Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2014

Faculty Award winner

Dan Murphree

 College of Arts and Humanities


Students today, regardless of discipline or major, desire education and training that will enable them to better understand their pasts, contribute during the present, and prosper in the future. Therefore I emphasize active, experiential learning that facilitates an undergraduate's desire to obtain practical skills while discovering the value of his or her previous experiences, current education, and eventual accomplishments. I believe that learning should be both utilitarian and intellectually fulfilling. Students should view the classroom, on campus or virtual, as a forum where they not only learn but also contribute to the process of how they learn. Few factors in an undergraduate's education are more important than his or her interaction with the scholastic environment. The education process necessitates a reciprocal exchange between student, instructor, and institution. In order to foster this idea among undergraduates, the educator must make a personal commitment to every student and strive to form bonds of mutual respect. Above all, teachers must approach students in a consistent and fair manner.

I teach courses on North American indigenous peoples and geographic/cultural borderlands, topics that allow me to facilitate student learning of U.S. history via perspectives they typically have not encountered in their previous educations. Influenced by the American Historical Association's Tuning Project, I design each of my undergraduate courses to emphasize the following learning objectives: 1) Develop a disciplined, skeptical stance and outlook on the world that demands evidence and sophisticated use of information, 2) Recognize the ongoing provisional nature of knowledge, 3) Choose among multiple tools, methods, and perspectives to investigate and interpret materials from the past, 4) Develop a methodological practice of gathering, sifting, analyzing, ordering, synthesizing, and interpreting evidence, and 5) Apply historical knowledge and analysis to contribute to contemporary social dialogue.

Successful teaching requires continual innovation, reevaluation, and pragmatism. A teacher's most valuable source for improving educational techniques is another teacher. Consequently, I spend as much time as possible working with other educators to achieve both institutional and pedagogical improvement. I believe such cooperation results in the unveiling of new technologies that can be used to construct links between research and teaching. Cooperation between educators and technological innovation benefit both academic professionals and undergraduates. In order to make these improvements meaningful, I also work to influence the professional ethics of my colleagues and encourage them to maintain academic standards respected by both teachers and students. Teaching is a social, rather than solitary craft, and therefore must involve input from all participants in the educational process.