teaching and research are both conceptually and pragmatically synergistic.
Research is, of course, learning. And both true, long-term learning
and research are inquiries provoked by intellectual curiosity. So
teachers must support, challenge, and focus inquiry in curious students
and provoke intellectual curiosity in students who have not yet
realized what they are missing. Many professors do this by modeling
their thought processes for students; I also figure out ways to
teach students how to engage in such processes (see the Hugo research
project Précision de sujet
activity, for example).
in pursuing both research and learning, one works in an academically
rigorous and honest way, aiming for clarity of thought and expression,
as well as for accuracy. As I actively pursue a research agenda,
then, I inherently model many qualities of academic rigor for
my students and, on a practical level, keep up to date with the
research tools I teach them to use. For my recognition of this
overarching sort of synergy and mutual value of research and teaching,
I credit my colleague Bob Cook and his
articulation of some whys and hows of research and teaching.
Teaching is a manifestation of inquiry rather than of doctrine.
And research is prolonged and focused inquiry. Thus a good teacher
must frequently think in ways similar to those of a researcher,
considering what, how, and why students are learning and figuring
out how to improve the process. My classroom research includes a
variety of techniques, such as the one-minute
paper to see how well students grasp recently discussed material;
comments to gather their ongoing impressions of and suggestions
to improve the course (sample comments);
Analysis Poll to enable them to share their ideas about the
course and to provide me a majority, overall perspective; analysis
of final student evaluations to improve future courses (sample
long-term learning comes from one's deep engagement with information
and ideas, and since people most easily and deeply engage with ideas
they find inherently interesting, I incorporate research
projects for students into some courses in order to promote
better learning and to develop skills of inquiry. In this way, each
student can, and does, become an expert in some aspect of the course.
I believe that some of them also learn more about the value of pursuing
research to new understandings. In all courses, I also engage students'
sense of inquiry through assignments and class activities (see Strategies
with my experiences as a graduate student teaching assistant,
most of my research projects have been inspired by something that
happened in a course. My interest in investigating how American
students read and understand in French grew initially from questions
my Harvard students asked when reading with me during office hours.
Sometimes their questions made little sense until I had probed
further, discovering underlying misconceptions that had impelled
them down a garden path of interpretation. Students thus provoked
me to think more deeply about how we can ascertain what happens
inside a reader's brain.
I have discovered when conducting experiments with American students
reading French (research
summary) has furthered my respect for students as independent
thinkers and as individuals. I find myself forever acknowledging
the remarkably individual nature of the reading process, despite
my concurrent recognition that statistical studies can help us
to define general levels of reading competence and to elucidate
trends among a group of students. Recognizing and analyzing the
unending variety of reading styles that encompass a multiplicity
of strategies, techniques, and approaches requires the same flexibility
of mind that I try to engineer into my teaching.
through my research, I have discerned many of the ways in which
people understand and (misunderstand) what they read. Thus I am
intrigued to discover how each student tackles a text, and on what
understandings each bases her or his interpretations. Frequently,
I explore my own students' thinking processes by asking them to
write a recall protocol, a flowing
statement of what they remember from an assigned text. My analysis
of these remembrances (typically used in reading research) shows
me a great deal about how individual students read: whether they
look for details or make sweeping generalizations, are careful or
lax, note syntax or ignore it, and so on.
to keep and develop an open, flexible mind, together with an ongoing
curiosity about how people learn, drives my teaching and research.
Thus I have branched out beyond reading research, first to delve
into the writing
process in a foreign language. That study led me to appreciate
individual writing processes and styles, as well as the difficulty
of learning to write persuasive essays. One of my top priorities
in my courses is teaching students how to create solid thesis statements
and valid supporting arguments (see Strategies
and Strengths). My study of what cultural differences there
might be in terms of reflective
thinking in the humanities is an expansion of my interest in
writing in a foreign language. The integration of my thinking on
teaching and research has resulted in articles that have been recognized
by several awards from outside agencies, including awards
for articles on foreign language reading and writing.
recently, the revitalization of my interest in the works and life
of Victor Hugo that led me to create FREN
355 has also energized me to write an anthology targeted toward
French-speaking readers outside of France. The research involved
in creating an anthology feeds directly into the knowledge and understanding
necessary to teach the course.
I find myself lucky to work in a discipline that is inherently
interdisciplinary: that includes work on language, culture, history,
politics, sociology, literature, critical-thinking skills, and
so on. Moreover, French studies, together with my work in faculty
development and pedagogy, have led me to explore in several different
directions, an interaction that keeps my research and teaching
equally alive and in balance.