Campus Teaching Showcase
Teaching Showcase Award Recipients (Fall 2019)
Dr. Hillary M. Sackett-Taylor, Economics
The Political Economy of Black Panther's Wakanda: Using Superheroes to Teach Economic Theory
In 1966 Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the character of Black Panther, and situated him in a small, insulated nation, rich in a scarce natural resource, vibranium. A painful history of colonization has taught us that these conditions often lead to what is known as "the natural resource curse". Join us for a simulated classroom lesson on the role of free markets, trade, and government institutions in determining the growth trajectory of developing nations. Hear about how Professor Sackett-Taylor has adapted her course in Microeconomic Theory around superhero narratives to provide context for learning economics.
Dr. Phil Hart, Economics and Management
The Variety Show: How segments and feedback enhance the classroom.
Teaching a group of students with varied learning styles can be challenging. By couching course material in wide variety of presentation segments, as is done on a variety show, a wide range of learning styles can be accommodated. These segments add fun and interest to any subject. Effectively, these segments boost student attention, participation, and performance. To manage these segments, frequent anonymous student feedback is gathered and analyzed.
Dr. Mao-Lun Weng, Biology
Evolution of teaching: one size doesn’t fit all
As an evolutionary biologist who studies how biodiversity was generated, I acknowledge change, adjust, and diversify as three key principles in evolution. I apply the same principles in my teaching. Change. In this fast-changing world, the content we teach may not apply to students when they graduate. As a result, I strive to teach students the ability to critically evaluate the information we access rather than to merely memorize the information. Adjust and diversify. While I may teach the same course in Spring and Fall, it is always a new course for students who enrolled for the first time. Because students all have different learning styles, I have to adjust my teaching to accommodate each student’s needs accordingly. Fortunately, as a junior faculty, I have been able to learn many diversified teaching approaches from many colleagues on campus on various occasions, including open classroom, faculty center, civic learning and community engagement, STEM week, and professional development workshops. In the presentation, I will highlight the examples that reflect the principles in the evolution of teaching.
Dr. Dristi Neog, Geography, Planning, and Sustainability
Making Learning Fun
I believe that teaching is a responsibility that extends beyond merely imparting knowledge. It is about bringing the best in students and being mentors in their quest and application of knowledge to bring change. In my attempt to being part of such quest, I have expanded my teaching philosophy to include the element of fun in the recent years. Amongst many other objectives, I now tend to focus not just on how my classrooms will help hone skills and intellectual capacities, but also how enjoyable and engaging they are without taking the sanctity of the classroom experience and compromising on the content. In this presentation, I will share some of the tools and strategies that I use in my classrooms towards that objective, and emphasize not just on what, but how students learn through a fun experience. Some these methods include model making using random objects, a paper on dream destination, using interactive web tools to create street views etc.
Teaching Showcase Award Recipients (Fall 2018)
Dr. Shannon Gleason, Education
Using elements of transformative and critical pedagogy (Freire, 2000) my courses take an explicitly anti-racist approach. Students examine how ideologies about race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, religion, language, etc. pervade all of our social institutions including education, criminal justice, healthcare, the economy, media, the family, the law, and more. In particular, understanding that race is a biological myth, but a social reality is absolutely essential knowledge for all students across disciplines. In this demonstration, “students” will examine the social construction of whiteness, and how whiteness has been equated to “Americanness” throughout our history. After providing background information on the structural nature of white supremacy, we will form small groups, and each group will be assigned a Supreme Court case related to race and citizenship to investigate on their cell phones and laptops. I will ask guiding questions for groups to keep in mind as they find everything they can about these cases, as well as the social context of the time. They will then organize their findings on a poster and teach the whole group about their case. As they do this, students will begin to see the connections between the cases, and we will then have a brief whole group discussion of our findings. Students will then go back to their phones and laptops to investigate contemporary political and cultural discussions related to race, immigration, and citizenship, and point out connections to the Supreme Court cases we discussed. In this way, the teacher de-centers herself, and students are able to take ownership of their own learning. They become co-constructors of knowledge through investigative, dialogical, and collaborative methods that will serve them as they go out into the classroom.
