Poli sci prof offers teaching tips, insight
Published: Monday, February 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 01:02
James Magee, a political science and international relations professor, thinks educators should be adaptive and try to craft their lessons in ways that allow students to learn in their own style.
Magee spoke to faculty on Friday about his teaching style and experience as part of the annual "Speaking for Teaching" workshop series sponsored by the university's Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education.
"A student's mind should be allowed to open up and be pushed to its potential," Magee said. "As a professor you have to be firm and consistent, but encourage them to think for themselves and see things from different points of view."
The institute's primary goal is to promote innovative teaching, with particular emphasis on problem-based learning. The series features speakers who have earned excellence awards in teaching, academic advising and other prestigious areas. Magee is a three-time winner of the university's Excellence in Teaching Award as well as a winner of the university's Excellence in Advising Award.
"I was an original fellow that the Institute of Transforming Undergraduate Education [and] was training in problem-based learning when the current dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, George Watson, was in charge back in 1998," Magee said. "I thought this could be my way of giving back."
In his presentation, Magee said he teaches students to think more broadly so they can adapt to ever-changing society.
"It's important to help students think conceptually since there is no fixed body of law since society is always changing," Magee said during his presentation. "The same can be said for other academic disciplines, but it can be difficult to get students to think this way."
English professor, Stephen Bernhardt, who directs the institute, said the series gives distinguished and innovative faculty the chance to share their experiences.
"Teachers always want usable information to improve their current approaches and take enjoyment out of being with their colleagues, so what better way than learning from veteran faculty?" Bernhardt said.
Biological sciences professor Patricia DeLeon, who was among the 50 faculty members in attendance, said Magee wanted professors to teach students with methods that challenge them to more effective thinking.
"It seems to me what he was trying to convey is that since the facts are always changing, you really want students to focus on concepts rather than the concrete information so that they can apply it to their understanding as new information evolves and becomes available," DeLeon said.
Although the series is only advertised through faculty email channels, chemistry professor Meredith Wesolowski, who is an institute leader, said any students interested in teaching may attend the lectures.
"If students interested in teaching can get something out of it that they can add to their own teaching methods and learn from the successes of others, then great," Wesolowski said.
Magee said he hopes after hearing his presentation, faculty members will encourage students to develop their own understanding of the material.
"I hope listeners understand that through my teaching practice, I want my students to learn to apply the information to their own lives in some way, not just memorize what they need to know in order to get a passing grade," he said.