Marco Gemignani Teaching
My three main professional backgrounds are in research, teaching, and clinical practice. In my work and interactions with students, all three of them inform each other, especially in light of the key values and goals of my work with students: empowerment, personal growth, multicultural competence, and critical thinking.
In my teaching, I actively seek student participation. I highlight and emphasize each student's dexterities and strengths, which tend to emerge and be expressed if I create openness, respect, and trust in the class. I do not see learning as the transfer of knowledge as much as the process of elaboration and reflection on such knowledge. I nurture critical reasoning skills and encourage students to develop their own understanding and synthesis of the material. From this perspective, learning becomes a relational process that occurs inside and outside the classroom, within the socio-cultural contexts in which students live and grow as scientists and experts. One of the most interesting outcomes of this teaching approach is that it leads students to acquiring and creating knowledge that is meaningful in their praxis and context of life.
I operate from a feminist/egalitarian and constructivist perspective that empowers students to express their own voices while also realizing the cultural and relational contexts to which they participate. I invite students to step outside their comfort zone to consider “unknown” viewpoints and, eventually, the complexity of real-world issues. For instance, my course on Brain, Behavior, and Cognition included a critical section in which the class read and discussed about the positive and negative aspects of the “massification” and commoditization of psychotropic medications such as Prozac or Ritalin. My course on Psychology of Personality focuses on personal growth. Students are required to keep a journal in which they apply the theoretical concepts they learn in class to their personal life and identities. Lastly, I teach a service learning capstone course ( Psychology of Social Engagement ) for graduating seniors in psychology. In this course, we address psychological aspects of forced migration. Refugees are a growing under-represented population in Pittsburgh and the students of my class become active in the field. They support refugees from Burma through a variety of activities, such as ESL and school tutoring, advocating for refugee rights, community building, and even collecting winter clothes. In addition, through their volunteer work, students contribute to the prevention of psychological issues in the refugee population.
These are examples of different ways in which I encourage students to become active and engaged participants in the process of learning. The critical and complex view of psychology I present in my classes tends to broaden the students' perspectives on key social issues. Aspects like gender, socio-economic status, ethnic diversity, and cultural identity are systematically incorporated in my teaching. For students and for me as well, these topics contribute to question ethnocentric views; challenge existing theoretical, disciplinary, and political walls; and become –in two words – “border crossers.”