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Students as Teachers: Lessons Learned from the 2007 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award Winners

Students as Teachers: Lessons Learned from the 2007 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award Winners

Change Magazine

4. Their work has been collaborative and interdisciplinary.

After serving as the graduate assistant in my university’s Preparing Future Faculty program for two years, I was awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship with Project STEP (the Science and Technology Enhancement Program) at the University of Cincinnati. Project STEP involves a collaborative effort by the College of Engineering and the College of Education to take engineering and science graduate students into the Cincinnati public schools. As a fellow, I had various responsibilities, including developing and implementing hands-on, inquiry-based science and math activities, disseminating Project STEP activities and experiences (through publications, presentations, and workshops), and being a resource for the teachers and students at the school to which I was assigned.

My experience with this project has given me invaluable exposure to the kindergarten through 12th-grade (K-12) education system. I learned how the different components of the system—students, teachers, administrators, parents, and policies—affect the process of learning. I have been exposed to the many hurdles that students and teachers, especially in urban school districts, have to overcome when they are faced with a variety of issues that stand in the way of education.

Perhaps the most significant impact of my fellowship was the process of learning to be an effective collaborator with K-12 teachers, faculty members, and graduate students from various disciplines.
—Bethany Bowling

With my interest in curricular development and changes in academe, the chair of the Department of Dance asked me to design an online course for our department, Dance, Gender, and Culture. This course, the second online course offered by our department, is cross-listed with women’s studies and fulfills a core-curriculum requirement in fine arts or women’s studies for the students in our university. In this course, we explore the aesthetics of dance in relation to social issues in different times and cultural contexts. We focus on how the representations of bodies and our personal judgments of them in popular culture have led to stereotypes and the marginalization of groups of people throughout history. For example, last year we read about and viewed work performed by dance companies that employ both disabled and non-disabled dancers.

This lesson became one of the most poignant moments of the semester. During our discussions, the students openly admitted that their narrow and exclusionary views of physicality and disability were partially due to the ways in which disability is socially and culturally constructed in the U.S. They also shared how the course material throughout the semester helped transform their views of disability and developed a deeper awareness of social issues such as racism, classism, and sexism. By interrogating our visual biases and how they contribute to how we function as citizens, I hope that I have encouraged my students to think beyond the curriculum and that they have learned the importance of critical thinking and how it contributes to our perspective on the world around us.
—Stephanie Milling-Robbins

5. They are planning to become public intellectuals.

I understand my future responsibilities as a faculty member to include not only research, teaching, and service, but also public scholarship. Scholarly activity that contributes to public purposes takes many forms, but, at its best, integrates learning and engagement. For example, I was a member of a research team (the College Student Social Life Study) that used what we learned from our fieldwork and interviews to inform university residential-life policies in an effort to reduce rates of sexual assault on campus.

Although public scholarship is, to my mind, a professional obligation, few graduate students receive training for this component of their future careers as faculty. In response to this deficit in graduate training, I collaborated with fellow sociology graduate students to form the Social Action League, a group dedicated to developing our research and teaching skills to help address social problems on local, national and global levels, as well as to facilitate the civic development of our students.
—Evelyn Perry

These young people are our students, but they are also our teachers.