April 09, 2009

Fletcher wins Core Curriculum teaching award

by Andrea Hahn

Anne Fletcher
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Anne Fletcher, associate professor of theater at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is this year’s Outstanding Faculty Member Teaching in the University Core Curriculum.

The annual award goes to a faculty member who teaches at least one of the broadly based foundation courses required of all University students to graduate. As this year’s recipient, Fletcher receives a monetary award and certificate through SIUC’s “Excellence Through Commitment” awards program. She also receives a wristwatch provided by the SIU Alumni Association.

Fletcher and other award recipients will be honored at a dinner beginning at 6 p.m. on April 21 at the Student Center. Chancellor Samuel Goldman hosts the dinner.

Fletcher’s colleague in the Department of Theater and the director of graduate studies, Ronald Naversen, credited Fletcher’s innovative teaching style with revitalizing THEA 101: Theater Insight, the core curriculum course. In a letter nominating Fletcher for this award, Naversen noted that Fletcher’s “teaching to the season” technique for this class saw her tailoring the class content in order to use current departmental theater productions in the curriculum, lending a practical component to the classroom theory and vastly improving the content of the course.

“When Dr. Fletcher began her supervision of Theater 101, the course had been failing to meet Core standards,” department chair Mark Varns wrote. “Now it is well exceeding (the standards) and in fact serves as a model example.”

“Dr. Fletcher has become a nationally recognized and sought-after expert on this pioneering teaching method,” Naversen wrote, adding that Fletcher is “quite possibly the finest teacher I have ever encountered.”

Naversen further noted that Fletcher’s relationship with the graduate teaching assistants who assist with THEA 101 helps them launch their careers, both through her assistance with their classroom teaching experience, and also because she includes them in her scholarly presentations at regional and national conferences.

Several of Fletcher’s former graduate students wrote letters in support of her nomination as well -- so many, Naversen noted, that they could not all be included in the nomination package.

“The ongoing, long-term attention given this Core Curriculum theater course by a scholar with the stature of Anne Fletcher is what, for me, truly embodies notions of both ‘excellence’ and ‘commitment’ at SIUC,” former student Scott R. Irelan, now assistant professor of theater at Augustana College, wrote.

Laramie Dean, another former student, also had high praise for Fletcher’s commitment to the core curriculum. He noted, too, that this commitment extends to the graduate teaching assistants, with whom she holds weekly meetings as a group throughout their teaching terms. She also makes it a point to observe at least one session with each graduate teaching assistant.

“Dr. Fletcher’s feedback and suggestions, particularly with regards to the development of and experimentation with lesson plan, proved invaluable to me,” Dean wrote.

Fletcher’s teaching philosophy indicates her devotion to “active learning.” She wants her students to develop the critical thinking and aesthetic valuing skills that will enable them to process and analyze “whatever information they encounter in the future.”

She refers to pedagogical methods promoted by Howard Gardner, the “Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” Her application of these theories combined with her own emphasis on “active learning” has led to several presentations before such bodies as the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.

Fletcher also teaches undergraduate courses on theater history and literature, and dramaturgy. In dramaturgy, she employs script analysis, theater history, critical theory and performance studies, all combined with active learning techniques. She teaches graduate courses in American political theater and contemporary developments.

Fletcher earned her doctoral degree from Tufts University. She taught at Winthrop University in South Carolina, including “voyage teaching” during a “Semester at Sea.” Her publications include The New England Theatre Journal, Theatre Journal and Theatre Symposium.