Six Professors Recognized With George R Brown Award for Superior Teaching

first_imgTerrence Doody Doody, an English professor who teaches Modernism, the novel and contemporary literature, said he devotes a large part of his class to teaching students how to write. Learning how to write well is important because “an unarticulated idea is not an idea,” he said. “If you can’t express it, you don’t know it.” Doody said his teaching method requires that his students write six or seven papers a semester. His grading style hasn’t varied since he started teaching at Rice in 1970, and he has maintained his “hard, but fair” policy. “The way you learn how to write is by writing all the time,” he said. Doody previously has received the Superior Teaching Award five times.Michael Gustin Like Cox, first-time Superior Teaching Award winner Gustin teaches a large introductory course. Gustin, associate professor of biochemistry and cell biology, has been teaching introductory biology at Rice for almost 11 years. “I’ve tried in different ways to create a small class atmosphere,” said Gustin. One way he breaks down communication barriers is to meet the students in the class in smaller groups. For instance, he eats lunch with his students at each residential college early in the semester. Gustin said he’s rarely nervous in front of a crowd but hadn’t done much teaching when he arrived at Rice in 1988, and it showed. His early students were critical of his disorganization in their evaluations, and Gustin took the criticism to heart. He said he’s worked hard over the years to create “a very organized course, with clear expectations up front.” And while the course is very demanding, he’s also worked hard to make it fun. Breaking up lectures with impromptu discussions about current research is one way he keeps material fresh, and Gustin said he’s tried a number of other techniques through the years — not all of which worked. One successful experiment that’s turned into a course tradition is the live enactment of the digestive system. Gustin divides the class by residential college into teams, assigning each college a specific part of the digestive system. Each team has to produce a five-minute skit that portrays a part of the system. “It has to be informative in some way, but I encourage overacting,” Gustin said with a grin.Mikki Hebl “This is my favorite class to teach,” Hebl tells students enrolled in her social psychology course. She also says that to students in her psychology of gender class. And to students in her research methods class. Hebl can’t help it — she genuinely loves teaching. The Radoslav Tsanoff Assistant Professor of Psychology always has viewed teachers as role models and friends. In fact, she still keeps in touch with her former mentors and visits her kindergarten, first- and second-grade teachers when she goes home to Pardeeville, Wis. Her goal as a teacher is to engage the students in the subject matter, often through research and demonstrations in the classroom. “I want to get them involved in the material rather than have them just be passive recipients of my lectures,” she said. In her psychology of gender class, for example, an exercise in which students retell a story to one another makes them aware of gender stereotypes as they witness how the story drastically changes as a function of whether the main character is described as male or female. This demonstration was so insightful that Hebl was able to get it published for the student who came up with the idea in the journal Teaching of Psychology. Hebl said it’s critical for teachers to continually update their knowledge of the subject matter. “Teachers are never finished being students in the classroom,” she said. “They need to continue evolving with new discoveries in the field and with each batch of new students.”John Zammito The John Antony Weir Professor of History and professor of German and Slavic studies and past recipient of this award, Zammito said he always is flabbergasted that students found his class to be rewarding. “I’m very grateful to all the alumni,” he said. “It’s obviously very gratifying to be remembered.” Zammito said he enjoys teaching students and developing complex narratives that are woven together for them during the semester about European intellectual history. Working with students individually is one of the best aspects of teaching, he said. “You get to understand what their interests and concerns are and help them think through and articulate what they want to know more about,” Zammito said. He has taught history for 25 years, including 10 years at Rice and also at The University of Texas at Austin and at Houston’s St. John’s School. He previously has received the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching and the Nicholas Salgo Distinguished Teaching Award. “I really enjoy being around students,” he said. “It gets me excited to see them excited or interested in what’s going on.” ShareSix Professors Recognized With George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching ………………………………………………………………… AddThiscenter_img BY B.J. ALMOND, JADE BOYD and ELLEN CHANG Rice News StaffEach year alumni who graduated two and five years earlier have the opportunity to recognize faculty with the George R. Brown Awards for Superior Teaching. This year, the classes of 2000 and 1997 awarded the $2,000 prizes to Steven Cox, Chandler Davidson, Terrence Doody, Michael Gustin, Mikki Hebl and John Zammito.Steven Cox This is the third Superior Teaching Award for Cox, professor of computational and applied mathematics. He said recognition from former students is pleasing, but an important part of the feedback he gets from teaching comes in the classroom, when he sees that students are interested in the material — something that isn’t always easy in mathematics. “Many of my students are taking this as a required course,” said Cox. “It’s my job to pass on some of the beauty that mathematicians see in this material.” He credits the quality of Rice’s students with a measure of his success. They are smart and motivated to learn, which makes it easier to draw them out in class. “Without discussion, the material is too dry, and the best discussions are led by students,” said Cox. Another key is giving interesting, real-world assignments that engage students’ interest. A favorite elasticity problem, for example, is modeling the deformation of the ligament in a horse’s neck, which can stretch up to 100 percent when the animal is grazing. Cox said the ligament problem is more engaging for students than comparable examples using inanimate rubber bands or chords, and it opens the door for elasticity problems involving more complex living structures like skin and cytoskeletons.Chandler Davidson Davidson, four-time recipient of this award, said he got into the academic game because he likes to write. “I wanted to get a job where you got paid to write, an activity to which I felt addicted,” said Davidson, the Radoslav Tsanoff Professor in Public Affairs and professor of sociology and political science. “True, you had to teach to support your habit, but as soon as I began, I found I like teaching too.” Chandler said he got a “baptism by fire” when he joined the Rice faculty in 1966. “Back in the heady days of the ’60s, students thought sociology held the key to the universe, so the introductory course on sociology had two sections with a couple of hundred students each, which concentrated my mind wonderfully.” Nowadays Chandler teaches courses on social inequality, political sociology and poverty — “subjects that are dear to my heart,” he said. A past recipient of the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching, Davidson said the most challenging aspect of teaching is finding time to put a good course together while also doing research to meet the demands of scholarship, and he has sensed that other teachers have felt the same frustration. “My colleagues I admire the most almost all say that they feel they never get it quite right, that the perfect course is just beyond their reach,” Davidson said.last_img