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Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman

Posted by on Wednesday, November 3, 2010 in News.

Each month, the CFT Newsletter highlights the work of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman, Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and Law talks about his teaching philosophy and interests.

As a teacher, I hope to inspire a spirit of inquiry and engagement in my students. Historically, my teaching has focused heavily on the use of primary sources, hoping that this gives students an opportunity to develop a sense of direct connection to their subject matter. However, as some of my own writing has shifted to grapple more directly with historiographical trends in my field, I have shifted my teaching to focus on getting students to see the ways in which secondary sources are themselves primary sources, broadening the literature with which they engage creatively. In assigning writing projects, I give students a great deal of autonomy in the hopes that they will focus on topics that pique their own interest. Ideally, the written assignments in my courses connect to and build on one another, often culminating in student presentations that allow students to sharpen presentation skills, to gather peer feedback about their projects, and to marvel at the research achievements of their classmates.

I also strive to use exams creatively, as a learning tool as much as a diagnostic medium: I often assign take-home essays and then use an in-class period for classroom-group-wide peer feedback on students’ responses to the essay questions. This fosters discussion within the group and reveals the breadth of responses within the class, viewing even the writing of an essay question in an exam as a discursive process worthy of attention.

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