Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2004

Faculty Award winner

Ernest Smith

 College of Arts and Sciences

 English

When I began my full-time teaching career, the first text I taught was from Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, where the Brazilian educator contrasts "problem-posing education" and "the banking concept of education." According to Freire, the key to education is dialogic learning, rather than the one direction transfer of knowledge that he compares to a bank deposit. I always strive to make every class I teach interactive, challenging students to take responsibility for their own education experience.

Challenging students to take responsibility for their own learning takes different forms, and requires both flexibility and creativity on the part of the teacher. I consistently attempt to think creatively about my teaching, to "reinvent" both classes and assignments as a way of offering students superior opportunities for learning. For instance, while writing is an essential component of any course in the discipline of English, I always try to offer my students a variety of types of writing assignments. I want my students to master the discipline of academic writing, but given the fact that most of them will not continue to do academic writing after they leave the University, but will need to continue to communicate effectively, I want them to also master writing for different rhetorical situations and different audiences. My students learn how to conduct research, to compile and clearly synthesize their research in their own language, to master the conventions of effective e-mail communication, and to conduct online dialogues via the technology of WebCT. They collaborate both in class and online for group projects and presentations. This helps students learn that part of communicating effectively involves speaking well, in addition to writing well.

Another aspect of effective teaching is being available to assist the individual student. Some of my most significant teaching occurs in the one-on-one setting, and therefore, I am scrupulous about holding ample office hours, and actually being in the office during posted office hours. I also conference online with students, and make appointments outside of my regular hours to accommodate the working student's schedule. In the Pegasus program, where I teach students with less than stellar academic backgrounds, I work one-on-one with first semester students to ensure that their writing and study skills gains them full admittance to UCF. I also work with the Honors College by teaching Honors writing classes, judging writing contests, and representing the English department at the annual fall semester welcome event for the National Merit Scholars. In addition, I direct Honors-in-the-Major theses. All of my Honors-in-the-Major advisees have gone on to do distinguished graduate work, and my current advisee was honored with one of the highly competitive Honors-in-the-Major scholarships.