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2007 Provost's Best Practices Awards

UMass Dartmouth Faculty Recognized for Excellence in Teaching and Learning with Technology

2007 Provost's Best Practices Award Recipients

Category: Best Practices in a Blended Course or Fully Online Course

This best practice award recognizes an effective strategy, technique, or tool in a blended or fully online course that enhances student learning.

First Place
Shari Evans, Assistant Professor of English

Creating Virtual Contact Zones: Student Initiated & Instructor Directed Discussion Boards
Dr. Evans describes her use of WebCT Vista as “an extension of my classroom as a way to encourage students to become invested in the work of each course and to see themselves and their peers as participants in the creation of knowledge that is the heart of the university. WebCT Vista discussion boards help create a learning community- a contact zone- in which students are agents in their own learning”.

“Discussion board activities take place in my course in three primary ways: 1. For student initiated discussion; 2. For instructor directed discussion; 3. For group work. In particular, by setting up specific discussion boards for each of the texts that we read that employ both directed and open assignments that I call Points to Ponder, I create a contact zone for students to interact with one another and with the literature we engage.”

"As students become more comfortable with-and acclimated to-engaging literary texts through their weekly points, they also become better able to build on their own ideas. They return to their points, and to discussion boards, as they write longer response papers, midterm and final essays, or other written assignments. Better yet, their writing shows significant improvement in specificity, engagement, and analysis of literary texts, and the classroom also becomes a more vibrant space of open dialogue as students gain confidence in their analytical skills and their interpretations of texts."

Two Honorable Mentions
Mia Rowland, Adjunct Faculty
Jia Wu, Assistant Professor of Accounting and Finance

Category: Best Practices in Assessment in a Blended or Fully Online Course

This best practice award recognizes an effective assessment strategy, technique, or tool in a blended or fully online course that improves student achievement of course learning outcomes.

First Place
Grant O'Rielly, Assistant Professor of Physics

Use of a Student Response System in Large Enrollment Classes "For the past six semesters, I have been using a student response system (the PRS system) in large enrollment introductory physics courses, PHY 113 and 114. This system enables the instructor to prepare multiple choice style questions which are presented to the students during the lecture. The student responses to these questions are recorded, displayed, and analyzed, and are available for later review by the instructor. Each student has a small hand-held keypad (known colloquially as a clicker) which is used to submit the answer to each question. Once the the students have submitted their answers, the instructor can display the aggregate responses showing the percentage for each option. This provides important information regarding the students' understanding of the material, and can be used as a basis to engage the students in further discussion on the topic."

"The use of a student response system in the classroom has a number of features which enhance student learning. The use of the keypads to submit answers rather than asking students to raise their hands provides a level of anonymity. The system also encourages all students in the class to answer the question rather than having responses from the same few students who are knowledgeable and /or confident. For the instructor, the system produces timely feedback on how well the students understand the material, and provides the opportunity to adjust the lecture content in a real-time manner to readdress deficiencies and emphasize important points."

Honorable Mention
Adam Sulkowski, Assistant Professor of Management and Marketing

Category: Innovative Use of Technology

This award recognizes an innovative use of technology that enhances teaching and learning in the face-to-face classroom setting or in the online course environment. Some examples of innovative technology could include but are not limited to tablet pc (digital inking), personal response system (clickers), multimedia presentations, portfolios, learning objects, podcasts, blogs, wikis, and synchronous online conferencing.

First Place
Amy Shapiro Professor of Psychology

The Challenge and the Solution "Each semester I teach one of the largest classes on campus, a 210 student section of General Psychology (PSY101). A class this size presents a number of challenges. Among those challenges are attendance and attentiveness among the students. I tried out several strategies including in-class extra credit assignments and pop quizzes. These helped with the attendance but not with attentiveness. Moreover, it wasted a lot of class time to hand out and collect papers to 200 students. In researching other options, I decided that combining multiple technologies might be the best solution. My solution was to use and integrate the following technologies: Powerpoint, iClicker remote response devices, email, the UMass web site, and multimedia (audio and video). Each individual technology is useful in my teaching. As all good psychologists know, however, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As such, it is the combination of these technologies that is innovative and effective."

"I take advantage of the Faculty Profiles pages to upload all my slides in PDF documents for students to print as study guides. I also post other class material there such as the syllabus, test grades, study suggestions, grading policy, etc. I use email to alert students to anything new posted on the web site. The iClicker questions have helped students monitor their own understanding. As I present information students should ask questions if they are unclear about anything and I prompt them to do so very frequently during class. Students get very interested in the material after seeing how their votes compared with other students’ votes on the discussion questions. They engage in discussions with me and with each other about the issue in question. These discussions help students think critically about the material. Students are able to see that, contrary to popular belief, psychology is scientific rather than “just common sense”, as research findings often contradict students’ predictions. As such, they are encouraged to think about research findings rather than their intuitions about the material. They are encouraged to think like scientists."

Honorable Mention
Doug Roscoe, Assistant Professor of Political Science

Each of the 2007 award recipients will showcase their best practice or innovative use of technology during Teaching and Learning Technologies Brown Bag seminar series during the spring 2008 semester.

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