Environment and Society (Fall 2017, CU Boulder)
Race, Class, Gender, and Crime (Fall 2018, CU Boulder)
Sociology GPTI Teaching Observation Form
GPTI:____Laurent Cilia________ Date 11/28/2018
Faculty mentor: _____David Pyrooz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Course: SOCY 3044: Race, class, gender, and crime
As you observe the GPTI instructor, please consider these questions and feel free to add additional observations. Provide specific examples wherever possible.
- Based on a review of the syllabus and your observation, does this class seem like it is being taught at the appropriate level for a lower/upper division course?
Yes. The learning objectives are clearly detailed in the syllabus. The class climate expectations are also spelled out very clearly. Students are given the opportunity to select one of 10 leading social science books on crime, punishment, and inequities that they could write about for the “book analysis” component of the class. This seems reasonable to me for a 3000 level course. The course schedule is clearly organized into class topic, readings/podcasts, guest speakers, and assignments. The mixture of podcasts and guest speakers brings healthy variation in the course content. The podcasts were quite good (e.g., the Tim Ferriss podcast on visiting a maximum security prison), as are the guest speakers (e.g., Mike Radelet on capital punishment, an Amnesty International speaker on “environmental justice”). The content covered in the classroom seemed appropriate as well, demonstrating the care and thought put into the class.
- How organized was the class?
I was impressed with the organization of the class. Laurent showed up about 5 minutes early, as did most students. He seemed comfortable and in control of the class (e.g., sitting on the table, jotting down notes). Students were not talking amongst themselves or ignoring Laurent, likely a sign of their respect for him. He has a great demeanor in the classroom.
The screen opened up with three components that he was addressing: the readings and podcast, the core content (restorative justice), and the book analysis assignment. He started by reminding students to check their grades and the need to work on their papers, owing to the impending due date. He also reminded students about a point that he neglected to make in the prior class about distributive justice, highlighting how it is more than about economic outcomes. He then jumped into the main components of the class, which was a mix of discussing a podcast, a video and discussion, and lecture material that stemmed from the video. He concluded the class by requiring students to discuss with a classmate the main points from the book they selected. This was, in my view, a fantastic approach to keep students accountable, as some groups were much quieter than others who engaged in substantive conversation.
It doesn’t appear that laptops were allowed in class (and cell phones), which perhaps kept the class more focused. Laurent also did a good job reminding students not to write down every single word from his PPT slides, instead focusing on main themes from the lecture. Disallowing technology in the classroom could backfire. It’s hard to pinpoint whether or not this was the case for Laurent (I don’t think it was), but it appeared as if a lot of students left the classroom for such a short period. This is a problem that all instructors face, and Laurent didn’t seemed fazed by people coming and going, nor did the other students.
- Based on the material being covered, do you think the candidate used effective teaching techniques?
Absolutely. The Tim Ferriss podcast was supposed to be a topic of discussion, but there was an issue where it appeared as if Laurent didn’t post the url on Canvas. This could have been frustrating, as it appeared that this podcast was the launch point for a good discussion about humanizing prisoners, setting the stage for the restorative justice discussion. Laurent seemed a little frustrated (I know the feeling, and I wanted to jump out of my seat and help him out), but he handled this hiccup well. He gave the class a brief overview of the podcast, then he transitioned into the writing component of the class, where students were required to write about the “Obama 8” (the first eight people commuted by Obama for conviction of drug crimes). This writing assignment then led into a discussion of a life story shared by one of the Obama 8. Many students jumped into this conversation, and the facts of the life stories were discussed.
Laurent then shifted to the lecture component of the class, which had its ups and downs. The PPT addressed the “purpose of punishment,” which in turn was used as a launch point for restorative justice. He introduced his own anecdotes, including his bike getting stolen in the previous week. Laurent nicely integrated a video on restorative justice practices in the UK into the PPT slides, and the video was really good—clear, brief (5 minutes), and effective. That led into a really good class discussion of the video, where students shared their thoughts about restorative justice practices used on the CU campus, in Longmont, and in Nordic countries. Laurent, as well as a few students, linked this to responses to genocide in Kosovo and Rwanda (and I learned a few things here). Then Laurent transitioned back to his PPT, where he delivered the remaining portions of the lecture on punishment and restorative justice, including interweaving his experience with his bike getting stolen to restorative justice.
The final part of class covered the book analysis papers, where students discussed their papers in small groups. Although many students left early (as I learned later than some notified Laurent beforehand about the need to leave), many also stuck around to elicit feedback from Laurent as well as other students. Most students seemed to value the chance to talk about their papers.
- Were the students engaged in the class, and did they seem to understand the material being presented?
Yes. Although there were some silent moments when Laurent posed questions, his reactions to this convinced me that the students had an off day. Perhaps a consequence of visiting his class three days after the fall break. But Laurent kept pushing for the class to engage. Indeed, during the lecture, it was a little quiet, so Laurent had the class stand up and stretch. These tactics could backfire, potentially distracting the class to other personal conversations, but it seemed to work. The lecture picked up from that point forward, and even more students contributed to the discussion. My estimate is that nearly half the students spoke over the course of class, which is impressive for a classroom with 50 or so students.
- Did the instructor establish an atmosphere conducive to learning and trust?
