Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2016

Faculty Award winner

Robin Kohn

 College of Health & Public Affairs

 Social Work

The profession of social work requires commitment and compassion for all we serve, and for many students, the passion they feel to help others is a "calling." The profession of social work has standards, principles, and core values, exemplified in an extensive Code of Ethics that assumes a value-free stance rich with self-determination, individual worth and dignity. From this perspective, it is critical to help students address and balance this passion while developing professional and academic goals. As teachers, it is important to integrate this knowledge into the curriculum and help students to demonstrate the acquisition of these values in the classroom. As an experienced clinician my philosophy models what is done in practice, always start "where the client is." Starting "where the student is" takes into account the uniqueness of the student and his/her own goals, expectations, and learning style. As an instructor, I "lead by example" and take my role as a mentor seriously. My clinical experience allows for "real life" practice examples in the classroom crucial to the development of professional helping. I strive to engage students in discussions asking them specific questions, and how it could be applied to the helping relationship. I use case examples, and role plays that mimic a "live" client session. Practicing these experiential exercises in small groups assists students in putting theory into practice, while enhancing their own self-awareness. These activities help to teach engagement and assessment skills and enhance their critical thinking skills. I try to balance teaching professional skill building while making the classroom setting challenging, interactive and fun.

Increasing self-awareness requires making the learning environment safe so students feel comfortable discussing topics that may be uncomfortable and challenge beliefs and values that may conflict with assuming a professional stance. Students frequently comment on how my classroom provides a safe, non-judgmental environment that allows for openness where disagreements are discussed respectfully.

Students need to be empowered, develop self-confidence, problem-solve effectively, and learn to use their critical thinking skills. Many of our students have encountered adversity which influenced their decision to enter the social work profession. Regardless of their past these students show an incredible resilience in pursuing their goals professionally, academically, and personally and I strive to build their self-confidence as they pursue their goals and expectations.

As an instructor I am innovative, creative and resourceful and listen so I can assist students in gaining social work knowledge, skills and competencies required for graduation and professional practice. I have integrated the use of DVD's, YouTube clips, news articles, guest speakers, field trips, service learning, and experiential exercises along with having an online component.

What is learned in the classroom does not stop with simply teaching the curriculum. Teaching is a collaborative effort between the students, their advisors, faculty, and departments within the university and community partners. The passion ignited in the classroom continues into the profession and at some point, it becomes my honor to call my students, colleagues.