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 constructionist 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.

Policy for Social Goals: Welbeing or Welfare?

Institution: Kautilya School of Public Policy, GITAM
Role: Assistant Professor

Social policy is concerned with human wellbeing and equitable distribution of access and opportunity to promote social prosperity. In practical terms, social policy captures how human societies provide for each other and the means they adopt to meet basic public demands that make life worth living—including environment, health, housing, social services, employment, education. In this course, students will learn how India’s social policies have (or haven’t) accomplished these goals, with reference to corresponding global dependencies wherever relevant. The course is divided into four modules, with an additional (fifth) module reserved for course review, reflection, and evaluation. In the first module, students learn what social policy is, why it matters, what it entails and how it is funded in India. The second and third modules cover the aforementioned social policy areas. The fourth module highlights the challenges facing the formulation and implementation of social policies in India insofar as achieving equitable outcomes is concerned.

The course aims to provide students with an overview of India’s social policy landscape, insights into its evolution, and a critical understanding of the challenges facing the six domains covering much of the course. Students will engage with particular social policy domains consisting of student-led presentations, class discussions, guest lectures, and group activity.

Public Policy: Thought and Practice

Institution: Kautilya School of Public Policy, GITAM
Role: Assistant Professor

Policymaking in India is often characterized as myopic, reactionary, and heavily influenced by politics. This course provides students with theoretical frameworks with which to gain an understanding of how policies are formulated. The course will be taught in three modules. The first module will contextualize India’s centralized policymaking approach against its social scientific origins, explicate the evolution of policy discourses unique to the Indian sub-continent, and highlight critical interdependencies between problem identification and construction and problem (re)solution. The second module will guide students through existing theories and approaches of public policymaking to understand how policies are made and their practical applicability to the Indian context.

In the third module, students will participate in policy games and simulation exercises. The exercises are intended to afford clarity on the study, analysis and formulation of public policies and to enable students to draw context-specific insights on the practicalities of policymaking.  The teaching methodology adopted in the course is designed to invoke sharp, and hopefully, incisive reactions to how policies are made in India through guided class discussions that will follow a weekly formal lecture.

Community Development and Urban Planning

Insitution: College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs, University of Texas at Arlington
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

Insitution: College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs, University of Texas at Arlington
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