrated Learning

Dr. Janni Aragon (BA/MA San Diego State University, MA/PhD UC Riverside) is the Director of Technology Integrated Learning and an Assistant Professor, Adjunct and regularly teaches for Political Science and Technology & Society. She was awarded the Social Sciences Teaching Excellence Award in 2013, and the Harry Hickman Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching and Educational Leadership in 2017. Janni is also the Director of the Technology & Society Program, one of the many interdisciplinary programs at UVic. Janni’s research interests include: Women and Technology, Pedagogy, and Politics and Popular Culture. She has been published in New Political Science, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and the International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, and blogs for the University of Venus, the Globe and Mail and her personal blog. Janni believes in life-long learning and completed the Senior University Administrators’ Course this past summer.

What’s your teaching background? What was your first teaching experience like?

My first teaching experience was teaching American Politics at San Diego Mesa College. I never told the class that this was my first class, but they figured it out and bought me flowers and a card and gave them to me at the last class. It was a great experience. My favorite evaluations said something to the effect, “I never knew if she was a moderate Democrat or progressive Republican. She did a great job of playing devil’s advocate and listened to students.” I was fortunate to participate in the University of California’s Teaching Assistant Development Program, so I felt supported with my teaching. I also am a voracious reader and read lots about the art and science of teaching and learning. My students have also taught me lots in class and during office hours.

How would you describe your teaching style or philosophy?

I’m a good listener and reader of a room. I also am a walker and a talker so I go to the students. I call on them and I want them to feel engaged in the class and with the materials. My teaching style is that I move, jump, walk, and talk. I love what I do and they can see it.

Do you have favorite materials or courses to teach?

Yes! I like using as many Open Education Resources (OERs) as possible and I use an array of materials: books, articles, website, clips, podcasts, and more. I have a particular affinity to teaching gender and politics or gender and international relations courses. These two courses are likely the courses that I have taught the most during the last twenty years. Frankly, I love teaching and have never felt like it was hard work or drudgery. I also try to use colleagues’ recent publications.

What has been your most effective tool for engaging students in the classroom?  

Well, besides me, the learning management system can be the effective place to keep the syllabus, gradebook, links to other materials and place to engage the students. I do like using different platforms or tools with my teaching — so that my students can “gender or race” Wikipedia or make their own blogs or vlogs (video clips offering analysis of reading materials). I come to class enthusiastic about the materials.

Did you have any classroom experiences as a student that influenced how you teach now?  

Yes, I sponged from others and learned what worked. For instance, one of my mentors, Kathy Jones, (San Diego State University) was mesmerizing in the classroom. She used pregnant pauses effectively and was always interested in the materials. When you’re interested in the materials, the students can see this and it becomes infectious. Likewise, Chris Laursen’s (UC Riverside) use of questions in graduate seminars was artful and at times disarming. I have benefited from my mentors.