Year Awarded: 2014
College of Sciences
Nicholson School of Communication
As an instructor I use four specific pedagogical techniques to encourage an engaged environment: 1) remain organized, 2) develop examples connecting course content to salient student situations, 3) align course concepts with employment opportunities, and 4) be available to students. Organization may seem like a very basic piece of course development, but I remember the frustration of having professors who moved due dates, changed assignment point values, and rambled on tangents unrelated to course content. In part because of those experiences, I start every class period with a "plan of attack" where I summarize main points from the previous class period and preview upcoming material. This allows students to always remember where we have been and know where we are going. Without proper organization, even the most innovative teaching techniques fail to be effective; I plan ahead to keep course expectations clear and avoid potential issues during the semester.
Making research findings applicable to students can be a challenge, but instructing in a way that allows students to both grasp the material and give that material utility in their present lives and future career aspirations is essential. I strive to do this by discussing current events and hot topics, and by making connections to career paths. We discuss current campaigns and media happenings to demonstrate that communication theory has broad and meaningful applications. Hot topics such as politics, health care reform, propaganda, and sex in the media are both interesting to students and important in the communication field. I also realize that students do not remain students forever and will soon enter the workforce. I strive to illuminate communication careers and the pathways to these jobs in my classes. In fact, my Organizational Communication course has students select a potential job and prepare a cover letter and resume targeted for that job. This opens the door for students to informally discuss their career prospects and become more prepared for the job hunting process.
As a student I was encouraged at many stages by professors who cared about my academic and personal development; I strive to provide the same opportunities for my students. I often have students ask about job prospects or graduate school. I have also worked with former students on research projects. I value these experiences as they allow me to engage students in hands on research while demonstrating my approachability and highlighting the respect my students have for me as a professor. Overall, I am committed to engaging with my students, effectively communicating course concepts, adapting to changing class needs, and never becoming complacent about my teaching. I am not satisfied with just telling my students what to do and expecting them to do it; I get them actively involved in the learning process by making course content applicable in contexts in and outside of my classroom.