who i am as a teacher


my teaching philosophy

For me, learning occurs best when the instructor allows the subject of the course to come alive and have its own voice. When this happens, the teacher and students are able to gather around the subject and work together to make sense of what the subject has to say. As a result, neither the teacher nor the students are a privileged source of knowledge, but are collaborators and co-learners in the process of gaining new knowledge and skills.

my teaching / learning goals

My overarching goal as an educator is to create an environment where my students can become a better members of their community. More specifically, as a sociologist the goal of helping my students become better members of their communities that I am facilitating an educational space where my students, no matter their career trajectory, can:

  • develop an intrinsic desire to understand the social problems facing society,

  • gain knowledge and skills that can be used to address these problems, and

  • understand how their own attitudes and behaviors can contribute to either the amelioration or perpetuation of these problems.

my commitments to my students

When I designed a course, nor matter the course subject, I am guided by the following commitments I have made to my students.

Course materials

I will select materials that:

  • are produced by a diverse authorship.

  • are engaging and interesting.

  • are relevant to your life and to the problems facing your community

  • expand your understanding of topics that are relevant to communities other than your own.

  • are free or low-cost.

  • are appealing to a wide variety of learning styles.

  • challenge you intellectually and personally.

  • pose new questions provoke new ways of thinking.

  • give you the best chance of understanding the course subject.


I will:

  • use a variety of instructional methods that appeal to a wide range of learning styles.

  • use instructional methods that allow you to be an active participant in your education.

  • do everything I can to facilitate a civil and productive classroom environment.

  • make sure that all students are given the chance to express their ideas and ask questions.

  • work to pose discussion questions that challenge you to think in new ways.

  • take the time to understand how the research I present was conducted.

  • never intentionally present misleading research findings.


I will:

  • give you as much choice as possible about how you will be earn a grade in the course.

  • give you as much choice as possible about when your learning will be assessed.

  • provide open-ended and creative assessment opportunities whenever possible.

  • provide at least one assessment opportunity that allows you to focus on topics that interest you most, that are most relevant to your educational goals, and/or are most relevant to your the social problems impacting your own community.

  • provide at least one assessment opportunity that allows you to profile and practice your unique talents and skills.

  • to proactively accommodate a range of abilities rather than solely relying on accommodation notifications from the university.

  • work with you to ensure that you are given assessment opportunities that work with, rather than against, your disabilities.

  • provide assignment instructions and rubrics that are thorough and clear.

  • take class time to go over certain skills (e.g. locating peer-reviewed journal articles, correctly using a citation style) that you will be asked to practice in your assessment opportunities. In other words, I will not ask you to practice a skill that you have not be equipped and empowered to practice.

  • give you opportunities to practice skills and knowledge before being assessed on them.

  • never reduce your score simply because you and I have different political, religious, or moral commitments.

  • take steps to ensure that my implicit biases to not affect my assessment of your learning.

My relationship with you

I will:

  • work to create an office space that is welcoming.

  • use the name and pronouns you would like me to use, even if those differ from your university record.

  • see you as a holistic person — not solely as a student; I will recognize that you have other obligations to your families, communities, etc.

  • stay up to date about resources on campus and in the community that will help ensure your success as a member of our educational community.

  • provide mentorship and application support if you decide to pursue graduate education.

  • never disclose confidential information you share with me, unless I am required to do so as a mandatory reporter.

  • not act as though I am a blank slate, void of experiences and perspectives that relate to the course subject; I will contribute my own understandings about the course subject to our discussions.

  • never expect you to adopt my perspectives on the course subject, but to thoughtfully consider them in the same way that I will consider your perspectives.

My professional development Development

I will:

  • actively seek your feedback about how I can grow as an educator.

  • account for your feedback in making changes to the course and in designing future courses.

  • seek feedback from my colleagues about how I can grow as an educator.

  • keep up to date with social science research and current events.

  • continuing learning about best practices in adult education.


People and texts that have influenced my approach to teaching

Father Greg Boyle - Although I have never met Father Greg Boyle, and although he is not a teacher in the traditional sense, I have learned so much about education from his work with Homeboy Industries. In particular, I continually return to this interview with him as a source of insight and guidance about the kind of person I strive to be both inside and outside the classroom.

The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer - While this entire book has inspired my commitment to building welcoming and vibrant classrooms, I have been particularly influenced by Palmer’s model of subject-centered education.

The Disorientation of the Teaching Act: Abolition as Pedagogical Position by Dylan Rodríguez - This article is brief yet profound, and has been especially helpful for me as I work to facilitate a classroom space where students are able to identify and confront their existing worldviews and beliefs about the role of law in society.

Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement by Barbara Ransby - This book is equal parts biography of Ella Baker, history of the Civil Rights Movement, and leadership manual, and has taught me what it means to trust young people and to facilitate a space where young people can create social change.

