Joanne Robinson's syllabi over the past fifteen years tell the story of her pedagogical journey. She admits that when she first began teaching students fresh out of graduate school, she taught them as she had been taught: largely through "teacher-centered" lectures and traditional forms of assessment. Over time, she began to realize that the classroom is a space where students can begin to explore new identities and ideas. This recognition allowed Dr. Robinson "to embrace a vision of the classroom as a place for learning how to take chances, for testing out new knowledge, and for playing with ideas." By designing differentiated assignments and new platforms for instruction, she could "stretch the walls of the classroom creatively into the world."
Since joining the Department of Religious Studies faculty 1996, Dr. Robinson has received an impressive number of teaching-related awards and grants. At UNC Charlotte, she was nominated by her students and received the B.E.S.T. (Building Educational Strengths and Talents) Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2008 and became a University College Faculty Fellow in 2010-2011. The Wabash Center in Indiana, an institution dedicated to promoting a sustained conversation about pedagogy in the fields of religion and theology, awarded Dr. Robinson a grant to participate in the Wabash Center Mid-Career Colloquy for Faculty Teaching in Colleges and Universities in 2008-2009; she also received an award to participate in the Wabash Center Colloquy on Writing on the Scholarship of Teaching (2010-2011), for which she engaged in a year-long process of critical reflection on writing in the areas of teaching and learning. Most recently, Dr. Robinson received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop a course focused on the question "How is the World Ordered?"
The key to Dr. Robinson's success as a teacher, she says, is transparency; by ensuring that the goals and outcomes of the course are transparent, she establishes a classroom ethos of mutual respect and high expectation. Dr. Robinson is also able to extend this engaged and collegial intellectual atmosphere beyond the classroom. Her students describe weekly informal gatherings hosted by Dr. Robinson in which interested graduate and undergraduate students stop by her office for "playtime," where they ask questions, discuss related issues, and exchange ideas. Students describe playtime as a productive environment for intellectual interaction. A graduate student, a frequent playtime attendee, writes that "Dr. Robinson brings enthusiasm and openness to active student engagement that encourages a free exchange of ideas and diversity of perspective that make the course material accessible and interesting." By creating a stimulating environment, Dr. Robinson has been able to cultivate a practice of intellectual courage and creativity among her students, achieving her goal of instilling "analytical sophistication about complex issues, even in the absence of solutions or agreement."
James D. Tabor, Chair of Religious Studies, describes her impressive teaching accomplishments: "I think I can say without the slightest exaggeration that no faculty member I know of, in our department or outside of it, has had more of a high quality educational, inspirational, and life-mentoring influence on students than Prof. Joanne Robinson."