Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2017

Faculty Award winner

Amanda Groff

 College of Sciences


With differing learning styles, varied background knowledge, and biases, but that these diverse perspectives can actually enrich the learning environment. As such, my role is to create a virtual classroom in which this sharing of learning and discovery flourishes.

A strength of the virtual classroom is its incorporation of technology, which affords the ability to expand instructional methods. Thus, my goal is to integrate online technologies that build an environment where students aren’t simply observing the content being presented to them; rather, it encourages them to become active participants in their own learning. As a result of my active participation with the Center for Distributed Learning (CDL) as a Fellow and online designer, I have developed new assignments and discussions which encourage students to step outside the bounds of their own culture and assumptions and engage each other in thoughtful conversation. Having students interact online in meaningful ways is critical as it facilitates their growth as scholars, and most importantly, as critical thinkers and a community of learners. This can be a challenge in fully online courses; however, using student video presentations, interactive group assignments, and discussion boards to facilitate and encourage this kind of learning has proved successful. Additionally, I strive to construct assignments that encourage students to engage in real-world skills, like GIS mapping, critical thinking, and interpretative analysis of anthropologically-based subjects. Utilizing these varied teaching methodologies taps in to student creativity, while enhancing their technological know-how. As a result, I realize that students learn based on a combination of the tools in their toolbox, their own motivation, and their own past experiences. Students carry this toolbox with them into the classroom, and it forms the lens through which they engage anthropology and the greater world. My specific methods and goals change depending on the characteristics of the course, but, overall, the themes of my teaching revolve around my role as the facilitator, the ways I engage students in active learning, and my belief in diversifying and expanding instruction via technology.