In the middle of a class discussion, one of Dave Larsen's writing students blurted out, "There's too much to think about!" Others laughed, but Larsen just nodded.
"Yeah, that's the point," he acknowledged.
Helping students recognize and negotiate the complexities of the writing process -- without doing their thinking for them -- is a primary goal of Dave Larsen's dialogic, student-centered approach.
For his outstanding classroom performance, Larsen was presented with the UM-Flint 2012 Teaching Excellence Award at the recent Academic Affairs Convocation.
Larsen teaches students at every level in the UM-Flint Writing Program, from ENG 109 to ENG 392. "This means I’m teaching most of our least prepared writers, those who have had horrible experiences with writing and find it a complete mystery, to our most enthusiastic writers, those who imagine themselves writing professionally."
Something Larsen believes he does well in all his classes is to provide his students "with a real reader." He notes that "it seems simple enough, but it’s important. I can work with my students and encourage them to take authority over their own writing if I show them that I’m really reading their work, not just grading it."
For several years, he has also served as the Director of Writing Placement.
The award for teaching excellence recognizes outstanding faculty performance at the University of Michigan-Flint, and may be made to full-time faculty of any rank. Larsen is the latest of a handful of lecturers who have received it.
"The fact that a LEO lecturer has again won the Teaching Excellence Award at UM – Flint offers further vivid evidence of the importance lecturers play in supporting and sustaining the core mission of the University of Michigan," commented Jan Worth-Nelson, Director of the Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching (TCLT) and another of the lecturers to have won the award.
"Dave is one of the cadre of the best and the brightest: a master teacher who goes into the classroom day after day providing his students with significant learning experiences," continued Worth-Nelson. "That it is possible for his work to be acknowledged and rewarded is a welcome marker of institutional good sense."
The award carries a $1,000 stipend and three-year membership on the TCLT advisory committee.
Dave Larsen (center) and other English Department lecturers show off their LEO t-shirts.