It was clear to me that students wanted to learn and trusted Laurent in this capacity. The students asked a lot of questions and they responded to a number of questions posed by Laurent. His demeanor in the classroom is confident and respectful. It felt like a welcoming environment for students. A student asked him about how restorative justice works when offenders are involved in victimless crimes. Laurent said that he did not know, jotted down a note, and said that he would look it up. It is encouraging to see a young scholar willing to say “I don’t know” rather than dancing around the question or providing an inaccurate answer. Despite the hiccups and the slow start, this was a great showing on Laurent’s part. This is far more than I can saying about my own teaching experiences in grad school.
- Other comments?
My minor comment would be to suggest that Laurent improve the presentation of information on the PPT slides. In some instances there was a lot of writing on a single slide, which made it hard to follow. This was even more challenging when the font on the slides was white against a white/blue faded background. Of course, I recognize that this is a new prep for Laurent, and I would encourage him to continue to improve the visual content of the course.
Environment and Society (Spring 2019)
To Whom It May Concern:
I have reviewed Mr. Cilia’s materials and syllabus for SOCY 2077 (Environment and Society) and observed his class on January 30, 2019. Based on this information and his students’ feedback, I have concluded that he is an outstanding teacher.
The format and assignments chosen for the class struck me as fitting and, based on my knowledge of the sub-area, the selected readings and topics seemed representative of existing scholarship. At the session I attended, Mr. Cilia’s lecture was very well-organized, he presented his material in a very calm, deliberate, and well-paced fashion, and made effective use of group and classroom discussion. I especially appreciated how he framed the session by posing from the outset the question he would answer and then explaining why his answer to it would likely challenge students’ assumptions. It was a very effective technique. Students struck me as very engaged and respectful of others’ opinions, which I attribute to Mr. Cilia’s ability to create interest in the topic and his classroom management skills.
In general, I am very impressed by Mr. Cilia’s classroom materials and his skill as a teacher. I am convinced that he is an excellent instructor that CU Boulder is fortunate to have as a member of its team.
Professor of Sociology
Director of Social Innovation Program
Director of Care, Health, and Resilience Program
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute Fellow
University of Colorado Boulder
Introduction to Sociology (Fall 2019, Front Range Community College)
October 1, 2019
RE: Laurent Cilia
Our names are Kristy Stearns, lead sociology faculty, and Joe Brenkert, instructional coach, at Front Range Community College (FRCC) in Westminster, Colorado. It is with sincere pleasure that we write a letter of recommendation on behalf of Mr. Laurent Cilia.
Mr. Cilia was recently hired to complement our sociology adjunct cohort at FRCC, and we could not have imagined a more fitting choice to teach our students. Not only does he bring his rich knowledge of environmental sociology to the classroom, he intentionally approaches the craft of teaching by keeping the experience of the students at the forefront of his instruction.
We recently observed Mr. Cilia teach an Introduction to Sociology course and were inspired by the manner with which he interacts with his students and his ability to interweave the environmental crisis and other seemingly ’unrelated’ sociology concepts seamlessly into his lessons. This demonstrates his ability to be innovative in the classroom and to show, not just tell, students how relevant sociology is in every aspect of social life.
Mr. Cilia speaks with authority and is able to elaborate on the course competencies. His approachable demeanor and ease with which he communicates appears to help students feel comfortable with him and the material. Mr. Cilia consistently probes students to demonstrate their understanding of concepts and to critically analyze topics from a variety of perspectives. Mr. Cilia gets all voices to participate and is conscientious to include the entire class in the conversation.
Mr. Cilia is appropriate and professional in his demeanor and presentation while appearing approachable and actively engaged with students in a friendly manner. He is encouraging and respectful of students when they contribute and gives space for students to gracefully reflect if their thoughts are not on target with the concepts. Mr. Cilia is exceptionally dynamic in the classroom and he appears to have a good rapport with the class. For example, he joked how he was a having a ‘good vocabulary day’ when he offered synonyms to several students when they attempted to clarify their thoughts. The entire class laughed with him. On a side note, in addition to his delivery, Mr. Cilia’s status as a non-native English-speaking immigrant may resonate with students and perhaps allow them to feel a stronger connection to the class.
In summary, the key strengths Mr. Cilia brings to the classroom are:
- His expertise, organization and engaging presentation.
- His authority, which demands students’ respect and interest to learn. This is evidenced by the fact his students were attentive and several actively participated at various points during the class.
- His creativity in making connections to content by bringing in current events and demonstrating how they relate to sociological constructs.
- The encouraging way he approaches students when they participate and how he repeatedly attempts to create an environment for others to participate is commendable. While he does not force students to participate, he encourages their engagement through his words, welcoming smile, and direct eye contact. He also uses humor appropriately, which appears to help students feel at ease.
- His class policies requiring students to remain actively involved with the content due to multiple writing assignments. This is outstanding as it allows students to learn, not just memorize, the content and grow in their abilities to write and critically think.
These, in addition to Mr. Cilia’s passion for the environment, sociology, and teaching excellence, all compel us to recommend him highly and without reservation. Mr. Laurent Cilia will make a phenomenal addition to any department fortunate to hire him.
Kristy Stearns Joe Brenkert
Lead Faculty Instructional Coach
Front Range Community College Front Range Community CollegeWestminster Campus Westminster Campus