Teaching

Dr. Knopf has taught more than 30 courses, levels 100 (first-year) through 600 (graduate), at community colleges, public and private comprehensive colleges, and research universities in the United States. Of her teaching philosophy and approach, she says, "When students finish a course with me, I want them to have a broader view of the world and a different perspective on their experiences in it. I teach communication and rhetoric as not only skills to be developed, but also as ways of knowing, understanding, and relating. Through communication, I want students to be better speakers and listeners and to be more critical thinkers who will ask questions of themselves and others. Most of my courses integrate historical and sociological perspectives designed to give students insight to their communicative interactions in relationships, work, politics, civic life, and media use, with a greater awareness of socio-political and systemic inequities. I ask my students to understand communication concepts and theories via lived examples and experiences and to engage in analytical and/or creative exercises that apply those course concepts and theories. My personal philosophy of learning is the “distributed individual” mode; I believe people will more naturally learn things that have value or use to them, and this is reflected in the ways I try to get students to make personal connections to material and advisees to direct their own schedules. At the same time, I believe that learning should have a collective benefit, that while people may learn through and for individual goals and values, education itself has a responsibility to the collective, and I want students to be better community members because of what they have learned. Though the student learning outcomes of my courses vary depending on program and topic, broadly they are that students will… • exhibit proficiency in oral discourse. • critically analyze the relationships between media and society. • understand, and be able to improve, the dynamics of interpersonal and group interactions. • reflect critically on, and be able to challenge, cultural stereotypes and systemic inequities in media and communication. • understand the nature and uses of verbal and nonverbal symbols and expressions in public communication. • read, understand, and apply communication. theory and contemporary communication research • construct and evaluate arguments. • engage in deliberative and group decision-making processes."

She uses a number of teaching strategies and techniques, and is always learning and trying new things. A few elements that Dr. Knopf consistently relies on include the syllabus, the lecture, multi-media, games, lived connections, oral and written work, rubrics, exams, and self-assessment. "The Syllabus. I view the syllabus as a rhetorical document and a student resource; it is designed to help students make sense of and succeed in the course, and perhaps beyond it. I want it to encourage students to see the value in the course, its content, and its structure; to help them understand that policies are in place (and enforced) to maximize fairness for everyone, to facilitate a generally-conducive learning environment for all, and to help guide best practices to empower students to take charge of their learning and to be proactive. The Lecture. The lecture is probably one of the oldest, and still most widely used, teaching techniques in American universities. It is a useful tool for providing students with information more current than that found in their texts, for giving students a structure for more effective reading, and for motivating students through raising awareness, creating conflict, and sharing enthusiasm. The lecture also serves as a model for public speaking practices and as an approach to understanding concepts and solving problems. Multi-Media. I integrate feature films, documentaries, TV show episodes, news broadcasts, YouTube videos, radio plays, cartoons and comics, and music into my classes as often as possible. Using films and TV shows provides illustrations that are not only verbal but visual, and they provide a change in environment to help get and maintain students’ attention. The approach of using entertainment products to foster knowledge and understanding is described as “casual learning;” it engages entertainment as a cultural text that reveals something about the societies of its creation and depiction. Games. Games are a great way to encourage not only active, but interactive learning in a non-threatening, and even entertaining, format. Games can help students to learn and think in new ways. They are inherently social, and learners are embedded in not only a material but also a social world. Games can illustrate concepts and encourage creative and critical thinking in a fun environment, fostering community and problem solving. I use a wide variety of tabletop games in my teaching, especially in public speaking classes, though also in media literacy and political communication. Life Connections. We are all familiar with the consumer model of education in which students are looking for skills that will help them get, and keep, jobs. While this model may be antithetical to our ideals of a liberal arts education, it is a reality – and one that is particularly acute in the current economy. I always look for ways to help students see the personal and/or professional utility in course content, through assignments related to their majors (in General Education courses), journaling and “application logs,” and simulation exercises. I, however, also embrace the “disinterested,” or the aesthetic mode, of learning that is concerned less with practical applicability and more with cultivating sympathy, empathy, humility, and charity as well as sparking curiosity the sake of exploration and enjoyment. Oral and Written Work. Preparing a speech is not the same as writing an essay. There are different expectations and needs for structure and language use in oral communication than written communication. Students are more likely to encounter and learn the norms of written communication across their coursework throughout their entire educational life than those of good oral expression, so I generally choose to focus on the latter. In my undergraduate courses, especially lower-division, writing is important part of my curriculum, but it is either part of preparing a speech or is shorter or more informal than “traditional” paper assignments, engaging journaling, short writing prompts, and reading reactions. Shorter writing assignments are fitting for the digital age in which many students will find themselves engaging largely in e-communication, especially for written messages, in their jobs. Furthermore, these kind of shorter, focused, personal, and/or creative assignments – which are often completed in class – minimize the chances of intentional and unintentional plagiarism, challenging students to think independently rather than taking to the Internet to look for answers and examples. Rubrics. To reduce unproductive tension – the sort that may be fostered by uncertainty or confusion – in the classroom, I rely heavily on rubrics for evaluating and assessing papers, presentations, and other projects. I recognize that rubrics can be controversial in pedagogy, receiving criticism for oversimplification of assignments or tackling unique student work in a “cookie-cutter” fashion. A well-developed rubric, however, can avoid such pitfalls, improve faculty efficiency and consistency, and clarify expectations for students. Exams. Psychological research on the science of successful learning has demonstrated that the act of preparing for a test and actually taking the test and retrieving information is a great boost to memory. Exams are not just instruments of assessment, they are also an important learning instrument. Exams are a clinically proven way to help students keep up with classwork – they encourage attendance, preparation and review in ways that less traditional or structured means do not, and the use of frequent quizzes or tests is likely to promote regular, moderate, work, whereas a few larger assignments tend to produce short bursts of cramming, often at the last minute. In order to make exams part of long-term learning, I use several techniques: 1) Students are often given the option of creating “cheat sheets” for use on exams, based on the readings, assuming they limit the paper size to 4x6 per chapter and submit the sheets when readings are due (thus, encouraging regular reading). 2) Regular small quizzes are frequently used to prepare students for larger midterm and final exams. The big exams are made up entirely, or mostly, of questions from the quizzes. 3) In some classes, I have students generate the test questions themselves, encouraging them to think about what is important and giving them control in the evaluation tools if the class. 4) Some exams use a gaming approach, allowing students to choose among questions, depending on their levels of confidence with material or their willingness to gamble with the math. 4) Some classes use an open book approach as a way to encourage students to see the text as a resource or tool rather than as merely an expense or homework burden. Self-Assessment. I often use student-generated rubrics, student self-assessment, and/or student self-grading as a way to get students involved in the educational process, to give them a sense of control, and to address concerns of inequity. Studies suggest that self-grading is positively associated with student learning and can help to improve student study skills and performance."

