She is also quite good at integrating technology into the classroom, both in terms of using multiple platforms to communicate critical, comparative, cross-cultural, and interdisciplinary analyses of texts. Crystal leaves students with not only the critical intellectual tools to succeed in other courses but also practical technological tools that are usable even outside the humanities.
Her innovative use of screencasting, which is typically used to capture information on a computer screen, was so refreshing that TLT [Teaching and Learning Technologies] interviewed her and created a series of videos to share with faculty interested in a new evaluation tool.
Diverse and Interdisciplinary Course Content
Of the difficult skills the student exercised, perhaps the most admirable was that of the entire class was capable of engaging issues in the texts involving race, identity, culture and theory. Students of varying backgrounds had pretty frank and fruitful exchanges on the meanings and possible explications of these concepts and issues, and even though some emerged from personal experience and observation, they were ultimately resolved in the realm of textual analysis and criticism.
The session seemed to me to be entirely appropriate to a 300-level American Studies and English literature class, with a challenging mix of primary and secondary texts at the center of the students’ attention. I was impressed by the quantity and complexity of the materials covered in this session.
Facilitation of Class Participation
The students were comfortable and relaxed and obviously thrived under Dr. Anderson’s teaching technique, which I would call ‘directed freedom.’ By directed freedom, I mean that while she encouraged a great deal of free interchange and response among the students, she also stepped in to guide when she felt students were over-generalizing or slipping away from a discussion of the text in front of them. She gracefully and artfully pulled student answers together in ways that helped the discussion move forward and expand.
I had planned on staying only for the first hour of the meeting, but I was so drawn in that I stayed the full two hours and had to suppress my own impulse to join the discussion. As we left the class, I noticed that many of the students were continuing the discussion on their own. I asked one of them if this reaction was typical. The student assured me it was: ‘Professor Anderson knows her stuff; she makes us think.’
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Crystal’s class was the way that the class discussion took on a life of its own. At several points, Crystal seemed to step back from the discussion and let the students respond to each other. I marveled at how effortless Crystal made this very difficult feat look. I have been teaching for longer than I care to admit, and I still have to work very hard at getting my students to participate as well as Crystal did in this class.