PWR In the Spotlight
Spotlight on: Professor Peggy Christoff
By: Lopa Shah
- When did your career of teaching begin and what prompted you to venture down this path?
Professor Christoff began her journey in teaching in college where she taught social studies to high school students. From here she developed the skillset of developing a curriculum and developing lectures for her social studies course. As a student in college and a teacher at a high school, Professor Christoff comments how despite the difficult schedule, she found the ability to be able to provide a lecture and subsequent materials to students, extremely valuable. Professor Peggy Christoff then continued her journey in teaching as she received her doctorate, began to teach international relations in Germany, started to teach at Stony Brook University in 2012 as a Professor in the Asian American Studies Department and now continues as a Professor in the Writing Department.
- How would you describe your relationship with your students in the writing courses you teach?
Professor Peggy Christoff describes how she is personally amazed by how much she is able to get to know her students. She explains how all individuals learn to write in their own way and as a professor in the writing department, she is able to get to know the student intimately. Knowing that there is tons of variation in a student (including personality, interest, family, philosophy of life, etc) allows her to understand a student much better because these influences carry through in writing. Professor Christoff further explains how she believes that professors in different fields such as biology should teach writing themselves in order to learn more about the students themselves.
- What is your teaching philosophy and your favorite part of teaching?
Professor Christoff believes in two teaching philosophies of experiential learning and learning by observation. Professor Christoff explains how because there are so many different ways of learning, learning in a fashion which allows for active involvement of the students, that experiential style of learning addresses the multiple different styles of learning. For example, while introducing a novel about Indonesia in her WRT 102 class, she had a debate in class based on multiple different roles which further showed her the importance of experiential learning. Her second philosophy of teaching involves observational learning where Professor Christoff believes that students will learn more effectively as they see professors interacting and through simply observing.
Professor Christoff’s favorite part of teaching are the student conferences because it gives her the opportunity to be able to sit one-on-one with the student and listen and interact with the student. She also mentions how because writing is a very different type of teaching, she is still learning the skill of listening more than talking.
- How do you motivate your students to write in the classroom and outside of the classroom?
Professor Peggy Christoff explains that while she is still learning this, some of her techniques include introducing interactive groupwork, allowing students to write what they care about and giving shorter assignments. These together can make a big difference in motivating students to write.
- How does your experience in teaching writing compare with teaching other subjects?
Professor Christoff’s experience in working in a varying number of subjects including international relations and Asian American studies, she notices how there is bigger emphasis on content related papers there versus in writing, students learn how to write these research papers. She elaborates saying that this is a necessary skill to have. From the professor’s standpoint, writing trains the ability of learning how to conduct research and how to cite and from the student’s perspective, they get an idea of how a real college course and research paper should look like. In addition, Professor Christoff mentions how the students themselves are there in the classes for a varying number of reasons, including the fact that WRT 102 is a mandatory course while courses in the AAS department are generally enrolled into by students who have an initial interest in the course.
- What are some of your favorite books and authors?
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is a current favorite where the author explores Japanese and Korean relations.
- How have students and the university changed in your time here at SBU?
Professor Christoff describes that she notices a stronger change in herself where she began as a new professor learning to and adapting to the university environment to now becoming more comfortable but still navigating her way through.
- What are your current research interests?
Professor Christoff’s current research is on how Asian women can contribute to addressing the issue of climate change. She will be going to Gujrat, India towards the end of January to interview women who are a part of the impact created by the Bhungroo Narieeta Services. This foundation is an NGO based in India which helps the irrigation system and giving access to the technology of irrigation to rural family women since these women tend to not have control over land rights.