In 1994 the Teaching Resource Center won a Special Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This grant, together with gifts secured by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, enabled the creation of three rotating U.Va. NEH Distinguished Teaching Professorships (DTPs). Each endowed chair, awarded to an associate or full professor for a three-year period, recognizes excellent undergraduate teaching in the humanities. This year's award went to William McDonald, the Horace W. Goldsmith Distinguished Teaching Professor of German.
In his thirty years at U.Va., Bill McDonald has taught courses from beginning German in the intensive Summer Language Institute to graduate medieval literature courses. Seeing himself as a guide, mood-setter and facilitator in one person, Herr Mac, as his students call him, has worked toward ceding to his students more and more "control" over their learning. Thus he has introduced, for instance, partner exercises, peer tutoring, and tools by which students can assess their work. Focusing on building positive feelings among the students"even for such an unlikely subject as German grammar," Bill sayshe has found that his students seem less inhibited and more trusting than before. He believes that delectation has an important role in language instruction, and he has refined a lightness, a playfulness, in his pedagogy.
In applying his philosophy to what he sees as his most challenging course, German 300, Intensive Grammar, Bill turned to the internet as a way to enable students of widely diverse backgrounds to choose course topics. His students surf German news and cultural sites with the aim of selecting texts that interest them; they then summarize each text and write personal reactions to the articles. As the Goldsmith Distinguished Teaching Professor, Bill is excited about sharing with teachers of other languages his method of engaging students in writing about what they learn through internet sourcesand in learning about writing. Then, Bill says, "No classroom participant is at a disadvantage. All can experience a rich spectrum of documents and sounds, . . . all with a world perspective."
in more information about the Chair's duties can contact TRC Director
Marva Barnett. Questions about the nomination and selection process should
be directed to Karen Ryan, Associate Dean of the Arts, Humanities, and
Social Sciences, 924-3437.