Allison Turner

Society of Fellows in the Humanities
Columbia University

Teaching Biography

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Courses Taught

Instructor / Wasteland: Literature, Aesthetics, Environment

  • Environmental Studies Program and the Department of English, Rice University, Fall 2018

  • Enrollment in course: fourteen undergraduate students, including one auditor

I designed the syllabus for this course, as well as all assignments and class materials. I am currently teaching this course as part of the Environmental Studies Program at Rice. The majority of students in my class are science majors. Working with this group of students has been a profound and positive experience for me. It has forced me to be very clear about articulating the goals of humanistic inquiry, and it has given me the opportunity to develop class exercises and activities designed to teach diverse students how to analyze texts and other cultural objects. On the first day of our class, I began by asking students to introduce themselves by sharing about a memorable time they spent in nature. This was an engaging exercise for the students, and it also gave me the chance to learn a surprising amount about them. It allowed me to see that they were a group of people who cared deeply about environmental issues and felt a strong attachment to the natural world. Over the course of the semester, I have built upon this energy while also introducing students to a new set of critical tools for understanding humans’ relations with the natural world. In addition to learning concrete skills (e.g., how to read and writing critically), my students are learning to understand that ideas about nature are historically and culturally situated. At the same time, they are learning to analyze the ways in which ideas about nature both shape and reflect social structures and cultural understandings. View the syllabus for this course here.

Preceptor / Mellon Mays Summer Research Program

  • Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, University of Chicago, Summers 2016 and 2017

  • Enrollment in precept groups: 13 undergraduate students across two sections

As a preceptor with the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) Summer Research Program, I teach and mentor a group of students on independent research projects over a ten-week period. The Mellon Mays Program is an initiative aimed at increasing diversity in higher education institutions. My students in this program come from a variety of schools (the University of Chicago and other research institutions, as well as small liberal arts colleges). Each summer, their fields and research interests have varied widely, from English, Comparative Literature, and Classics, to Art History, Theater and Performance Studies, and Sociology. The majority of MMUF students hope to enter doctoral programs in the humanities and social sciences. My job, as a preceptor, is to lead students through the process of writing a research proposal essay—from developing a research problem, to finding sources and working with evidence, to drafting and final revisions. Working with these students has been an extremely rewarding experience, and I value the relationships I have formed with them.

Instructor / Writing Subjects: Authorship, Authority, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel

  • Department of English, University of Chicago, Fall 2016

  • Enrollment in course: four undergraduate students

 I designed the syllabus for this course, as well as all assignments and classroom materials. Despite our small size, it was a very successful course. Students participated regularly and enthusiastically in class discussions, and they learned to think about the eighteenth century as a period in which the notion of a self-determined identity was complicated and inflected by social categories like race and gender, power relations, and the demands of writing and reading. Throughout the course, students kept a commonplace book, in which they recorded and categorized passages that interested them. The structure of our classroom meetings varied from week to week, but I worked in each session to guide our discussions with exercises aimed at helping students analyze the formal features of texts. In addition to lively conversation, debates and think-pair-share work, we also experimented with more creative approaches to understanding our texts. We tried, for instance, acting out one of the slapstick scenes in Frances Burney’s novel Evelina. This exercise turned out to be both fun and illuminating—it gave us the chance to assess the different capacities of theater and narrative fiction, especially as they relate to our perception of irony and embodiment. View the syllabus for this course here.

Course Assistant / Shakespeare: Tragedies and Romances

  • Department of English, University of Chicago, Spring 2016

  • Instructor: Professor Timothy Harrison

  • Enrollment in course: 57 undergraduate students

  • Enrollment in discussion section: 16 undergraduate students

In this course, I had the opportunity to work with students from a variety of majors, many of whom were already passionate about Shakespeare. In weekly discussion sections, I worked to build upon students’ enthusiasm—to give them resources for seeing how rhetorical tropes, poetic language, and staging decisions contribute to our sense of a play’s meaning. I also met with students outside of class to help them develop argumentative claims for their assignments, and I offered detailed feedback on both drafts and final papers throughout the course.

Course Assistant / Introduction to Fiction

  • Department of English, University of Chicago, Fall 2015

  • Instructor: Professor Timothy Campbell

  • Enrollment in course: 55 undergraduate students

  • Enrollment in discussion section: 18 undergraduate students

In this course, designed as a gateway course for prospective English majors, I led weekly discussion sections that helped students develop competency analyzing fiction and other narrative forms. Together, we worked through texts by a range of authors, from John Bunyan and Jane Austen, to James Joyce, Gabriel García Márquez, and Patrick McCabe. In addition to their regular assignments, students in my section gave group presentations once during the quarter, which allowed them to play a more active role in directing our discussions. Groups met with me prior to their presentations so that I could help guide them toward questions that would open up our class discussions in productive ways. These presentations were useful both for establishing relationships with the students and for getting them to engage with each other about class topics and texts. I gave each of the students in my section detailed feedback on their final essay or creative project (one of the most memorable of which was a reality television adaptation of Austen’s Emma).

Course Assistant / Jane Austen and Criticism

  • Department of English, University of Chicago, Spring 2015

  • Instructor: Professor Heather Keenleyside

  • Enrollment in course: 14 undergraduate students

This research-based seminar was designed to provide third-year students with the research and writing skills to produce a thesis in the following year. In our regular sessions, I assisted the instructor in guiding class discussion on Austen’s fiction and literary criticism ranging from Walter Scott to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. I also led two additional reading workshops that helped students learn to read and think with literary criticism. Throughout the course, I advised students in individual meetings on the process of research and writing—from generating paper topics and abstracts to final revisions. I gave students detailed feedback on two critical précis and their research papers.

Awards and Credentials

College Teaching Certificate / Summer 2018

  • Chicago Center for Teaching, University of Chicago

Over the course of my graduate training, I completed the requirements for the College Teaching Certificate through the University of Chicago’s Center for Teaching (CCT). To earn the certificate, I participated in a series of programs, exercises, and conversations that allowed me to reflect critically on college teaching and my own practices in particular. Through my experiences with the CCT, I developed a meaningful, student-centered approach to teaching, which is expressed in my teaching statement.

Stuart Tave Teaching Fellowship / Spring 2018

  • Humanities Division, University of Chicago

My course “Wasteland: Literature, Aesthetics, Environment” was selected for this teaching fellowship, which is awarded each year to up to five courses designed by graduate students in the Humanities Division.

Professional Development

Rice First Network Supporter Training / Fall 2018

  • Student Success Initiatives, Rice University

I attended a training session on ways to support first-generation and low-income students, both in the classroom and in their larger college experiences. The strategies I learned ranged from communicating transparently about goals and assignments to using affirming, encouraging language to help students develop the confidence and competence they need to thrive in their college experiences.   

Race and Pedagogies Working Group / Fall 2017

  • University of Chicago

As a participant in the Race and Pedagogies Working Group, I attended events and contributed to conversations on topics such as “Teaching Race in the Core,” “Antiracist Pedagogy: Here and Now,” and “Teaching Race and Religion.”

Seminar and Workshop on Course Design / Fall 2015

  • Chicago Center for Teaching

Course: Pedagogies of Writing / Summer 2015

  • University of Chicago Writing Program

Course: Teaching Undergraduate English / Winter 2015

  • Department of English, University of Chicago