Feb. 18-24 , 2000
IN THIS ISSUE
What's the University for? Series of speakers will address the role of higher education in a changing world
Holt book honored
University to begin drug testing for safety-sensitive positions

New book of personal essays reveals what teachers hope will last a lifetime

Q&A: Karen Van Lengen's challenge as dean
Bush stumps for involvement in politics
Notable - awards and achievements of faculty and staff
From the Desk of ... Jill Hartz, Bayly Art Museum director
Hot Links - theangle.com
In Memoriam - Dr. Wayne Stephen Cail
Gates' film gives new view of African history
TOP NEWS
Reflections on Teaching

Published by the Teaching Resource Center

New book of personal essays reveals what teachers hope will last a lifetime

The professors Thomas Jefferson brought to the University of Virginia were expected to interact with and tutor students in ways beyond the purely academic: ethically, socially, and spiritually (if not in a strictly religious sense). By the evidence of these essays on teaching, our founder would be pleased by the faculty's determination to convey more than information to the University's students.

From the foreword by
U.Va. President John T. Casteen III

Craig Barton associate professor of architecture,
University Teaching Fellowship, 1998-99

... Students are drawn to architecture because of its visual and spatial qualities. Undergraduate curriculums respond by focusing on the development of graphic fluency, grounded against the more objective constraints of technology and architectural history. Visual literacy is a crucial component of design education providing students with the means to investigate and represent their design intentions. Yet graphic skills alone are insufficient to critically interpret the complex issues of context embedded in any architectural design project. Equally important are the essential intellectual abilities and analytic skills necessary for critical and interpretive thought.

My research investigates the design of American urbanism and in particular how hierarchies of race and class influence the historic and contemporary form of American cities. From this inquiry I bring to the curriculum and the classroom questions which examine the cultural implications of architectural and urban design. Through my teaching I try to integrate the issues posed by my research, proposing critical methodologies which interpret the overlapping physical, historical and cultural contexts forming the sites on which we build. Ultimately the ability to think critically about issues of context is a prerequisite for any type of creative endeavor, and the requisite interpretive skills must be broad enough to be "portable˛ so that they may be carried across disciplinary boundaries.

The longer I teach the more I am convinced that the most significant aspect of my role as a teacher and architect is to help my students develop the formal tools necessary to succeed as architects, along with the interest and skills to question critically and thoughtfully the fundamental human issue of difference as it is seen in the built environment.

Cassandra L. Fraser assistant professor of chemistry,
Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers Award, 1999-03,
National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 1998-02

... As a student, I experienced a growing frustration that the traditional chemistry curriculum provided little help in determining what research was worth pursuing, why chemistry was important for society, and how it related to medicine, to the environment, and to everyday life. In my own education I worked to amend this by carrying out research in [diverse] areas . ... also left chemistry for a time to obtain an interdisciplinary B.A. in the history of thought and a master's degree from Harvard Divinity School in order to better understand, among other things, the ethical dimensions of science in society. These diverse experiences provide me with a unique perspective that not only strongly influences my approach to teaching in content and style, but also allows me to better appreciate and foster the varied interests and career goals of my students.

... While courses for nonscience majors often revolve around fascinating and relevant themes, it has never made sense to me why those who are genuinely interested in chemistry are typically "protected" from these topics until graduate school or later, or they are simply left to pursue them on their own. In my experience, the inclusion of history, social relevance, and current research into the curriculum enhances CHEM 281. ...

Every year my students tell me that they are shocked to find that I am genuinely interested in them. A little bit of attention goes a long way with students. And it is a privilege, not a chore, to spend time with young people as fascinating and talented as these. In both the classroom and the lab I begin with the assumption that all students have some special talent, and I concern myself with trying to discern and foster it. Regardless of the course level, I expect students to have opinions, to think and learn independently, and to take an active role in defining their work ... based on their intelligence and motivation. For this reason, the undergraduates in both my class and my laboratory routinely perform graduate-level work, often without even realizing how advanced they have become.

