Voices of Experience: Dick Tucker

Photo of Dick Tucker Dick Tucker is a Professor of Psychology. He joined UCF in 1972 from Emory University where he completed his Ph.D. His general interests are in Developmental Psychology, particularly as related to aging issues. He serves as Director of the UCF Initiative on Aging and Longevity. His specific interests include the characteristics of older Canadians in Florida with focus on health care needs and utilization, the effects of lifelong learning on memory self-efficacy, and general issues in successful aging.

1. What teaching methods have you found to be most effective for your students?

Teaching is an interaction between me and the students. I use a very interactive style and don't lecture from a script. I rely on the textbook to give students the kind of information that they'll need for the test; what I present in the classroom is a supplement and a conceptual framework. I try to challenge students by asking them questions, and based on their responses, they help to frame what we cover in the class.

2. What was your most memorable teaching experience?

There isn't one memorable experience; there are multiple that stick out. What they all have in common is seeing a light go on. Students just finally understand something; they just see it differently. In their writings, as they talk about their experiences, I've had students who really have had a mind-transforming experience in thinking about the material.

3. What single piece of advice would you give to new professors today?

Remember that teaching very much involves communication, and learning how best to communicate to students. Also, they have to think about what made them excited about the subject matter, and what their passion is now. Don't be afraid to share that with the students. I want the students to know my passion for the subject matter; I think it makes a difference to know that you care about what you're teaching and that this isn't just an assignment.

4. Why did you become a university professor? What kept you in the profession?

I actually started out thinking I was going into the ministry. I think that the notion of "calling" has remained with me. I find in teaching this sense of making a difference, affecting lives, and providing guidance. Things that are very ministerial in a way. That's what's kept me going. If you don't feel you can't make a difference-I don't care what you're doing-then you really stagnate. Higher education is a great place because you can always find that feeling. And if you don't feel it, then it's time to get out.

5. What changes have you seen over your career with regard to student learning and how have you adapted to them?

The big change is students' instant access to information, which changes things. I do a lot with email, and I find the immediacy of it makes a difference with students. Using technology to enhance teaching, not to replace it, has been one of the big changes-and most of that has been positive. However, I am concerned about increases in class size and those particular challenges. This is an area where the Faculty Center has been helpful, to try to convince people to see how they can still be effective teachers within the large classroom setting. We can do more than just lecture and give multiple-choice tests. Overall I've been pleased with most of the changes I've seen over the years.

 

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