Blackboard texture

Part of teaching is helping students learn how to tolerate ambiguity, consider possibilities, and ask questions that are unanswerable.

Sara Lawrence Lightfoot

 

Teaching Areas

 

Political Communication

SUNY Cortland

  • Political Communication

  • Comm in Social Change

SUNY Potsdam

  • Contemporary Political Comm

  • Religion's Messages of Change

  • Rhetoric of Civil/Public Religion

  • Communicating War

  • Rhetoric of Social Movements

  • Voices of American Women

  • Wo/men & Elections

SUNY Albany

  • Political Advertising

  • Oral Discourse & Civic Culture

Public Speaking

​SUNY Cortland

  • Fundams. of Public Speaking

SUNY Potsdam

  • Basic Principles of Speech

  • Principles of Speech, Honors

  • Persuasive Speaking 

Monroe Community College

  • Public Speaking

Genesee Community College

  • Public Speaking

SUNY Albany

  • Speech Comp & Presentation

  • Oral Discourse & Civic Culture

Rhetoric/Public Address

SUNY Cortland

  • Political Communication

  • Comm in Social Change

SUNY Potsdam

  • Persuasive Speaking 

  • Contemporary Political Comm

  • Doing Textual Analysis

  • Rhetoric of Social Movements

  • Voices of American Women

SUNY Albany

  • Speech Comp & Presentation

Theory & Methods

​SUNY Cortland

  • Human Communication

SUNY Potsdam

  • Survey of Human Comm

  • Doing Textual Analysis

  • COMM-ics Research

  • Communication Theory

  • Research Methods in Comm

  • Locational Identities

SUNY Albany

  • Human Communication

Popular Culture

SUNY Cortland

  • Horror in the Media & Com

  • Race & Gender Stereotypes

SUNY Potsdam

  • Communication as Uncanny

  • COMM-ics Research

  • ​Locational Identities

Gender Communication

SUNY Cortland

  • Gender Communication

  • Race & Gender Stereotypes

SUNY Potsdam

  • Rhetoric of Social Movements

  • Voices of American Women

  • Wo/Men & Elections

  • ​Communication as Uncanny

Media Studies

SUNY Cortland

  • Intro to Media Literacy

  • Mass Media & Society

  • Horror in the Media & Com

  • Race & Gender Stereotypes

SUNY Potsdam

  • COMM-ics Research

  • Communication as Uncanny

  • Communicating War

Monroe Community College

  • Introduction to Media

SUNY Albany

  • Media & Culture

College of St. Rose

  • Mass Media as a Social Force

Professional Communication

SUNY Cortland

  • Small Group Communication

  • Ind Study: Pandemic/Crisis Com

SUNY Albany

  • Intro to PR Theory & Practice

 

Syllabi

SUNY Cortland

Professor, 2022-present

Associate Professor, 2020-2022

Assistant Professor, 2017-2020

3-3 course load

  <img alt="">

COM100
Human Communication
220 students

COM210
Fundamentals of Public Speaking
30-32 students

Fall 2017 x 2 / Spring 2018 x 2

Fall 2018 x 2 / Spring 2019 x 2

Fall 2019 x 2 / Spring 2020 x 2

Fall 2020 x 4 / Spring 2021 x 2

Fall 2021 x 2 / Spring 2022 x 2

Fall 2022 / Spring 2023

COM235
Introduction to Media Literacy
30-34 students

Spring 2021

Fall 2021 / Spring 2022

Fall 2022 / Spring 2023

COM301
Mass Media & Society
30 students

COM329
Horror in the Media
30 students

COM339
Political Communication
30 students

COM340
Small Group Communication
30 students

COM410
Communication in Social Change
30 students

Spring 2023

COM434
Gender Communication
30 students

CIN210/AAS210
Race & Gender Role Stereotypes

30 students

advising
undergraduate majors

SUNY Potsdam

Associate Professor, 2012-2017

Assistant Professor, 2006-2012

4-4 course load

  <img alt="">