Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2015

Faculty Award winner

Amy Donley

 College of Sciences

 Sociology

In any class I teach, I believe that it is essential to engage students and facilitate their ability to be active learners. To accomplish this I use an interactive teaching approach relying on the use of several different teaching methods, as I believe education only occurs when students are thoroughly involved in the learning process. Moreover, because students learn in different ways, the implementation of several different methods allows all students to excel. These methods include lecture, open discussions, relevant readings, in-class activities, presentations, and the integration of technology. No matter the method, to fully engage the students I believe it is essential to convey my own passion for the material. It is my interest, preparation, and knowledge that stimulate interest among the students.

The two courses I teach most often, Sociological Research Methods and Data Analysis, afford me the unique opportunity to teach the same group of students two semesters in a row. Each student selects an appropriate topic for research and completes a study, from inception to presentation. Feedback from evaluations student comments have indicated that one-on-one interaction is vital to their success and is one of the things students appreciate most. I believe it is essential to be accessible and available to them. While teaching the core courses in a face-to-face setting allows me to implement my teaching philosophy, I also teach classes in the online environment. This has challenged me to find ways to engage students without the benefit of meeting in a classroom.

I believe the role of an educator extends beyond the classroom, and as a result I have dedicated a lot of my time to mentoring students, particularly undergraduates, in their research endeavors. While I actively seek out opportunities for students to conduct research outside of the classroom and support them throughout the process, I do not allow this to detract from the overall student engagement class. I am very aware that not all students want to, or can be, involved in outside research activities, and I ensure that they are given a meaningful experience in the classroom.

I have been, and continue to be, very active in several UCF research programs. What I am most proud of, though, is my development of a department-backed initiative to take a large group of undergraduate scholars to the annual meeting of the Southern Sociological Society (SSS). While this endeavor takes a lot of time every year in mentoring the students who will be presenting, it is definitely worth the effort expended. Assisting talented undergraduates in taking the research projects that they have designed and executed in the classroom to a professional conference allows me to take teaching to a higher level.