11/21/2013

Learning After Dark

 

Dean Hammer John W. Wetzel Professor of Classics and Professor of Government and 2013 Recipient of the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching

Thursday, November 21 at 11:30 a.m. Mayser Gymnasium

After completing his Ph.D. in political science at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1989, and following short stints as a visiting professor at Augustana College (his alma mater) and Memphis State University, Dean Hammer arrived at Franklin & Marshall College in 1994. In his nearly 20 years at F&M, Professor Hammer has had a tremendous impact on the College and, in particular, on the hundreds of students who have had the good fortune to learn from him.

The 2006 recipient of the Bradley R. Dewey Award for Outstanding Scholarship, Professor Hammer is a model scholar-teacher. In his own work and in the classroom, he explores vitally important issues concerning not just politics, but the human condition. And he shares with students his love of learning both in the classroom and through the many directed readings and independent studies he has supervised over the years.

In addition to being a passionate teacher, Professor Hammer is pedagogically innovative. He uses "a form of guided inquiry" in which "students are immersed in the texts, provided with questions that guide their thinking about the material, held responsible for their preparation of the material, and then work together in groups to develop interpretations of the material." Students learn to evaluate evidence, produce interpretations of texts, and make connections between concepts and authors because they come to class better prepared for such activity.

Evidence of his teaching effectiveness can be found in the written comments on his teaching evaluations. Countless students say that he is one of the best professors at F&M and many say he is the best. One wrote of "American Political Tradition" that it "changed the way in which I see the world." Of his Foundations course, "Mortality and Meaning," a student wrote, "The course was absolutely mind-blowing. Ideas from it go through my mind every day." And a student in "Classical Political Theory" claimed to "have learned and retained more information in this class than in all of my other classes I've ever taken at F&M combined."

In exit interviews, seniors sing Professor Hammer's praises. "A master," wrote one senior. "Assigns brilliant readings, is a masterful lecturer, humorous yet profound -- Takes so many disparate subjects and pulls them together." Another wrote, "I love political theory because of this man." One student, initially skeptical about enjoying "Classical Political Theory," later admitted, "I now find myself thinking about pursuing courses like this one at the graduate level." In fact, Professor Hammer has helped launch students in this direction by co-authoring articles with them. Many seniors said that they went to Professor Hammer frequently for advice, whether or not he was their academic advisor. One said, "I could not ask for a better source of advice on matters of the classroom or in life." As Don of New College House, he extends this ethic of living reflectively to a whole environment that fosters excitement about learning.

Professor Hammer's influence as an educator goes beyond the work he does with his own students. He helped shape the Foundations curriculum and twice led the seminar for faculty developing Foundations courses. He has been a trusted teaching mentor for many other faculty, particularly our junior colleagues, and has authored articles on teaching. Through his seminar on precepting, Professor Hammer has helped faculty and students alike develop collaborative strategies for improving learning in the liberal arts classroom.

For his dedication to his students, his pedagogical innovation, his success in the classroom, and his willingness to share his teaching insights with the rest of us, Professor Dean Hammer is richly deserving of the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award.

This event is open to the public.

Free; no tickets required.

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