Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2017

Faculty Award winner

Ann Gleig

 College of Arts and Humanities

 Philosophy

At the heart of my teaching philosophy is the conviction that teaching is a vocation in the original sense of its Latin root, vocare, a summoning to a particular type of service; in this instance, the call to nurture the full development of the individual within a scholastic community. Within this context, I approach teaching as a relational activity and I aim to facilitate relationships with texts and other learners marked by participation, collaboration and transformation.

In terms of my relationship to the material, I have found it essential that I approach the topic with curiosity and passion. My enthusiasm plays a major role in setting the tone and energy level of the class. A guiding concern is how to make class material accessible and stimulating without sacrificing intellectual depth. To achieve this, it is important to have some sense of the prior knowledge and interests of my students. Knowing my students helps to determine the most effective ways to bring the class to life. It also helps to illuminate barriers to learning that otherwise might go undetected. As such, I try to connect as much as possible with students both inside and outside of the classroom. I want them to have a real sense that I genuinely care about their learning experience. I try to work closely on class assignments with students, and I have found that being available to students outside of class and replying promptly to emails all help create an environment in which students feel seen and supported. This motivates students and creates a collective aspiration for intellectual development.

In addition to introducing students to specific discourses, I am responsible for developing their critical thinking. I clarify fundamental analytic concepts so that students learn how to discriminate between theoretical, historical, theological, and polemic arguments. This enables them to recognize the assumptions underlying their own opinions so that they can be better articulated and interrogated as a subject for analysis. This creates a democratic classroom where a diversity of perspectives can be clearly expressed and debated.

In terms of teaching methods, I draw from a variety of mediums including traditional lecture format, close analytic readings, group discussions, interactive activities, and multi-media tools. Taking into account practicalities such as class size, time and the classroom layout, I utilize whatever will best serve the students. I am inventive with activities and have received encouraging feedback from contemplative and drama-based assignments. I find much value in expanding the boundaries of the class by integrating multiple contexts into the classroom and extending the classroom to outside spaces. I often, for example, visit religious sites with my students and invite outside speakers into the class. These activities function well as opportunities for students to analyze differences between the practice and critical study of religion and to reflect on insider-outsider debates in the field of religious studies.