Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2015

Faculty Award winner

Ann Miller

 College of Sciences

 Nicholson School of Communication

My goals in the classes I teach are for students to not only develop foundational knowledge and skills in the topic area, but also to develop enthusiasm about the subject, learn about themselves, and learn how to learn. Although these goals may be reached in different ways depending on the semester and the course, I try to build one commonality through most of my classes--I typically place a strong emphasis on having students gather either primary data or firsthand experience about the subject they are studying. For example, students in my intercultural communication class have spent 15 hours over the course of the semester participating as conversation partners with international students at the Barbara Ying Center. Students in my health communication classes have used software produced by the Centers for Disease Control to collect background information and strategize communication objectives on a specific health issue, then conducted formative research on the topic before collaborating with an Advertising/Public Relations Capstone class to develop and present multi-media messaging. In my "Decentering the Self" class, students decided on, arranged, and carried out a service project with a local Veterans Administration community center.

My involvement with undergraduate research is an extension of this commitment. In a field like communication where research labs are rare, undergraduate research teams can be formed via the mechanism of research-based independent studies. This gives students a chance to become full (if less experienced) team members, and get mentoring in specific skills. On these teams we conduct peer critiques, with students giving each other and me specific and probing feedback about questionnaire design, sampling, and so on. The end goal for students on these teams has been to produce a poster presentation for the UCF Showcase of Research Excellence, a presentation at a regional or national conference, and/or a co-authored publication.

I've been teaching undergraduate students for nearly 20 years, but I find myself constantly stretching with each new semester to determine the best way to reach the particular type of students in the specific subject area of each class. Whatever the specific details of the project, though, I believe that by dealing with a phenomenon firsthand students can develop an intuitive understanding of an issue that transcends reading the textbook, listening to my lectures, and even class discussion. I hope that they learn not only cognitively, but also affectively, and that they add to their repertoire of skills so that in future classes or careers they can be more effective at gathering knowledge for themselves.