I mentor students to hone their most valuable resources.
I have taught art, writing, and humanities courses in college classrooms and in diverse, nontraditional settings.
What students have said about my teaching style and effectiveness.
...a lack of information and preparedness did! I support students’ innate instinctive, inquisitive natures and mentor them to apply those qualities in intelligent, thoughtful ways. I most enjoy teaching across disciplines and modalities, encouraging a passion for inquiry and a love of making that transcends conventional boundaries between theory and practice, and between academic and creative pursuits. I guide students to develop critical thinking as well as technical skills. My classroom is a laboratory for collaboration and for opening students’ minds to the richness of learning about worlds different from their own. I emigrated to the United States when I was seven and experienced learning English as a second language. As a result, I especially empathize with the struggles of non-native learners; I also recognize and admire the rich textures created by shuttling back and forth between languages and cultures. Though I challenge my students to apply themselves rigorously, they often evaluate my teaching persona as kind and supportive. I have a strong desire to help students replace their fear of failure or bad grades with positive and far-sighted motivations for learning so that they will gain confidence and competence as practitioners in their fields.
The first week of teaching a course titled “Human Rights, Genocide, and the Graphic Novel,” I introduced the concept of writing a précis in response to each graphic novel and secondary literature associated with it. The initial results were disappointingly general and lackluster. The students had clearly slogged through the assigned texts, to which they had no connection yet, and then had squeezed out, under duress and probably the night before class, some basic summaries riddled with mechanical errors. They also had to write three to five discussion questions ahead of each class. Initially, the questions they composed satisfied the assignment, but were largely obvious and uninspired.
At the beginning of every class, each student described his or her experience of reading the literature. Then everyone had the opportunity to ask the questions composed ahead of class. Very soon, I noticed that the practice of verbal inquiry began to change the way the students prepared for class. Their investigations became livelier and resulted in thoughtful discussions. Each student increasingly brought her or his experiences and interests to those conversations. One young woman, whose major was Religious Studies, was keen on examining texts through the lens of that discipline. A young man from Nigeria offered unique political and personal perspectives. Each student brought distinct insights and skills to our group, and as the quarter progressed, unsurprisingly, the discussions became richer and more dynamic.
What did surprise me was how much the quality of the students’ writing also improved, even though I did not correct the mechanics of their response papers and only commented briefly on each one. What was happening here? By the end of the quarter, the précis had become insightful and compelling. Students parsed the primary works with language they encountered in the secondary literature and in-class discussions, and they contrasted given graphic narratives with ones we had looked at previously. Because we had spent class time working with materials used by the graphic novelists we were considering, students were also able to draw on their first-hand knowledge when evaluating the media used by the respective artists.
This teaching experience brought several things into focus for me. When students are drawing or writing to learn, especially in conjunction with robust classroom conversations, they apply themselves with enthusiasm and their work becomes more sophisticated, more direct, more vigorous and distinct. Collaborative classroom environments energize the students and me. Generative and generous interactions in the classroom make both teaching and learning more purposeful and enjoyable. Students may actually forget for a moment that they are striving for good grades and discover more meaningful goals: nuanced comprehension, connection with one another and with their professor, and participation in a larger professional and cultural conversation. I find that when I am able to facilitate this kind of intellectual exchange, students are also much more receptive to learning foundational skills.
Because I value process, not just end products, I emphasize collaborative and low-stakes activities to provoke meaningful engagement. I strive to generate environments where students feel confident in their ability to respond creatively and rigorously in their individual output and in cooperative classroom activities. I am finely attuned to my students’ needs; I frequently assess how they are doing and adjust assignments or invent new ones to address any problem areas. When several of my undergraduate students in the expository writing course required at UC Davis (UWP 1) told me that they were struggling with writing effective conclusions in their research papers, for example, I revised my syllabus and developed an assignment where students brought in successful concluding paragraphs from research papers they’d read in my course or in other classes. In small peer groups, they parsed those paragraphs and discussed why they were effective. The groups then brought their findings to the class as a whole. Their resulting research papers concluded with confident assertions, nuanced analyses, and intriguing questions for future scholarship.
When students learn to enjoy the process of creating or researching, when they are given space to explore and play in a safe, constructive classroom or online environment, the results are often exceptional. Once the fear is gone and students feel empowered and excited to apply themselves, learning becomes much easier and more enjoyable.
 John C. Bean notes a distinction between “writing to learn” (most often associated with writing-across-the-curriculum) and “learning to write” (most often associated with writing-in-the-disciplines). John C. Bean, Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom, Second Edition, (San Francisco: Joessey-Bass, 2011) 19.
"Human Rights, Genocide, & the Graphic Novel"
Teaching Assistant (Responsible for holding office hours, grading papers, and communicating with students), University of California, Davis.
Graduate Student Instructor (Responsible for planning and teaching all courses, developing web content for online portions of courses, holding office hours, and grading), University of California, Davis.
Guest Lectures in the Arts and Humanities at UC Davis
Teaching Assistant for Painting (Worked with students as a group in class and one on one as they developed oil and acrylic painting techniques; helped evaluate student’s work and their portfolio development over the course of the term), California College of the Arts.
Instructor for Print Design and Production (Designed and taught a course on digital design for print production; taught Adobe Creative Suite fundamentals, basic design and concept development, and mentored students of varying experiences and abilities as they planned and actualized final printed projects), Northern New Mexico College, Española, New Mexico.
Museum Education Intern, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Education Annex, 2010
Developed and taught a variety of courses for all ages. Classes and workshops included charcoal, pencil, and pastel drawing techniques, visual journaling, and comics.
"An excellent overview of the world affairs in a different format."
"Changed the way I often think about the term comic books. This class showed how some can be truly educational and offer a glimpse at historical events in a light that we simply would not see in a traditional history class."
"I had never considered the idea of witness through comics. Very different!"
"I'm more aware of human rights issues around the world and also far more open to reading comics now on any topic."
"This was one of my favorite courses I have taken at UC Davis! I wish this course were taught all the time. I learned so much new information in a new way and really enjoyed the productive class discussions. I would recommend this class to any major because it touched upon topics beyond Human Rights and overall gave a better worldly understanding of history, peoples, and discussion. She welcomed all opinions, had well-formed responses to all questions, and chose excellent material for the course."
"I would recommend other students to take Maureen's class for sure!!! She is a very warm-hearted and helpful instructor."
"Professor Burdock is the kindest and most genuine professor I've had at UC Davis. She really looks out for us and is interested in our academics and lives. I gained better writing skills from this course and I have a better understanding of what I read."
"All of the assignments and readings were very helpful for me as a writer. I've learned a lot of writing skills from Professor Burdock. She is very clear on instructions and very accessible outside of class. This is one of the best classes I've taken at UC Davis."
"I found the instructor extremely helpful and accessible. Her teaching format is well-structured, yet flexible. I learnt a great deal from her class and look forward to applying that knowledge in more advanced courses and assignments."
"Changed my perspective on writing from being scared of it to being confident in writing effective essays. I learned to not limit myself to only one type of essay structure."
"Professor Burdock is amazing. She teaches the concepts clearly and is always ready to help her students. Each unit of the class was unique so you learn something useful and new in every unit. She has helped me to become a stronger writer."