Thomas Hugh Crawford Teaching Effectiveness:
Part 1 Anecdotes of Service Learning Part 2 Short Descriptions of Recent Seminars
Part 1 Anecdotes of Service Learning
I teach literature and cultural studies, so I cannot demonstrate my teaching effectiveness by listing out the number of students from my lab I have placed in grad school. Of course a number of STaC (Science, Technology and Culture) students I have mentored have gone on to careers in education, law and medicine. However much of my teaching is directed toward a larger student population. In my work in the Georgia Tech Honors program my students come from a broad range of majors, so quantitatively, it is nearly impossible to measure effectiveness. The one raw number I can offer from course evaluations over the past five years (21 courses) is the answer to the question ranking teaching effectiveness: 4.766 out of a possible 5.0. In addition to my regular teaching load, I have participated in study-abroad programs (Oxford, 2004 and 2007, New Zealand, 2006 and 2009, Karlskrona, Sweden, 2006, and, this summer, China), and in the past three years I have conducted seven independent studies and directed four senior theses. So, much as I would like to take credit for a recently graduated student who took three classes from me and served as a course assistant in another, and who was just admitted to the University of Pennsylvania's MD/Ph.D. Program, I can just take satisfaction in knowing how much she deserved it. Given that much of my recent teaching has been focused on problem- based and service learning, I would rather point to the work of some students who exemplify the ideals of such an approach, emphasizing how privileged I have been to work with such students, rather than taking them as example of my own success.
Two specific course examples: several years ago I taught an Honors Freshman Composition class where the intellectual content was "dwelling spaces." I used an anthology of essays drawing on architecture, literature, philosophy, and environmentalism. As there was an essay about the Atlanta-based Mad Housers (a group of activists for the homeless), I assigned it early and when I asked the students what they thought of it, the immediate response was "can we build one?" To make a long story short, they soon found themselves ransacking the library for theses written by the Georgia Tech Architecture graduate students who founded the Mad Housers, They found and interviewed past participants and clients, built their own Mad Houser house and put it on display first on the Georgia Tech Skiles walkway, the library, then in front of the architecture building, and finally it became the dwelling of a homeless Atlantan. In addition to the house, the students produced film documentaries, drawings and texts, as well as sound recordings. Several remained in contact with the charitable group, one taking on a leadership position. They have gone on a number of builds and have organized Georgia Tech students in their “days of engagement” to help out this organization. I point to this instance as an example of teaching effectiveness because the project brought out precisely the goals I most cherish: the students were engaged and enthusiastic; they made contact with their community; they developed an understanding of the history and context of their community; they self-organized, developing the skills necessary to push all parts of the project through; and they learned to work with each other and with technology to define and accomplish goals. And there was the added benefit that they became both aware of and experts about a chronic social problem literally in their own back yard.