Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2004

Faculty Award winner

Kristina Tollefson

 College of Arts and Sciences


I demonstrate a humanistic approach to teaching by modeling how to be a productive member of a learning community as I teach content, a lifelong aesthetic appreciation of art and theatre, and communication skills. My goal in exhibiting the behavior I ask my students to practice, including enthusiasm for the topic, self-discipline, respect for the ideas of others and adherence to deadlines, is to foster a positive learning relationship of trust and mutual respect. I accomplish this goal by keeping four objectives in mind.

1. Cultivate a safe classroom of honesty and respect.

Learning happens best when students feel comfortable. I have equal respect for and confidence in the ability of all my students, and I employ several methods for communicating this respect and confidence. I learn and use my students' names to make it clear that in my class they will be respected and identified as individuals. I provide my students with a detailed syllabus and assignment guidelines for every class. There are no gray areas; they know my expectations and how to earn their grades. Clear definitions of plagiarism and cheating ensure my expectation of their academic honesty as members of the university learning community. Soliciting comments regarding my teaching on a daily basis and fulfilling those that do not conflict with my pedagogical objectives are easy ways to adapt to students' learning styles and reinforce my respect for them.

2. Make the learning process active, interactive and collaborative.

Only when both professor and student actively fulfill their responsibilities can learning occur. Attendance, attention, and participation in class discussions and projects are essential. A professor can do much to accomplish course objectives, but students must also take responsibility for meeting objectives. Traditional lecture courses do not tend to inspire students to interact with the subject matter. To counteract this, I lead discussions arguing both sides of issues to help my students develop their own opinions and learn to think for themselves. I strive to create experiential opportunities in all of my courses. My students learn about the art, process, and people in class and then live those ideas through practical experiences. My collaboration with students on every design I do is a tangible way to bring their classroom experiences into reality in addition to building materials they can present as part of their portfolios.

3. Teach to a variety of learning styles.

By combining discussions with course packs, guest speakers, videos, Web sites, small group discussions, and activities, I strive to teach to aural, visual and kinesthetic learners. Combining more than one modality increases my chance for successfully teaching every student.

4. Learn from your students and other successful teachers.

Respecting student feedback and attending workshops and symposia on instructional techniques through university and professional organizations are essential aspects of my development as an educator. Each course I teach or workshop I attend provides valuable discoveries that become part of my syllabi, teaching philosophy, or style.