The following faculty members received Creative Teaching Grants in 2010-2011. Scroll down to read summaries of their projects.
- Nikolay Brodskiy (Department of Mathematics)
- Beth Cooper (Department of Psychology)
- Steven Dandaneau and Elizabeth East (Department of Sociology)
- Kate Jones (Department of Physics and Astronomy)
- Ramón León (Department of Statistics, Operations, and Management Science)
- Cary Staples (School of Art)
- Carl Wagner (Department of Mathematics)
- Courtney Wright (Department of Communication Studies)
Nikolay Brodskiy, in the Department of Mathematics, introduced a multi-scale structure to his Calculus III course by developing additional perspectives on the material. Because Brodskiy believes that calculus is not just a course, but a tool that will help students understand other phenomena, he chose to incorporate three additional points of view into the class: algebra, geometry, and physics. He explained each problem using these three points of view to engage his students on a new level. Brodskiy takes homework questions via Google Documents, which allows students to ask about a specific part of the problem with which they need assistance. His lectures are available on youtube.com for current and future students and are also linked to corresponding lecture notes which further enhance his electronic textbook.
Beth Cooper, in the Department of Psychology, redesigned her Research Methods (PSYC 395) course to incorporate active student participation so that she could stop talking and her students could start doing. To encourage students to take greater responsibility for their learning, Cooper divided the class into groups of two or three and rotated group membership throughout the semester to increase interaction among students. The groups worked collaboratively and students were graded on both team projects and individual assignments. The new design brought positive results. Cooper, who described her role in the new course as a “consultant,” observed higher levels of attendance, better student evaluations, and increased student engagement.
Steven Dandaneau and Elizabeth East
Steven Dandaneau, in the Department of Sociology, along with graduate student Elizabeth East, offered an innovative sociology class which embodied the ideal of ‘co-creation of value’ in the classroom. Dandaneau added nine ‘high-achieving’ sociology majors as volunteer teaching assistants to Introduction to Sociology. The course emphasized student responsibility and involvement: students participated in self-guided research and even selected some of the content taught in the course, which covered topics such as cultural genocide and the “sociology of birth and death.” With this approach, Dandaneau was able to effectively engage students on deeper intellectual and personal levels, which created an engaged learning community.
Kate Jones, in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, revised the structure of her Physics 341 course to incorporate group research projects so that students could extend the foundational material in course texts by investigating and sharing current ideas and research in the field of nuclear physics. She did this through group assignments that included both a write-up and an in-class presentation component. To facilitate collaborative success, Jones first instructed the groups on how to assign individual roles and, second, incorporated questionnaires to evaluate group processes. This allowed students to offer their feedback on the challenges and successes of the group.
Ramón León, in the Department of Statistics, Operations, and Management Science redesigned his Statistics 201 course using a systems thinking approach. In his lectures, he uses PowerPoint presentations designed with cognitive principles in mind (control of salience, memory, scaffolding, and sequencing information). He emphasizes sequenced ideas, clear and uncluttered visual representations surrounded by white space, and presentation of information in logical stages. León also provided students with a variety of learning resources, including video clips, web technologies, visual images, and even stand up comedy. He obtained formative feedback from his students through regular surveys, and kept the resources that students responded to most positively.
Cary Staples, in the School of Art, redesigned her The Idea of Design course from a skill-and-drill environment to one inspired by video games and practical application, which provided analysis and reflection components that modeled successful design practice. In the course, Staples used ‘gamification’ techniques to encourage her students—‘players’—to take greater risks and customize their experiences. Using interactive experiences for her students, including mind maps, scavenger hunts, and posters without words, Staples successfully engaged her students and allow them to experience problem identification, observation, analysis, and even failure. Results of her project are included in her online visual report at: http://issuu.com/carystaples/docs/tlc.
Carl Wagner, in the Department of Mathematics, wanted to engage students by having them connect math to the real world. To do this, he adopted a new text: Mathematics and Politics: Strategy, Voting Power and Proof by Taylor and Pacelli. Wagner hypothesized that by applying tools of mathematics to real-life scenarios, the students would gain a deeper and more-connected understanding of mathematical reasoning. Students found the course to be a very positive experience; comments from student evaluations described the class as “intellectually stimulating,” “relatable,” “interesting,” “enjoyable,” and “something different.” Another student remarked, “math isn’t always just numbers; we use math…everywhere.”
Courtney Wright, in the School of Communication Studies, redesigned her Interpersonal Conflict (CMST 419) course to increase student understanding of diversity and technology in conflict situations and to replace individual research with engaging team-based activities. For example, in groups, students developed case studies that illustrated a real-world communication and conflict situation. A second group then researched the issues in the case study, wrote an analysis, and presented their work at the end of the semester. By balancing additional content on diversity and technology with the general objectives of the interpersonal conflict course, these learning activities provided opportunities for students to experience firsthand the very communication and conflict issues they explored in class.