The Ignorant Schoolmaster by Jacques Rancière - This book describes the educational method of “intellectual emancipation” developed by Joseph Jacotot. Jacotot’s method taught me that my students are equally intelligent to both one another and to myself, and that at least one of my roles as an educator is to create a space where this can be acted out and where my students can come to believe this for themselves.

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program - In 2012 I was trained as an Inside-Out instructor, preparing me to teach college-level courses inside correctional facilities with both incarcerated and non-incarcerated students. The highly-interactive pedagogical approaches I learned during this training, which were developed specifically for use in the Inside-Out classroom, have also greatly influenced how I teach in non-carceral settings.

Vicki Reitenauer - When I returned to finish my undergraduate degree, Vicki was the first professor I had. She is an incredibly gifted educator and mentor and I learned a great deal about teaching and learning as I observed her in the classroom and later did a teaching practicum with her. This article provides a glimpse into what it is like to be in her classroom. and how she uses the classroom as a space of liberation and social change.

my courses

Law & Inequality

In this course we examine the role of the law (judicial, legislative, and administrative) in addressing inequalities related to social identities such race, ethnicity, class, gender, sex identity, sexual orientation, citizenship status, disability, and size. Specifically, we consider a) the role of law as a tool of social change, b) the limitations of the legal system in resolving social inequalities, and c) the role of the law in perpetuating social inequalities.

feedback from my students

“Amanda does a really fantastic job of incorporating outside materials/readings to complement the class; the book I read for group discussions overlapped heavily with the class content, so I was able to draw parallels and expand my knowledge significantly on the subject. I also really love that the in-class assignments and group discussions are spread out throughout the quarter, so that our grade is a reflection of multiple works rather than just one or two big exams that rely heavily on memorization. It's clear that Amanda wants the class to learn, be engaged, and truly understand the material rather than memorize names, dates, and definitions. Her lectures are organized, easy to follow, and she is very well-spoken. She is always open to discuss different views, is sensitive to different opinions and learning styles, and responds to emails very quickly. I feel very lucky to have had Amanda as my instructor for this course; she has solidified academic skills and significantly increased my knowledge and interest in this area of criminology, as well as helping me come to terms with my own experiences and world views.”

“I have never had Prof. Amanda before but she is by far the best professor I have had at UCI. She is extremely knowledgable, friendly, sophisticated, and in general an amazing person. She has actually inspired myself to go for a Ph.D in CLS! Prof. Amanda is the type of professor that universities would die to have, she is beyond amazing!”

“Amanda is great and she really knows how to engage the class. The material was SO interesting (especially the 'reading' material) and she really makes you think about law and society. Thank you!!”

“Amanda’s way of teaching is very enthusiastic and engaging. Her assigned readings while it engages the reader it provides foundation for her lectures one important thing is that they are not discouraging. She’s very knowledgeable and is open for suggestions and ready to help her students.”

“Professor Petersen is extremely affable, well versed, and knows what she wants her students to learn and get out of the course. The structure of the course is really different from the traditional university class, which is a nice change of pace. I love that it allows students to pick and choose their own topics and assignments of interest. The discussion groups on Canvas, final project, and in class definitely helped encourage more independent thinking about the topic of law and inequality. Professor Petersen is also really helpful whether in emails or during office hours. I thoroughly enjoyed her class.”

“Her passion for the subject but also investment in our personal growth was inspiring!”

“I really enjoyed taking Amanda's class. I feel like she doesn't push any specific perspective on anyone and welcomes people to share their points of view without making them feel ostracized. She also handles the class discussion very well, even though sometimes we run short on time. I really appreciate that she gives students options to make up points if they are absent from class and records her lectures. It helps a lot. Amanda is probably one of the best instructors I've had, despite not having the official professor title. She speaks clearly, and her powerpoints are concise. Her teaching style is definitely one that I can learn from easily. Would recommend this class as a holistic overview of law and inequality.”

“Thank you for making me look forward to every lecture and actually enjoy learning.”

“Absolute blast to be in this class. The ideas being discussed are nuanced and stimulating, Professor Petersen has put a tremendous amount of work in to creating an environment where we discuss highly contentious topics, yet it is inviting enough that I have heard incredibly diverse opinions from fellow students in class discussions throughout the quarter.”

“I really love the way Peterson encourages class discussions and the clear connections between the required reading and the course discussions. This really helped me understand the concepts better and clear up any confusion I would have with the reading alone.”

“The way the instructor had this course set up was very convenient. I was able to learn the concepts without feeling like I was just reading something to memorize it. This is the first class I feel like I actually engaged in over 100% since the instructor made it very interesting and encouraged us to participate in discussions. The learning I received in this course is one that I will continue to think about after the course and relate it to personal experiences.”

“This is one of the best classes I have taken at UCI in any department. Amanda was very easy to talk to, but so knowledgable on every subject. I learned a lot, and had a great experience.”