Dr. Max Saito, Communication
This talk explores ways in which the U.S. economy and citizens benefit/suffer from the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and invites participants to consider their own roles and communication practices in everyday life in society. It pays close attention to the benefits of the conflict that actually strengthens the U.S. petrodollar, support for the huge military budget, national security, the U.S. economy, and nationalism. Furthermore, this approach explicates stereotypes about religions: Judaism and Islam. Public perceptions about the conflict, together with stereotypes, constitute a hegemony in which individuals feel reluctant to discuss conflict-related issues in the classroom. Discussions or debates will often result in creating more divisions among the students and marginalizing certain groups. This approach opens up a new way for addressing this very important issue, which is vital to the national security of the United States.
Dr. Kimberly Sherman, Economics & Management
One of the primary objectives for my teaching is to successfully integrate inclusive pedagogy into the classroom. Inclusive pedagogy is “a method of teaching in which instructors and classmates work together to create a supportive environment that gives each student equal access to learning” (The Teaching Commons, Georgetown University). My goal is to encourage and support student participation in the classroom activities so that each student actively reflects on his/her connection to the topics we are covering. I do this by including multiple opportunities for personal reflection thru reflective writing, polling, and individual assessments. I also work to support ongoing opportunities for students to learn from each other’s experiences – through small group activities, pair shares, etc.
In my presentation I will highlight a number of the methods I use in the classroom to encourage personal reflections and group discussions as tools for learning. I will also share some of the activities I use at the very beginning of the semester to model an inclusive, participative and thoughtful class environment.
Dr. Paul Cacolice, Dr. Paul Higgins, Christopher Perkins, and Michael Tryon, Movement Science
This inter-professional health care collaboration began three years ago. The simulations are a collaboration between Athletic Training and EMT programs. They are real-time, real-life simulations of emergency situations requiring communication between the Athletic Training student and the EMT student. This student-centered simulation focuses on the varied abilities and backgrounds represented by the learners in the class. The student skills and responsibilities are scaled to the student’s completed coursework while maintain a high degree of scenario engagement for all. Equal access to learning is accomplished through thoughtful alignment of team members who provide safe, supportive and respectful supervision of the experience. Students receive feedback during the simulation from the “patient”, his/her symptoms and conditions change based upon the students’ treatment choices. Each simulation is video recorded in high definition and viewed directly following the completion of the simulation. The learned skill set and value of communication is nearly immediate during the video review debriefing process.
The simulations are highly relevant across courses as well as disciplines (in particular those related to healthcare). At the very foundation of the simulations is the opportunity to apply knowledge and skills learned in the didactic and controlled laboratory settings to real patients with simulated health problems/injuries.
Teaching Showcase Award Recipients (Fall 2017)
Dr. Floris Wilma Ortiz, Education Department
Language, Access and (In)equity
My approach to teaching relates to experiential learning that also incorporates reflective practice, and it is informed by a critical responsive pedagogy framework. Students learn best when information presented or explored is comprehensible, have opportunities to apply new information and extend their thinking critically. In addition, part of my approach to teaching lies on building relationship with students. If I know my students’ world I am better prepared to support them and shift my lesson plans to differentiate instruction (e.g., multiple means of representation)
The interactive mini lesson demo is intended to position participants as content/language learners. This will be followed by a brief analysis of the lesson in light of access and (in)equity. Q&A session hopes to extend discussion to our context (curriculum, teaching, group work etc..), and give participants the opportunity to share their practices in making content and language accessible and comprehensible to all learners.
Dr. Christine von Renesse, Mathematics
I believe that learning happens best when the learners engage actively in the process of doing mathematics. This includes exploring mathematics, asking questions, making conjectures, trying to make sense of the ideas, critiquing the reasoning of others, experiences productive failures and celebrating successes. Being part of a community of learners makes this possible. I am coach, cheerleader and facilitator in this scenario, not the deliverer of information.
Participants will explore a mathematical idea in groups and then share out their thinking. I hope that there will be many different ways of looking at the idea which will allow us to see that mathematics is about much more than “learning to do it one way.”
For more about here work go to www.westfield.ma.edu/renesse and www.artofmathematics.org.
