Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2014

Faculty Award winner

Alla Kourova

 College of Arts and Humanities

 Modern Languages & Literature

Teaching is about making some kind of dent in the world so that the world is different than what it was before you practiced your craft.

What kind of dent do I want to make? Rather, what effect do I have (or am capable of having) on my students and their learning? I attempt to answer these questions in formingmy philosophy of teaching foreign languages (Russian and TESOL), which comes from my own personal experiences as a student and teacher. I have always been interested in teaching others and this interest has guided me to actively consider the methods used by my own teachers and to monitor the progress of students I have taught. My beliefs regarding teaching foreign languages are constantly evolving and are sure to continue evolving based on the technology that is made available in the classroom. However, up to this point in time, my beliefs center around the following ideas: (i) the target language should be used as much as possible in the classroom, (ii) the teacher should make the importance and use of the target language clear to the students, (iii) the teacher should make the class fun and enjoyable for the students, and (iv) the students should be as involved as possible. The use of technology in modern classrooms is an excellent way to ensure these goals are met and to enhance the experience both for the teacher and the student. I believe that students acquire another language most effectively when they are able to use what they are learning to express something meaningful about topics that are relevant to them. In structuring my language courses, I strive to create and implement activities that enable students to develop all four language skills, with a particular emphasis placed on speaking. Speaking is essential for student success and is actually the most used skill in immersion and everyday contexts. In addition to the goal of helping students to communicate effectively in Russian, an essential aim of my teaching is to expose students to the richness of Russian culture. I encourage students to engage Russian culture both through culture-based activities in class and through attendance at and participation in cultural activities outside class, such as Russian Tea Hours (which I offer every other Friday of the month), Russian Club at UCF, and field trips to attend Russian plays and concerts. In 2011, I also organized a Study Abroad program, so that students could apply what they learned in the classroom and experience Russian culture firsthand. Since summer 2013, UCF has offered a Russian minor, and it subscribes to the philosophy that you cannot understand a foreign culture unless you speak the language.

In sum, my overarching goal is to challenge and support students as they seek to discern the next stage of their journey and prepare themselves to lead fulfilling lives as engaged citizens of the world.