2020 Excellence in Teaching for Early Career Faculty Award – Liz Clarke

Liz Clarke Early Career Teaching Award 2020

Dr. Liz Clarke, Communications, Pop Culture & Film

Liz Clarke has been an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film since 2017. She has a background in film and television studies and teaches courses across a range of narrative media. Her favorite course examines the history of serial media from dime novels to television, and beyond.

Clarke uses her love of film and television to encourage students’ critical engagement with popular culture. Using cultural theories that interrogate classism, misogyny, transphobia, ablism, colonialism, and racism in popular film and television, Clarke doesn’t believe the classroom is a space to prepare students for the “real world” but, rather, a space to show students that it is possible for them to build a better world. In other words, by modelling that compassion can coexist with rigor and with learning, Clarke hopes that students will walk away with alternative ideas for existing in a collaborative workspace.

For example, when converting to emergency online teaching for the Fall of 2020, Clarke created a “crowd-sourced” final take home exam. While all students were required to submit their own paper, there was a forum available on Sakai early in the semester so that they could workshop ideas, share analysis, and contribute to each other’s learning.

Assignment design is another passion for Prof. Clarke. Her assignments combine the use of digital archives, creative choices, and secondary research to introduce students to the film industry beyond just the film text. Her “Build-a-Theater Assignment” asks students to make decisions about movie theater management from the silent period (1895-1927), including programming films, advertising, choosing seating, music, and other such elements. Making use of exhibitors’ trade journals freely available online allows students to learn about films from the silent era that no longer exist and to understand cinema-going in historical periods. Likewise, an assignment “Writing the Photoplay Assignment” asks students to research screenwriting manuals from the 1910s to write a scenario according to historical practices. Both assignments are featured in the Teaching tools section of Media History Digital Library.

Of her assignments, Sarah Matheson writes “Many of Professor Clarke’s assignments ask students to think critically about the “big picture” issues related to the organization and structuring of her courses and she often uses non-traditional methods to inspire them to visualize how what they are learning fits within the larger discipline of film studies.” Katherine Spring, Associate Professor of Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University writes, “Liz always seems to be on the forefront of thinking about how to integrate recent discoveries in our discipline into her teaching strategies.”


“I will always have fond and thankful memories of my time in Professor Clarke’s classes.”

“Professor Clarke is a teacher that is always acting with the best interest of her students and their education in mind.

“As a teaching assistant, I am most appreciative of Dr. Clarke for clearly establishing the connections between lecture materials and seminar content. Not only does this allow the TA to imagine themselves as part of a team, but it also allows students to actively work with and engage with lecture materials. They become more than something that is just heard. In this sense, Dr. Clarke’s courses are holistic. All the parts of her courses work together as a whole.”

“It is always gratifying to get to work with someone who is passionate about what they are teaching, and Liz was able to bring so much passion to her class every single week.”