Newsletter Article

Prof. Laura Little receives UW Distinguished Teaching Award

Image of Laura Little
Professor Laura Little

Having long stood tall in the esteem of UW psychology students and faculty, Senior Lecturer Laura Little has been recognized by the University community with the 2005 UW Distinguished Teaching Award. Recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Awards have demonstrated mastery of their subject area, enthusiasm and innovation in their teaching methods, and the ability to inspire their students. “I love to teach,” says Dr. Little, reflecting on her work. “I have always found the intrinsic rewards to be more than enough,” she continues, “[however], I’ve been quite surprised at how much this big pat on the back has meant to me.”

Interestingly, teaching was not Dr. Little’s first career choice. Earning a law degree in 1981, she practiced criminal law for several years, developing a reputation as a specialist in cases involving scientific testimony and scientific evidence. After deciding to return to graduate school, Dr. Little became captivated by the study of statistics and probability. A professor recognized her potential and encouraged Dr. Little to pursue teaching. From that point, there was no turning back.

“As I look back on it now,” says Dr. Little, “I can see a very clear connection between my law practice, which was mostly at the appellate level, and my teaching career: I have always been especially interested in standards of proof and requirements to upholding a claim. The logical arguments are very similar across the two domains. How much evidence is sufficient to uphold a claim? How do we decide whether the evidence is sufficient?”

UW psychology majors will tell you that competition is keen for a seat in one of Dr. Little’s research methods or statistics classes. Students acclaim her passion for learning and her willingness to give personal attention. “I teach a way of looking at the world and a way of making decisions in the face of uncertainty. I never forget that I am offered a chance to improve students’ ability to think critically about important issues in their lives and their ability to make informed, data-based decisions,” says Dr. Little. “I feel humbled by my students’ trust in me, and I am inspired by their engagement in the process.”

Dr. Little reflects on the path that her career has taken, and then considers the impact of this recent award. “I feel very energized by it,” she says, “and—I think I’m even standing a few inches taller.”