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Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Shaul Kelner

Posted by on Friday, February 4, 2011 in News.

Each month, the CFT Newsletter highlights the work of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, Shaul Kelner, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Jewish Studies Vanderbilt University talks about his teaching philosophy and interests:

In designing my curricula, I use broad orienting questions and overarching conceptual frameworks both as structuring principles that divide the units and as unifying themes that run through the units and tie them together. In the Jewish Studies courses that I teach, as well as in my Sociology courses, the overarching frameworks I use are explicitly sociological.

“…one of my key pedagogical goals is to help my students understand that they can better make sense of the world around them if they possess the ability to approach questions not from a single vantage point alone, but from many different perspectives.”

Often, they deal with tensions between continuity and change, cohesion and conflict, the individual and the group, and the like. I find such broad dualities to be pedagogically useful, because they allow students to examine phenomena from opposite entry points and to recognize that each approach reveals some things and hides others. Beyond the specific content that I try to cover in my classes, one of my key pedagogical goals is to help my students understand that they can better make sense of the world around them if they possess the ability to approach questions not from a single vantage point alone, but from many different perspectives.

Professor Kelner lectures nationally and internationally on the sociology of contemporary Jewish life and has recently co-published an article on his Tourism course in Teaching Sociology. In December, he received the 2010 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award at the AJS conference in Boston for Tours That Bind: Diaspora, Pilgrimage and Israeli Birthright Tourism. Read the Vanderbilt News article about the book award.

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