UCR Associate Professor of Sociology Receives Teaching Award

UCR sociologist Karen Pyke earns the Dean S. Dorn Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award from the Pacific Sociological Association

Interactive teaching that integrates lectures, student-led small group discussions, and panels have earned Karen Pyke, associate professor of sociology, the Dean S. Dorn Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award from the Pacific Sociological Association. The award, which was presented April 3 at the association’s meeting in Long Beach, honors individuals whose distinctions as teachers have made a significant impact on how sociology is taught.

Karen Pyke

Karen Pyke

In 2014 Pyke received UCR’s Innovation Teaching Award, which is presented to faculty who demonstrate exceptional effort and achievement in teaching innovation. She also was nominated to join the UCR Distinguished Teaching Academy, which recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding teachers and provides a range of services to help other UCR faculty members to improve their work in the classroom.

Academy members serve as teaching mentors for new faculty and contribute to the culture of teaching by organizing and taking part in seminars, colloquia, and workshops.

Classroom evaluations and nominating letters from graduate and undergraduate students and a colleague at UC Irvine praised Pyke’s innovative teaching methods, high standards and mentorship.

“Her enthusiasm in teaching the subject is motivational,” a student in Pyke’s winter 2015 “Sociology of the Family” course wrote in an evaluation of the course. “She really cares about her students and her approach to teaching really demonstrates it. Professor Pyke gives her students the chance to apply what they have learned in class through student panels. In the panels, students are able to talk about their experiences while connecting them to concepts in the lecture.”

Ph.D. candidate Ian Breckenridge-Jackson wrote in a nominating letter for the Dorn teaching award that Pyke “employs a critical pedagogical approach that enables students to engage in active learning that is both effective and empowering. In a large lecture setting, Dr. Pyke resists the pull of passive learning and employs methods that encourage students to engage.”

For example, thematic student panels whose topics correspond with assigned readings encourage students to draw connections between academic material and lived experiences, he said. Her “passion for pedagogy is contagious,” he added, noting that he has adopted her innovative approaches in his own teaching.

UC Irvine sociology professor Judith Treas commended Pyke for mentoring young sociologists, including those at other campuses.

“Unlike the usual apprenticeship whereby the senior scholar brings graduate students to their own research as a second author, her flipped mentoring model required Pyke to gain expertise in the mentee’s chosen research area so as to provide relevant assistance. … This process helps the student to learn the nuts and bolts of article preparation while also establishing an independent research identity in their selected area of research.”

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