Distinguished Teaching Award Winner
Jerry Kang, professor of law
Kang has said that he tries hard not to romanticize students; in fact, he completely rejects the idea that one should teach “in ways that curry student favor, popularity or adoration.”
Yet despite that admission — or perhaps because of it — the students in his law classes idolize him anyway.
Kang embraces both “old school” and “new school” methods, the “old” being a strict Socratic teaching method in which he does not give information directly, but proceeds to ask questions with the goal of having his students answer them and thereby come to the desired knowledge on their own. He refuses to take substantive questions via e-mail and insists that students meet him in person during office hours.
He also endorses the “new,” however, and favors the use of technology in the classroom. Kang has said he is averse to chalk and relies on a computer projector and a suite of software programs to simulate a virtual blackboard. One of his favorites is MindManager, a visual outlining program that allows him to type in student comments and generate classroom diagrams and notes, which he later posts to his class webpage.
“Professor Kang’s reliance on a rigidly Socratic teaching method fosters an environment in which his students cannot avoid active participation. Thus, while his use of the Socratic method is intimidating and highly demanding, it is simultaneously responsible for promoting an evolution of language within the classroom,” wrote current student Jonathan Feingold. “As evidenced by the high quality of language our class was able to achieve by the end of the semester, Professor Kang’s teaching style produces profound results. He made us cognizant of the significance of every word choice and the need to be precise at all times.”
Warren Biro, Class of 2012, added his support of Kang’s nomination by describing the law professor’s innate ability to connect with his students. “Yes, he’s incredibly smart and gifted as a teacher, and yes, he’s very funny and his teaching techniques are wildly innovative,” he wrote. “But to me he’s a great teacher not because he conveys the material so well, but because he taught me a way to learn and grounded it in principle, humor and kindness.”
A UCLA faculty member since 1995, Kang teaches courses in civil procedure, communications law and policy, and Asian American jurisprudence. He is the winner of the Eby Award for the Art of Teaching.
“Students are most engaged when they are most challenged,” he said. “If you sprinkle in humor, pedagogical transparency and a self-evident commitment to their learning, they will rise to the educational occasion.”
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Read profiles of the other award winners:
professor and chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
, Psychology Department professor and measurement area chair