Three college faculty
honored as excellent teachers
Perhaps even more valuable than the $2,000 prize given to this year's
Excellence in Teaching Award recipients are the accompanying parking spaces
each will receive as part of the honor. "Everybody knows parking places
at Emory have more value than money," said English professor Walter
Reed, director of the Center for Teaching and Curriculum.
More seriously, he said of the second annual awards, "We recognize
the value of the Emory Williams Awards, but since those awards have been
based on balloting of former students, we wanted to create a new set of
awards that would ask for evaluation of faculty by their peers. We wanted
to draw on the peer evaluation already going on in some departments and
encourage other departments who aren't yet doing that to start."
This year's recipients, Chemistry's Preetha Ram, Political Science's
Thomas Lancaster and Theater Studies' Tim McDonough, each use different
styles of instruction but personify good teaching at Emory-and elsewhere.
The professors represent the award catagories for the natural sciences,
social sciences and humanities, respectively.
A lecturer in chemistry, Ram impressed the selection committee with the
"intelligent and energetic innovation [she has] brought to laboratory
instruction . . . [and with her] growing reputation among colleagues in
other disciplines in the field of problem-based learning."
Ram said her teaching style continues to evolve as "I learn about
students, I learn about teaching and I learn about myself. I've come to
believe it's a very active process." In classes such as Chemistry 226L,
in which her students instruct high school students as part of the "Pebbles
Water Quality Project," Ram teaches problem-solving skills as students
master their subject matter and prepare to share newfound knowledge with
their younger counterparts. This technique works well for smaller, seminar-type
classes, but Ram said she'd like to use it in her freshman chemistry class
of 150 students. "It's important to start the process of inquiry and
discovery in that very first year. That's not really easy to do because
of the large number of students, but I'm working on that and hoping something
will come out of it."
The award committee was impressed by "the range and rigor"
of Thomas Lancaster's political science courses and with "the
breadth of [his] commitment to students' learning well beyond the departmental
classroom." In addition to his duties as associate professor, Lancaster
has been involved with Freshman Seminar for 10 years, Oxford's Study Abroad
program for five years and is helping develop a special Language Across
the Curriculum course for next spring.
Lancaster likes to use the formal classroom as a basis for other types
of instruction. For example, to show his students that politics is "collective
decision-making," Lancaster might have them read Shantung Compound,
a book that describes the types of structural systems Japanese-captured
prisoners of war developed in Chinese internment camps during World War
II, or they might screen the little-known Tyrone Power movie Abandon Ship
(a film about "lifeboat ethics," Lancaster said) and the better-known
Twelve Angry Men to illustrate the concept.
Thomas finds a "healthy tension" balancing the demands of teaching
and research. "It may rattle the nerves, but professionally I think
it's very healthy," he said.
Theater Studies Associate Professor Tim McDonough is on sabbatical
this semester and was out of the country for a monthlong sojourn when this
article was written. In awarding his prize, the award committee cited the
"enthusiastic testimony" of McDonough's colleagues and students
about the ways in which his teaching has transformed them as performers
both in the classroom and on the stage. He was praised for his service to
the TATTO graduate teacher-training program as well.
While on leave, McDonough took the opportunity to perform the lead in
Theatre Gael's production of Sebastian Barry's The Steward of Christendom
in February. "This is what I'm refurbishing myself with, what I'll
learn from and what I'll bring back to my teaching," he said in a February
16 Emory Report article.
to April 13, 1998 Contents Page