Andrew Abbott wins 2017 Quantrell Award for Undergraduate Teaching

June 7, 2017 (last updated on November 21, 2019)

Andrew Abbott, the Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in Sociology and the College
By Andrew Bauld, Ryan Goodwin, Mark Peters, and Matt Wood | UChicago News

For Andrew Abbott, teaching isn’t about material.

“If you want to learn European history, you’re going to do that better by reading a book—and reading it again, and reading it again,” Abbott said. 

Instead, Abbott teaches skills. He wants students to learn how to read, how to think and how to make an argument. He finds too many undergraduates enter his class being able to make a point, but not summarize the idea of a classmate and then reframe it to make an argument against it.

“What a faculty member can actually do is teach you how to teach yourself, teach skills on how to think,” Abbott said. 

Abbott, AM’75, PhD’82, joined the UChicago faculty in 1991 with his research focusing on the professions. Over the last two decades, his work has shifted to focus on higher education, the evolution of knowledge and the development of libraries. The results include what he described as two “off-beat” textbooks—Methods of Discovery and Digital/Paper: A Manual for Research and Writing with Library and Internet Materials.

One skill that Abbott finds crucial to teach is the ability to sift through deluge of information students face today. “The answer to every question is staring you in the face, but so is a lot of other stuff that’s irrelevant and what you need is actual ideas in your head so that you can say ‘Oh, I should follow that,’” he said.

To learn more about the award and the other 2017 recipients, visit the UChicago News story.