Celebrating Teaching Day ignites passion

Tri-boards and posters lined the Student Center ballroom this month, showing off teaching research done by some of Tech’s top professors.

Hosted by the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL), Celebrating Teaching Day began with a teaching research exhibition and was followed by a word from Interim President Gary Schuster and a presentation from Johns Hopkins University professor Ronald Berk.

“People know that this is a research university… We are seeking to ignite professors’ passion in teaching,” said Donna Llewellyn, director of CETL and past associate chair of ISyE at Tech.

About 20 percent of the exhibits focused on peer-assisted learning, including Eric Moschella’s Peer Led Undergraduate Study (PLUS) program. Moschella is the director of Academic Support and assistant director of Success Programs at Tech.

Moschella started the PLUS program at Clemson University in 2003, and it has since grown exponentially, now employing over 130 students as PLUS leaders at Clemson.

“The way these sessions are structured is designed to help students learn from each other… You can help a relatively small number of people with a tutor, but with this program, you can target the entire class,” Moschella said.

PLUS leaders must be current students who have previously made an “A” in the targeted class.

These leaders are paid to attend the class and design PLUS sessions that reflect the lecture content and student needs, which differ between classes.

According to Moschella’s exhibit, PLUS is also different than tutoring because it supports high-risk subjects rather than high-risk students. One of the most heavily targeted classes is General Chemistry.

One teaching research project that deals with General Chemistry exclusively is Charlie Cox’s “Remodeling the Transitional Recitation Paradigm using a Variation of Cooperative Learning.”

As assistant director of General Chemistry with a Ph.D. in Chemical Education, Cox seeks to improve the way that students learn in general chemistry recitations.

Evidence for the effectiveness of his method was displayed at the exhibition, which included a consistent ten percent increase in average exam scores for exams that followed the PLUS method.

Cox is one of three professors at Tech who have degrees in education rather than traditional science degrees.

One of the other professors also has a degree in Chemical Education, with the third holding a degree in Physics Education.

In Schuster’s remarks, he spoke about how, as provost, he is deeply involved with teaching research. His comments were outlined by the “three main objectives we have in the knowledge business,” which include the preservation of knowledge, the transfer of knowledge and the discovery of new knowledge.

Berk, a professor of biostatics and measurement at Johns Hopkins University, made a lively presentation to faculty called “A Tribute to Teaching: Multimedia Teaching with Video Clips for the Net Generation.”

Berk’s presentation focused on the need for more multimedia in the classroom. According to Berk, students today belong to the “Net Generation,” and are less interested in traditional lectures than were previous generations of students.

It was clear from the beginning that his presentation would be comical because of the skit in which he “transformed” from a cocooned traditional lecturer into a butterfly-shaped modern lecturer. The flashing lights and booming sound of Berk’s presentation also made it very engaging.

Berk’s list of uses for video clips in class included the presentation of alternative viewpoints, motivation and inspiration, opportunities to critique and the presentation of real-world applications to abstract concepts.

Llewellyn said after the presentation that she had chosen the topic because it was “relevant across disciplines,” and it would be easy to implement in such well-equipped classrooms.

She also said that she was looking forward to a new group of excellent teachers being hired in the fall.

“My philosophy is: Our faculty teach, and if you’re going to teach, you might as well teach well,” Llewellyn said.