book of personal essays reveals what teachers hope will last a
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.
the foreword by
U.Va. President John T. Casteen III
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
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.
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
L. Fraser assistant
professor of chemistry,
Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers Award,
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. ...
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.
professor of English, Lilly Teaching Fellowship,
1993-94, Prize Teaching Fellowship,
Yale University, 1986-87
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. ...
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.
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.
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.
All-University Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award and
Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award,
French department, 1994
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. ...
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. ...
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
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.