Rhodes Evaluation

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October 7, 1994

To: Theodore Arrington, Chair, Political Science

From: Terrel L. Rhodes

Re: Observation of Dr. Marc Stier’s teaching

I was invited to attend two of Dr. Marc Stier’s courses to observe his teaching. On September 26 I observed a session of Body and Soul and on September 28 I observed a session of Politics and Reason. Both sessions were fifty minute class sessions. Prior to attending the classes, Dr. Stier provided me with a brief description of his philosophy of teaching the courses and a copy of the course syllabi. The Body and Soul courses was conducted as a discussion course. The Politics and Reason course was mainly a lecture style class.

Although the courses are political philosophy courses and the content is largely abstract and philosophical in nature; the students on the whole had little difficulty engaging the material. Approximately twenty students were in attendance the days I visited. Almost two-thirds of the students joined the discussion of the material and offered comments or responded to questions posed by Professor Stier. Professor Stier did not resort to an often employed strategy of calling on people to respond to his questions; rather by re-phrasing questions on occasion and in waiting for responses, he was able to get students involved in the discussion.

In particular, Dr. Stier seemed to be able to establish a very relaxed atmosphere in the classroom. The students appeared to be accustomed to respond to questions which suggested that they are comfortable in offering their insights and knowledge without fear of being embarrassed or ridiculed. Indeed, Dr. Stier had established an atmosphere where students and professor were at ease in asking questions and in pursuing answers to them.

The discussions were well organized and flowed easily from one aspect to another during the class sessions. Students had no trouble following the class discussion or relating it to the assigned readings. The students who spoke seemed to have actually read the assignments and to have understood them sufficiently to engage in a constructive exchange. Humor and good natured banter characterized the class sessions. A sense of mutual trust was evident in the classes.

I was particularly impressed with Dr. Stier's ability to relate these rather abstract concepts from classical writings to everyday experiences from the lives of the students or the instructor. This ability to relate conceptions and principles to more concrete or relevant examples appeared to provide a successful means for capturing the interest of the students and getting them involved in the class topics.

I was quite impressed with Dr. Stier's teaching abilities. His classes were relaxed yet rigorous; demanding students to think about the concepts contained in the course materials. He connected with the students in a non-threatening manner, managing to engage the students in somewhat obtuse and complex materials and to gain a fuller understanding of the relevance and application of classical thought for modern life. Students were engaged and attentive and actually appeared to enjoy the classes and the discussions and to learn something in the process. A teacher who can accomplish that even half the time, is indeed a successful teacher. If these two courses were a good indication of Dr. Stier's teaching, which I believe they were, he is a very good professor.

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