Dr. Sophia Tatiana Sarigianides, English Department
Preparing English Teacher Candidates for Complex Understandings and Instruction on Racism via Literary Study
The demonstration will invite “students” to trouble typical thematic interpretations of multicultural texts featuring characters “struggling with their identity.” Using frames from the award-winning graphic novel, American Born Chinese by Gene Yang in a Powerpoint slide, I will show how deeply problematic are common literary interpretations of characters struggling to fit in culturally as “Just accept yourself and you will be happy.” The demonstration will briefly introduce a psychoanalytically-based theory of racism called racial melancholia as a means of offering a complex explanation of the functioning of systemic racism by showing the effects on the protagonist on a seemingly individual level.
This activity links theory and practice in multiple ways. Built into the content of the lesson is a complex theoretical framework for understanding racism. The thematic interpretations shaped by this theoretical framework disrupts not only facile treatments of literature, it creates opportunities for teacher candidates to consider how to bring theoretical rigor as well as social justice understandings to middle and high school English classrooms. Embedded in this theoretical framework is evidence of the oppressive effects of whiteness on immigrants, especially those who are also people of color. Given the dominance of white teachers in the U.S. teaching force (84%), opportunities to understand our role in perpetuating racism by seeing the effects of whiteness on people of color works to create more commitment to and concrete practices to use in antiracist teaching in the field.
Dr. Shirley Wong, English
In my teaching, I encourage my students to recognize differences in race, class, gender, sexuality, and dis/ability. Often times, students universalize their experiences, making sweeping generalizations that paper over the many different subjectivities that comprise the college classroom. (For instance, when describing his experience of on-campus housing, a student once said, “Everyone feels at home in the dorms.”) In my teaching demonstration, I will showcase a “Critical Geography” exercise that prompts my students to interrogate such presumptions of racial, socioeconomic, gender, and dis/ability sameness by asking them to critically reflect on their own experiences of Westfield’s campus. I explain how geographers like Doreen Massey have argued that different social groups experience place differently according to their subject positions. Then I prompt students to analyze how their subjectivity influences the ways they experience Westfield’s campus. I list some examples of commonly shared spaces such as the dorms, dining hall, gym, and college green, but I also encourage them to think of other spaces (such as Banacos, the Counseling Center, Commuter Students Café, and UNITY room). After writing on their own and then discussing in pairs, we come together as a class and describe how there isn’t one “same” experience of Westfield’s campus. Even if students see the university as a community, they understand that not everyone lives through the campus in the same way. We then use this same exercise to analyze scenes from works of literature that we are discussing in class (such as Zadie Smith’s campus novel, On Beauty).
Teaching Showcase Award Recipients (Fall 2016)
Dr. Heidi Bohler (Movement Science, Sport and Leisure Studies)
Teaching Games for Understanding
Using Constructivist Teaching Principles In this session, participants will engage in an activity that is taught using the Teaching Games for Understanding Instructional Model. The model is a constructivist model that was developed with the intent to make games and children at the very center of learning, moving away from teacher-centeredness. Bunker and Thorpe (1982) proposed that all children be involved in decision-making through tactical awareness so they will gain understanding and meaning, leading to attraction to and contribution in the game. Proponents of the model seek to develop games players that are skillful and who have an understanding of tactical decisions to be made in games (Griffin & Patton, 2005). A typical sequence is as follows: 1) modified game that “sets a problem to be solved”. The rules, space, equipment may be modified and students are given something to think about as they play. 2) The teacher organizes a discussion activity where students share ideas and understanding. The discussion can be in the form of turn-and-talk, whole group question and answer, “show me” what you did, brain storming sheets, etc. 3) The teacher then builds off of students’ ideas and experiences to relate to the big ideas of the topic and link to expertise in the field. 4) Students then engage in a situated practice of specific skills in a particular scenario or situation. Students are given multiple attempts and opportunities to refine their skills in a situated context. 5) After practice, students then return back to the initial modified game, where they apply the information and skills they just processed and worked on. This cycle, in its simplest terms is a “play-discuss-play” cycle.
Dr. Mary Keator (English)
Transforming Reading: A Performative, Contemplative Approach to Deep Reading and Inquiry.