Jahan Ramazani professor of English, Lilly Teaching Fellowship,
1993-94, Prize Teaching Fellowship,
Yale University, 1986-87

I conceive what I do in the classroom in two complementary aims: I try to make available and accessible to students an ever-shifting, contested body of humanistic thought; and I try to foster their critical thinking about this humanistic inheritance. ...

In my view, literature is well-suited, though not exclusively so, to teaching an array of transferable skills. ... I try to improve the abilities of my students to make effective use of written and spoken language; to communicate thoughtfully and precisely; to explain complex ideas and facts; to listen carefully; and to express their own thoughts and reformulate the thoughts of others. Students need to learn to work in collaboration with one another since most go on to jobs where they work in teams and groups. In my view, structured debates, small group analysis, reciprocal critique, and other such cooperative devices can also help students to learn more because these methods encourage students to take active responsibility for their own educations. One of my greatest joys is to see the classroom become a vibrant intellectual community, with students and professor dynamically engaged in the animated exchange and discovery of ideas.

While I would like my teaching to help students lead full and productive working lives, I also try to teach students ways of thinking and being that may bear little on the marketplace, but that have long been prized by our own and other civilizations. The ability to meditate quietly on an aesthetic, ethical, or spiritual conundrum may not always help a politician, lawyer, doctor, or businessperson "get ahead,˛ but such "life skills˛ as meditation, introspection, and profound reflection are no less valuable for that. I want to help deepen the sensitivity of my students to the complex affective life of poems, plays, and novels, even if an awareness of subtle shades of feeling and thinking may not reap dividends in the crash and din of professional work. In brief, the complex inner being of a literary work -- rich, subtle, unpredictable -- is conducive to heightening students' abilities to experience awe and wonder, to ponder insoluble dilemmas, to thrill at beauty, to sympathize with others, to explore their own and other cultures, and to reflect intelligently on the constant if ever-changing realities of love, war, sex, nationality, politics, art, grief and death.

Finally, my teaching has always been tied to my research. Š While research can help to enrich and deepen a professor's teaching, teaching can have a similar effect on research. Students have often forced me to rethink my own views, to clarify my intellectual commitments, and to throw out far-fetched notions. For such profoundly mutual learning, I am always grateful.

Candace Cone All-University Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award and Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award,
French department, 1994

When I was seven I wanted to be a surveyor. We had two surveyors working on our property at the time and - although I was not sure what they did - I knew there was no better job. Surveyors have great equipment, can go wherever they want, and make the rules. Surveyors set boundaries. ...

When I left for Paris in August 1993, no one told me that I would be working as a surveyor. They said it was a departmental exchange through which I would spend a year teaching English in a French high school. I never thought I would spend my year judging and revising boundaries. ...

Although the boundaries are less obvious than those I faced in France, I continue my work as a surveyor here at the University of Virginia. I dedicate a portion of every semester to learning about my students' assumptions to know where the boundaries lie. I spend the rest of the semester trying to realign any boundaries which seem poorly drawn. For example, I try to expand my students' definition of learning. Unfortunately, our society has reduced learning to a kind of passive endurance. ... I try to stake out new boundaries for learning through actively involving my students in projects. Thus, my French 101 students held a mock fashion show to practice clothing vocabulary. My 201 students used adjectives to fill out a "police report" describing a fellow graduate student who shot me with a water pistol during class. As I strive to redefine learning, I also attempt to reassess the boundaries of the classroom. There are dangerous consequences to teaching students that learning must take place within four cinder-block walls. And so I have taken my students to parking lots to study car vocabulary. I took my conversation class to a local vineyard for a French tour. I regularly take my students to France through videos and realia from my travels. I hope that my students will realize through these activities that learning is a process that can take place anywhere. ...

I thoroughly enjoy teaching and the opportunity it provides me to recognize and revise educational and personal boundaries. I have never done anything so challenging or so rewarding. I have finally become a surveyor - and it truly is the best job in the world.


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