New teaching methods keep Diane Mockridge’s approach fresh

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When Diane Mockridge, professor of history, won the Senior Class Award last spring for the second time in her Ripon College career, it was a testament that embodies respect.

The award is dedicated to professors who challenge their students to reach their full potential by extending learning to outside of the classroom. Honorees are chosen through a nomination process, and students of the Senior Class Board vote on and the faculty honoree each year.

Liz Walsh ’14, an English and biology major, nominated Mockridge. Within the nomination, she listed many attributes that point to Mockridge’s engaging teaching style and enduring dedication to students. Walsh is not majoring in history, but points to Mockridge’s dedication to all students, no matter what their major.

“Dr. Mockridge works hard to ensure that students can think critically, work creatively, communicate ideas in various manners, and see connections between different classes and disciplines,” Walsh says.

For the last 32 years, Mockridge has taught at Ripon College. With assistance from fellow teachers, annual workshops, and Associated Colleges of the Midwest conferences, she has begun to see teaching as a “collaborative enterprise,” she says. “I am grateful that I ended up at a college that takes teaching seriously and encourages their professors to examine their pedagogical approaches and pushes us to try new methods.”

Such methods include team-teaching and practical examinations of history. Within Mockridge’s Greek and Roman Society course, for example, students explore Ripon’s Classical Antiquities Collection, which includes Greek, Roman and Etruscan vases and Roman coins. “I so enjoy watching the students do a hands-on (gloved, that is) activity with objects more than 2,000 years old,” Mockridge says.

These new exploratory methods encourage students to play an active role in their learning. Within Mockridge’s courses, students can participate in a fictive historical trial, complete with medieval wear. Students begin to think critically about the people’s lives they are presenting.

“These kinds of activities require students to problem solve, to think analytically and, most importantly, to have a historical imagination — they have to think about issues as if they lived in that time and culture in order to complete the activity,” Mockridge says.

Sara Driebel ’16 experienced a fictive trial for Lancelot and Guinevere in the Uses of the Arthurian Legend course. “I learned how to analyze sources and think like a historian,” Driebel says.

Driebel plans to become a social studies teacher and looks to Mockridge for guidance. “Dr. Mockridge is definitely a teaching role model for me,” Driebel says. “She really showed me the importance of discussion in a classroom and how to make each day a different lesson. She is always so passionate and knowledgeable.”

In addition to teaching, Mockridge advises students. Morgan Burns ’14 majored in psychology and history, and Mockridge served as her academic and senior seminar adviser. Both of them are interested in medieval history, and Mockridge provided an understanding of Burns’ professional and personal interests. This collaboration gave Burns many “ideas so I was never really ‘stuck’ with what I should do.”

With an intimate teacher-student ratio of less than 12:1, Ripon College students and professors have the opportunity to truly get to know one another. “Dr. Mockridge does not limit personally working and guiding students to her advisees,” says Walsh. “She strives to build personal relationships with every student she comes across. This makes her extremely approachable.”

Next semester, Mockridge will teach Arthurian Legends, a topics course in Western Spirituality, an introductory history course, and the Old Italy, New Italy In Focus program abroad along with President Zach Messitte. The In Focus program will bring together past and current students from a variety of disciplines.

Mockridge looks forward to the next semester to continue “getting to know my students as individuals and watching them grow and develop over the four years here.”

Kaylie Longley ’15
St. Francis, Wisconsin