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Born to teach: 11 Chicago scholars win awards for classroom style

image: Campus News Just as March heralds the Oscars, so the end of spring quarter brings the Quantrell Awards. First given in 1938, the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching is the nation's oldest prize for undergraduate teaching. This year's lucky-make that talented-U of C winners were classicist Shadi Bartsch, physicist David Grier, economist D. Gale Johnson, and biologist Laurens Mets.

Bartsch, a professor in classical languages & literatures, shakes things up in her teaching as well as in her research, criticizing even Socrates. "People often talk about the Socratic method," she says. "As a classics professor, that makes me smile because we know Socrates was really one of the least successful teachers in the entire history of Western pedagogy. He notoriously failed to convince most of his interlocutors." As for her own style, Bartsch encourages students to ask uncommon questions: "If we want to play with the notion of canonicity, all we need to do is ask different questions instead of condemning the answers."

Grier, an associate professor in physics, says he looks to his colleagues for teaching inspiration. In his eight years at Chicago, he has taught eight different undergraduate courses. "It's absolutely true what they say-if you want to learn something, you've got to teach it; and there's no better opportunity than teaching it to undergraduates," says Grier.

Johnson, the Eliakim Hastings Moore distinguished service professor emeritus in economics, has been the director and co-director of the College's program in economics since his retirement in 1987. He shares his firsthand knowledge of China with College students through lectures and discussions in his Chinese economy course. Johnson also team-teaches an honors economics workshop with fellow Quantrell winner Allen Sanderson, AM'70. "I just like getting to know these students," says Johnson. "I hear from them after they've left, and that's something I find satisfying."

An expert on plant genetics, Mets, an associate professor in molecular genetics & cell biology, teaches cellular and molecular biology and genetic engineering, as well as undergraduate non-major courses, and Photosynthesis, a biology elective. "The most rewarding part of teaching," he says, "is giving students the basics of biology and then watching them use those underlying principles as their foundation for thinking about more complex ideas instead of just memorizing."

The four recipients of 2000 Faculty Awards for Excellence in Graduate Teaching were Martha Ward, an associate professor in art history; Michael Silverstein, the Charles F. Grey distinguished service professor in anthropology, linguistics, and psychology; Sydney Hans, an associate professor in psychiatry and a member of the Committees on Human Development and Developmental Psychology; and Anna Lisa Crone, a professor in Slavic languages & literatures.

The Public Policy Student Association of the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies named Don Coursey and Annamaria Lusardi, a visiting scholar, as Professors of the Year. Coursey, the Ameritech professor in public policy studies, won for the second consecutive year. The Law Student Association awarded its Graduating Students' Award for Teaching Excellence to David Strauss, the Harry N. Wyatt Professor of Law, while senior lecturer William Borden, AM'83, PhD'88, received this year's School of Social Service Administration Award for Excellence in Teaching.


  AUGUST 2000
  > > Volume 92, Number 6


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