Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2011

Faculty Award winner

Michael Strawser

 College of Arts and Humanities

 Department of Philosophy

All true education and edification (or Bildung, which nicely captures the meanings of both words) is based on respect, and I am thankful to have consistently scored highest in this category on my student perception of instruction forms. There are several ways that I try to respect my students, perhaps the most important of which is starting with the presupposition that each individual student both can and wants to learn. Thus, I respect the students‘ ability to learn by only reading primary philosophical texts as this allow them to begin philosophizing from the start. It is important to have high, but realistic expectations of the students, and through encouragement and instruction lead them to a level of learning that they may not have thought was possible. The presupposition that students are both willing and able to learn is fundamental to successful teaching and naturally transforms the kind of encounter that takes place in the classroom.

Further, I believe that a good teacher should be edifying in both an ethical and hermeneutic sense. With regards to the former, one should start with a foundation of love or genuine concern for the individual learners as whole persons, and my most recent scholarship of teaching and learning project involves reflecting on my philosophy of love course and determining how teaching may best be informed by love. With regards to the latter, one should strive for authentic discourse or communication which keeps the dialogue going, open, in development. In general, I believe a good teacher remains open and is continually changing—as flexibility and variety are also key factors in learning. When one strives to achieve these goals, not only will the students learn better, but the teacher will as well.

In addition to respecting the students, it is also significant to respect oneself and the institution of learning. I feel that this is done through considering teaching as a vocation in which the classroom is the secular place for cultivating transformative educational experiences with an eye towards the common good. Thus each encounter in the classroom should be approached with enthusiasm, passion, knowledge, and a structure appropriate for facilitating the creative transformation of both the individual and the group.