Malik awarded teaching prize

Professor Arun S. Malik called on professors to spend more time mentoring students as he accepted the annual 2002 Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Teaching Award Friday in the Media and Public Affairs building.

In his acceptance speech, Malik, a tenured associate professor of economics, explained to the sparsely filled auditorium that his teaching philosophy is a product of learning from others.

“I was influenced very heavily by what I appreciated about my teachers,” Malik said. “I tried not to repeat mistakes of teachers I didn’t appreciate.”

Malik, who has taught at GW for a decade, praised his colleagues and students during his speech, noting the “culture of high-quality teaching” at GW faculty and the high expectations students have for teachers.

Commenting on the difficulties of teaching, Malik pointed out that no formal training in education or teaching certification is required to become a professor. He said he did not have the benefit of serving as a teacher’s assistant and learned how to teach from his students and fellow professors.

Malik said his undergraduate education at Bowdoin College in Maine helped him realize the importance of being accessible and establishing relationships with students.

He said he attempts to recreate that atmosphere at GW by holding review sessions on nights before exams and mentoring students on major choices like career decisions.

“I don’t believe good teachers are immaculately conceived,” Malik said, referring to the need for constant improvement.

Students need to see teachers think out loud and know that teachers can be fallible, he said, noting his grading style pushes students to work harder and earn A’s and B’s in his courses.

“Tough grading combined with fairness can motivate students,” Malik said. “Tough grading combined with arbitrary grade assignments frustrates them.”

He closed his speech by emphasizing the importance of faculty collaboration.

Malik said teachers should learn from each other so that students will want to learn from them, and he encouraged faculty to discuss course materials and seek advice from their colleagues.

The $1,000 award was established in 1990 by University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg to honor his parents.

The 2001 award went to Peter Rollberg, associate professor of Slavic languages. Terry Hufford, professor of botany, received the 2000 award.

Trachtenberg said the ceremony was enjoyable but noted that student attendance was low.

“I’d like to see more people, especially from students who claim to care about the quality of teaching,” he said.

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