Jonathan Hassid

I believe a good teacher should impart both knowledge and skills in the classroom. While knowledge will vary -- an introduction to comparative politics should not present the same material as an upper-level Chinese foreign policy course -- I aim to impart a similar skill set to all my students, built on the foundations of critical thinking and persuasive writing.

Skills like these are the core of an effective college education. I am committed to a student-centered classroom that caters to pupils' different learning styles, and enhances recall through using film, creative in-class exercises and mixture of assignment types, and I believe that educational quality can be achieved in a range of ways. First and foremost, I want my students to engage critically with the course material.

To this end, I juxtapose contradictory pieces or authors in active debate with one another. These sorts of readings often force the students to recognize that both sides cannot be simultaneously correct and thereby encourage synthesis and class debate. An active class discussion centers on making the readings relevant for students' everyday lives, so they can see how theory and reality are not, and should not be, two separate things. Assignments like writing exercises and formal in-class debates, meanwhile, deepen the link between theory and reality by presenting students with opportunities to apply class materials to topical issues. Above all, courses and assignments should help students develop critical thinking skills -- skills crucial for navigating the world.

This commitment to building a fundamental student toolkit does not mean I take a cookie-cutter approach to my courses. Having attended both a teaching-focused undergraduate institution (Amherst College) and a diverse research university (UC Berkeley), I have a sense of how important it is to vary course material and teaching styles to best match my students' needs.

Recognizing the differences between lower and upper division courses and students' differing degrees of preparation and familiarity with the material is key to a successful course. While an upper-level course on state-building will be more tuned to providing specialist knowledge and broad recognition of many of the key debates in contemporary scholarship, an introductory course will lean more heavily on providing a general overview of concepts rather than concentrating on specific authors. Assessment, too, should vary between course types. In upper-level courses I will rely more on guiding students through a lengthy research paper to solidify both writing skills and knowledge. Lower division course assessment, by contrast, is more heavily weighted toward smaller, less intimidating assignments that include both short answer and essay components. In both types of classes, developing writing skills is an important goal.

The best teaching allows students the opportunity to grow and learn from their mistakes. A student in one course, "Tom," was an immigrant who had dropped out of school years earlier and was ill-prepared for Berkeley's rigor. As a non-native English speaker, his writing, in particular, was not at the college level. After grading his first assignment, I encouraged him to come to extra office hours and work intensively on critical writing skills. Tom, thankfully, was a diligent student who just needed a little inspiration and attention. After many hours of working on his writing together, we were both pleased with his impressive progress. Tom has finally graduated from Berkeley, and now has a successful career.

Not all students are like Tom, of course, but stories like his both inspire and humble me, and increase my commitment to helping students, regardless of their educational background or level of preparation.

Potential Courses

Courses I would be prepared to teach include such standbys as comparative politics, Chinese politics, introductory international relations, organization theory/public administration, media and politics, and Asian politics.

Other than these standard courses, though, I would also be delighted to teach more creative offerings like “Media under Authoritarianism,” “Power,” “Chinese Foreign Policy,” and “Thinking About the State.”

Teaching Evaluations

My teaching evaluations reflect my encouragement of class discussion. Here are some selections, both positive and negative, about how I have led discussion sections:

“The discussion class was interesting and incorporated outside information to supplement lectures and reading.”

“Jonathan was really lively and made discussion very interesting. He knows the material well and contextualized the course very well.”

“He was friendly and approachable.”

“Sometimes the discussion went too long and it got boring with too many opinions.”

“Jon really filled in and added to both the book and lecture material with his own insights, especially regarding the media.”

“Good promotion of discussion and participation.”

“Clear and helpful in filling in gaps, when necessary.”

“He definitely liked to draw from real-life examples and encouraged class participation, … [but he was also] not too approachable.”

“Jonathan wasn’t at all intimidating to approach regarding any class issues.”

“He didn’t do enough to steer the discussions into more interesting places than simple re-hashing of lectures and readings.”

“Jonathan’s humor and personal experiences in China brought another level of understanding and interest to the course.”

“I like that almost everyone contributes to the discussions; we debate; and that we talk about the material and also apply it to current or other relevant topics.”

“Jonathan was a helpful discussion leader and allowed students to take an active role.”

“Section was interesting, well-led and a good part of the course.”

Grading Evaluations

“He gave credit when it was due, and didn’t grade harshly.”

“Fair, although he does grade hard.”

“[Assignments were] accurately graded.”

“Hard but fair”

“I believe he was in fact a fair grader because he gave the exact reasons and comments for grades given, and these seemed to be fair”

Selected Statistics

And finally, here are some numeric averages for questions asked about the last course I taught (Chinese politics, Spring 2007).

Q: Considering the nature of this course, how would you rate the overall effectiveness of the GSI:
Average (out of five possible): 4.1
And a chart breakdown:

Q: Self-confident, thorough knowledge of course material:
Average: 4.8
And a chart breakdown:

Q: Encourages questions and/or class dicussion:
Average: 4.5

Q: Is dynamic and enthusiastic:
Average: 4.4

And finally, a breakdown of the two courses I taught before this one (Ethics and Justice in International Relations, Fall 2005 and Introduction to Comparative Poltiics, Spring 2005):
Average (out of seven possible): 5.7