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Partners in a Dynamic Learning Environment

Faculty award winners talk about teaching
Annelise Orleck
"Coming from the students, this teaching award means everything to me," says History Professor Annelise Orleck.

Each spring, Dartmouth asks its graduating class to elect the winner of the Jerome Goldstein '54 Award for Distinguished Teaching. At Class Day this past spring, the Class of 2007 announced their choice: Professor of History Annelise Orleck. Asked to comment, Professor Orleck answered in a way that speaks to what learning at Dartmouth is about.

"This is really about the work students and I have done together. I believe it recognizes a kind of teaching in which students talk as well as listen, learn to work cooperatively to solve collective problems, do hands-on research every step of the way, and learn to critically analyze everything they hear and read."

Orleck is one of nine Dartmouth faculty members honored last spring with awards made through the Office of Dean of the Faculty. The awards recognize a broad array of scholarly expertise, with a focus on how that expertise is translated into the classroom, lab, and studio. Dean of the Faculty Carol Folt says, "The difference at Dartmouth is that we have outstanding faculty who are as remarkable for the creativity of their teaching as they are for the richness of their scholarship. Our students come here expecting to be challenged, and they want a dynamic and personal approach to their learning, and this is exactly what our honorees do so well."

The same passion faculty members bring to their teaching goes directly into learning new directions in pedagogy as well, and the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL) is an essential resource. This summer, DCAL's second annual Institute on Active Learning brought faculty from the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities together to consider how students learn, and in response, how they might teach most effectively.

"Learning is literally transformative," notes Tom Luxon, the Cheheyl Professor and DCAL director. "Current research shows that it actually reconfigures the learner's brain." Research also suggests that when students engage directly with their subject, actively thinking, questioning and discovering, the learning truly sticks. Luxon quotes Mary Lou Guerinot, the Ronald and Deborah Harris Professor in the Sciences, who recently said, "The best way to teach science is to do science." "Our job," Luxon says, "more and more, is to invite students to the table, into the community of scholars."

Orleck's teaching does just that. She calls her lectures "permeable," with questions wanted and expected, and she puts her students into small working groups for projects-to research and present, in character, debates between historical figures, or to lead class discussion together. They work with primary sources, but also create new ones by gathering oral history. "I'm trying to promote a model," Orleck says, "of conducting a discussion, or disagreeing, in a setting of respect. Coming from the students, this teaching award means everything to me."

Dan Kotlowitz
"The immediacy of a theater event can give it a powerful political and emotional impact," says Theater Professor Dan Kotlowitz. Pictured here in lighting of his own design in Moore Theater, Kotlowitz regularly engages students in the art and science of lighting for the stage.

Active learning is a natural fit for the arts, as well, and it reaches beyond the formal classroom. Professor of Theater Daniel Kotlowitz, who teaches lighting design and composition for the theater, received the John M. Manley Huntington Memorial Award for Newly Promoted Faculty this year. For Kotlowitz, there's no easy line between "doing" and "teaching." The classroom informs production and production informs the classroom. "They are inseparable," he says.

Adds Lorie Loeb, research assistant professor of computer science, who received the Dean of the Faculty Teaching Award for Visiting and Adjunct Faculty, "It's a time of tremendous creativity and excitement at Dartmouth." Loeb co-directs Dartmouth's digital arts minor, a new crossdisciplinary blend of technology and art. She was the faculty advisor to the team of students who created Dartmouth's recent winning entry in Google's Build your campus in 3-D competition. (See http://contest.sketchup.com/entry.php)

The new minor is designed to familiarize students with the principles and practice of digital art, modeling, and animation that are directly relevant to the technology-enabled, visual world in which they live. "I feel incredibly fortunate to be teaching here now," says Loeb.

"With an active and imaginative faculty and engaged and bright students, there is never a shortage of ideas for fresh curriculum and programs. I have found that our students are motivated by teachers who are themselves creating knowledge and working on complex, demanding problems," says Folt. "By sharing in the excitement of discovery, students become part of that advancing front of knowledge and modernization."

Faculty Award Recipients
  • Annelise Orleck, history
    Jerome Goldstein '54 Award for Distinguished Teaching
  • Peter Saccio, English
    Robert A. Fish 1918 Memorial Prize
  • Christopher Bailey-Kellogg, computer science
    The Karen E. Wetterhahn Memorial Award for Distinguished Creative or Scholarly Achievement
  • Lorie Loeb, computer science
    Dean of the Faculty Teaching Award for Visiting and Adjunct Faculty
  • Paul Christesen '88, classics, and Lucas Swaine, government
    John M. Manley Huntington Memorial Award for Newly Tenured Faculty
  • Susannah Heschel, religion, and Daniel Kotlowitz, theater
    John M. Manley Huntington Memorial Award for Newly Promoted Faculty
  • Cleopatra Mathis, English
    Dean of the Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentoring and Advising

By KELLY SEAMAN

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Last Updated: 5/30/08