I have assisted in creating a graduate course on community development and planning and facilitated with another on advanced urban theory. I understand teaching is an excursion in creating new imaginaries; incorporating the existing knowledge of our world with the creativity and intellectual novelty that students carry into the classroom. In adopting a socially con­struc­tive approach to teaching, I have two broad interrelated goals: to expose students to the possibility of ‘seeing the world’ through multiple perspectives and to create opportunities that facilitate bottom-up knowledge acquisition through experiential learning.

Community Development and Urban Planning

Role: Graduate Teaching Assistant and Fieldwork Co-facilitator

This service-learning course drew on the Soft Systems Methodology and was aimed at developing a rich understanding of the complex social and environmental issues facing the development of a permanent supportive housing project in a soon-to-be gentrified neighborhood. Against a theoretical framework based on socio-ecological systems theory, the course adopted an experiential pedagogy to offer students the experience of working on a real-world community development project as well as to create the conditions for immersive and reflective learning wherein students participate in self- and peer-led education.

As the facilitator of the fieldwork component which involved the introduction of the Soft Systems Methodology, I supported student learning by facilitating in-class discussions as well as organizing and disseminating critical sources of information about the service-learning project to aid and enhance student awareness.

Results of Teaching Assistant Survey

Advanced Urban Theory

Role: Graduate Teaching Assistant

This course introduced students to both classical and contemporary readings in urban theory, acquainting them a range of perspectives from geography, sociology, political science, economics, and history. The course was designed to enable students to develop a deep understanding of how concepts of race, gender, class, community, and diversity are conceptualized from different theoretical perspectives. The key aim of the coursework was to equip students with the knowledge and critical insight with which to make theoretically-informed analyses of urban planning and policy.

The coursework was designed to aid individual students to comprehend their respective area of research, or research interest, in light of the various theoretical perspectives that were discussed each successive week. In my role as a teaching assistant, I helped students in this effort and supported their understanding of the various elements of social research design.

Student Feedback

“I never felt [Ali] was ill-prepared or lacked knowledge of the subject. He has always encouraged students to think outside the box. He was able to reel the class back in when we were off on a tangent or had lost focus of the project.”

“Ali had great insights into the material and seemed well-prepared when he presented to the class.”

“Punctual, extremely available, knowledgeable about the material, open to criticism and open to dialogue.”

“Detail-oriented, patient, clear on expectations for assignments, effective communicator.”

“[Ali] was amazing! He gave great feedback and was available through email with quick responses. Overall, I truly believed that he was a resource to our class.”

[Ali is] passionate, knows his material well, well-organized