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Teachers get taught, 25 LU faculty complete certificate program

This fall, LU English Professor Amy Smith implemented a new teaching technique, fishbowl discussions, to better engage students and get them talking about current events.

The method, ideal for the classroom but adaptable in an online environment, requires students to read an article and discuss it in-depth in a systematic way. Four students in the class begin the discussions about the article and are tasked with keeping discussions going for 20 minutes with no dead time. The rest of the class listens and takes notes, then joins the discussion after 20 minutes.

Smith learned about “fishbowl discussions” while taking the Association of College and University Educators’ course in Effective Teaching Practices in collaboration with the American Council on Education. She was one of 25 LU faculty members who completed the nine-month program.

“It was a really intense program where we learned all of these brand new ideas to enhance teaching, both in the classroom and online,” said Smith, who also serves LU as the director of the Center for Teaching & Learning Enhancement. “I was really proud of the faculty who committed to the program because everyone finished even through the pandemic. Faculty from other universities quit midway because of COVID-19, but every one of LU’s faculty members who committed, completed it.”

The graduate-level program, structured into five units of study and 25 modules, is the first designed for higher education faculty across all disciplines. LU faculty who completed the program represent departments university wide from English to biology, nursing to deaf studies and deaf education, industrial engineering to chemistry and biochemistry and many others.

Ken Ward, assistant professor of communication and media, began altering his teaching approach while enrolled in the program.  

“I now try to structure sessions in a way that moves up Bloom’s Taxonomy in an intentional manner, helping students follow along through the entire session,” said Ward. “I teach note-taking skills rather than assuming students know how to take notes effectively. I try always to stay focused on developing a growth mindset in students, helping them learn to teach themselves whenever possible.”

Faculty were asked to try the new techniques and report outcomes as they moved through five units of study, including Designing an Effective Course and Class, Establishing a Productive Learning Environment, Using Active Learning Techniques, Promoting Higher Order Thinking and Assessing to Inform Instruction and Promote Learning. 

“The course required that we implement new strategies and activities and then reflect on successes and challenges, so I began folding ACUE resources into my courses in August 2019, and that work has benefited my students and me endlessly,” said Casey Ford, an instructor of English and modern languages. “I could write another thousand words about how the course shifted many of my learned misconceptions and wrong assumptions of first-year students and what they expect from their teachers and believe about themselves.”

Each participant earned a nationally recognized certificate in Effective College Instruction endorsed by the American Council on Education. In addition to receiving the certificate, faculty received digital badges for each of the 25 modules they completed and are eligible to receive three graduate credits, issued by ACE’s accrediting body. 

Ford says she would “recommend the course to anyone.” Ward said he’s glad he completed the program because, although the course didn’t cause him to radically change his teaching, it did offer him many ways to tweak what he is already doing.

“It was focused on providing small things that I could use in the classroom right away,” said Ward. “I suppose the tool with the biggest impact was constructing syllabi as an all-in-one resource for students. The full instructions, grading rubrics and tips for success on every assignment are now built right into my syllabi, providing clarity for students who want answers right when they have questions, not only when they happen to be sitting in front of me.”

Lamar University Faculty who completed the American Council on Education’s Course in Effective Teaching Practices:

Karen Bartlett, instructor, English and Modern Languages
PJ Couch, associate professor, Mathematics
Cassandre Durso, instructor, History
Casey Ford, instructor, English and Modern Languages
Harrabeth Haidusek, instructor, English and Modern Languages
Cheryl Johnson, instructor, English and Modern Languages
Wen Liu, assistant professor, Mathematics
Elizabeth Long, assistant professor, Nursing
Christopher Martin, associate professor, Chemistry
Millicent Musyoka, associate professor, Deaf Studies and Deaf Education
Adam Nemmers, assistant professor, English and Modern Languages
Cynthia Pipkins, assistant professor, Nursing
Ruthie Robinson, associate professor, Nursing
Michael Saar, library associate/head, instructional services and assessment, Mary and John Gray Library
Yasuko Sato, associate professor, Asian History
Ken Ward, assistant professor, Communication and Media
Ozge Gunaydin-Sen, associate professor, Chemistry
Maryam Hamidi, assistant professor, Center- Advances in Study Port Management
Pat Heintzelman, instructor, English and Modern Languages
Sharon Joffe, assistant professor, English and Modern Languages
Amanda Posey, instructor, Biology
Thinesh Selvaratnam, assistant professor, Civil Engineering
Berna Tokgoz, associate professor, Industrial Engineering