Teaching Posts

I’m a contributing author to Worn Through, a site that explores apparel from an academic perspective  Along with Kelly Cobb, I write articles for the weekly column On Teaching Fashion.  My articles explore observations I’ve made in and out of the classroom.  Teaching is about creative problem solving.  My articles are aimed at sharing my experience, and how I have dealt with the many challenges that come along with facilitating learning.  I hope that you find them useful!

  • Do They Hear What I Hear: There comes a moment in your teaching career when you are assigned a new course.  It may be your very first time leading a classroom, or you may be a seasoned professional tackling a special topics class.  You’re eager, and ready for the challenge.  Class starts.  You present the lecture and feel great.  All of the main issues were covered, the images were great, and you even made a handout.  What a great lecture!  Or was it?  To continue reading this post, please click here.


  • Grading Creativity: After assigning projects for fashion design and portfolio classes, grading the work can seem nearly impossible.  How do you grade creativity?  Without proper planning and communication, grading design can seem subjective and daunting.  Even worse, without proper grading criteria, your assignments can become a creativity killer to the students.  Creating a rubric can demystify the grading process.  A rubric is a scoring guide that evaluates a student’s performance based on the sum of a full range of criteria rather than a single numerical score.  To continue reading this post, please click here.


  • Social Interaction & Learning: Earlier this week, I read a fascinating interview on Using Tehchnology in Museums to Support Learning Through Social InteractionDirk vom Lehn, a sociologist and lecturer at Kings College, was interviewed by Barry Joseph, the associate director for digital learning and youth initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History.  Vom Lehn and Joseph discuss how people learn from museum exhibitions.Vom Lehn has worked as a consultant for several museums to investigate whether people learn in and from exhibitions.  His research team conducted observations of naturally occurring interactions in museums.  He found that the most successful exhibition designs were those that included the opportunities for social interaction and discussion.  Designs that force the viewer to experience the exhibit in isolation can discourage learning.To continue reading this post, please click here.
  • The Semantics of Creating Fashion:Before I had considered pursuing fashion, I dreamed of becoming an Italian professor.  Aside from the language sounding so beautiful, I was fascinated by learning vocabulary.  I was particularly taken with how Italian words and concepts varied so greatly from English.  One language may have a precise word for a phrase or group of words that exists in another.  (For example, qualunquismo is a word to describe someone who is apathetic about politics.)  Semantics, the study of meaning and interpretation of meaning, adds another layer of interest.  The meaning of words are solidified in the brain by experiences and memories.  This is what can make communication tricky; word meaning can vary slightly from person to person.Curiously enough, once I started teaching fashion, semantics reappeared.  I was introduced to the work of Roland Barthes (1915-1980) during my first year teaching.  Barthes was a French philosopher that pioneered the study of semiotics, semantics, and also how these linguistic disciplines are replicated in fashionThe Fashion System  is Barthes attempt to “read” clothing and determine its system of meaning.

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  • Transitioning from Adjunct to Full-time Instuctor:Teaching any subject can be challenging because so much of the preparation and delivery of content occurs in isolation from our peers.  Reaching out to other instructors is a great way to gain perspective.  One of my professional New Year’s Resolutions is to connect with other instructors more often.This week, I was able to interview a colleague of mine, Allegra Ceci.  Allegra and I have a long-standing professional relationship.  Having collaborated on several projects with her, Allegra is someone I look to as a mentor and a friend.  She is disciplined, hardworking, knowledgeable, and very kind.  Allegra recently transitioned from teaching as an adjunct instructor to full-time status at Mercer County Community College. I was eager to hear all about her experiences.  She was delighted to answer all of my questions and share her experience in this interview.To read the rest of this post, please click here.


  • Attention Spans & Long ClassesUniversities and colleges have had to become flexible in course offerings.  Many students have to work full-time or part-time jobs while completing their studies.  This requires many schools to offer night classes or classes that meet once a week for 3 or 4 hours.  For some courses, like garment construction or painting, having a long stretch in the classroom is ideal.  Yet other courses can be very difficult to conduct in long sittings.  Long lectures have always presented a challenge in keeping the students engaged.  However, social media has deeply impacted attention spans.  Scientific studies have proven that the average attention span has decreased from 12 minutes to 5 minutes in the last 10 years.  Surfing the web for just 5 hours changes the way our brains work.  Coupled with long hours of work, you must have a strategy to engage your students when teaching a long class or evening class.  Here are some tips:  To read the rest of this post, please click here.


  •  Smart Phones in the Classroom:  I was 25 when I first started teaching fashion. Leading a college course at such a young age comes with pros and cons.  It can be frustrating when everyone pegs you as a student, and not the instructor.  However, being close to many of my students in age gave me insights on using technology in the classroom.I quickly noticed that smart phones were a major point of contention in higher education.  Many other instructors were adamant about not using phones in the classroom.  They took the stance that students were distracted, and either zoning out on Facebook or stealthily cheating on an assignment.  While these scenarios undoubtedly take place, I felt differently about utilizing phones in my classroom.I have an iPhone, and use it very frequently.  From setting appointments, to blogging, to paying bills, my phone is like a personal assistant.  It’s the way I organize my life and keep track of things I want to accomplish.  Most of my students use their smart phones in this same way.  They would photograph parts of my demonstrations as a reference for their homework.  When an assignment was given, many of them would program it into their virtual calendar and set reminders.  At first glance, it may have seemed I had lost my students to cyberspace.  But in reality, they were using their phones responsibly to record the content for my course.  To read the rest of this post, please click here.



  • Finding Balance:  As the term (and year) comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting quite a bit.  Next term, I will be teaching three courses.  Two of these courses are new to me.  The first time teaching a course can lead to a lot of anxiety.  However, it does get easier.  Finding balance in teaching comes with time.  There are many concerns and anxieties that accompany leading a classroom. I’ve noticed common themes in my own concerns in anxieties over teaching and those of my colleagues.  It’s important to keep these concerns and anxieties in perspective.  Here are the top three tips that have helped me find balance: To read the rest of this post, please click here.
  • Getting to Know Your Students:  As September approaches, it means that a new term is at hand.  Whether your school is on a quarter or semester system,  you inevitably have to learn quite a few new names and personalities.  Memorizing names was never something that came easily to me.  When I first started teaching, I was terrified that I wouldn’t remember any of my students names.  Truthfully, it was a struggle the first time around. To read the rest of this post, please click here.
  • Surviving Large Classes: A few weeks ago, I discussed the challenges of teaching long courses.  Universities and colleges have had to become flexible in course offerings.  Many students have to work full-time or part-time jobs while completing their studies.  This requires many schools to offer night classes or classes that meet once a week for 3 or 4 hours.  Contributor Kelly Cobbposed a great question after reading my post: what do you do to survive large classes?  To read the rest of this post, please click here.