Thomas Merton remarked, “The contemplative is not just a man who sits under a tree with his legs crossed, or one who edifies himself with the answer to ultimate and spiritual problems. He is one who seeks to know the meaning of life not only with his head but with his whole being…” In World Literature, I employ contemplative pedagogical methods to help students engage in, embody, and discern the hidden meaning in the literary texts they are reading. In this teaching showcase, I will explain what I mean by performative reading, and then provide an opportunity for participants to experience a performative reading practice.
Dr. Karen Loeb and Dr. Tamara Smith (Sociology)
Our approach to teaching is structured to enable students to learn from the materials presented, as well as learning through active participation. We are both comfortable lecturing, and put a lot of effort into the materials we present in class. Neither of us use lectures ‘straight from the book’. We utilize a variety of visual tools, current research, and demonstrations in our lectures to capture students’ attention and develop their learning. While we both incorporate lectures into our classes, we also present material and viewpoints through a variety of other techniques and activities, including classroom discussions, papers, and visual demonstrations.
Dr. Diana Schwartz (Movement Science, Sport and Leisure Studies)
Sport has historically been viewed as a male domain. Females have been seen as psychology, emotionally, and physically inferior to males and, therefore, less suited for sport participation. During my presentation, I will demonstrate an intellectual exercise I developed, to be used in a flipped classroom, on-line class, or face-to-face class, that encourages students to view gender and sport through a different lens. Through the use of symbolic gender role reversal, students are presented with the notion that sport has been and should be a female domain because males are inferior to females. The advantages of this teaching methodology are as follows: (1) it is an efficient and effective approach to presenting information in a manner that is accessible to all students; (2) it eliminates tangents by the presenter and prevents students from creating conversations that lead the class away from the objectives of the lesson; (3) it requires students to think; and (4) it engages and excites students.
Dr. Summer Williams (Psychology)
Our generation of students today are immersed in social media, so the question is whether or not our teaching reflects this and utilizes it as a tool to reach students? Twitter has rapidly become the premier social media site for communicating news, ideas, and opinions in an immediate manner that is easily sharable and accessible (not to mention current!) Social media sites like Twitter can be a teacher’s secret weapon for engagement! When students take their learning into the “twittersphere” by commenting and sharing on material they are reading and digesting, they are offered a platform to express their thoughts, albeit, bite-sized. Twitter is just enough for teachers to garner engagement outside the class, then turn it around and use it effectively as a launching point of in-class discussion, where deeper level dissection of the topics can occur.
Teaching Showcase Award Recipients (Fall 2015)
Dr. Ziblim Abukari (Social Work)
I have adapted a hybrid model of the “Flipped Classroom” concept called the ‘Blended Classroom’ or ‘inverted classroom’ which combines the traditional face-to-face classroom with online learning into my introduction to research methods in social work class. There are several variations of this model so I have chosen a model that combines Crouch and Mazur’s (2001) “Peer Instruction (PI)” and Hostetter et al.’ (2013) ‘Team-based Learning (TBL).’ The PI and TBL models require that students first gain exposure to course material prior to class, and use assignments (in this case, quizzes, case studies) to ensure that students come to class prepared. Under this model class time is structured around mini lectures and discussion of conceptual questions. This goes on until the majority of the class demonstrates a good understanding of the concepts. Videos and PowerPoint slides are posted online for students to review prior to class, and other class assignments vary from week to week ranging from the pop quizzes mentioned earlier known as readiness assurance test (RAT) to short reflective questions. Test and assignments are also completed individually and in groups, and the course written assignment is broken down into smaller units over the course of the semester.
Dr. Julian Fleron (Mathematics)
Picasso said, ``It takes a long time to become young.’’ I went to a Free School as a young child. It was a perfect, natural environment to learn and to grow. As I moved to traditional education I lost important parts of that great, natural, free spirit that characterized my early education. I rediscovered it as I learned about constructivism as an undergraduate. As a teacher I use these experiences to build rich, supportive, inquiry-based classroom environments where students are the center of the learning process and they explore mathematics in more natural, inquisitive ways.
For more about Dr. Fleron's work on "Discovering the Art of Mathematics," click here. To visit his personal website, click here.
Dr. Andrew W. Habana Hafner (Education)
Comm.Unity (Hafner, 2012, 2013) is a concept proposed to each new learning community as a hope for building a positive, shared, and dialogic space. Building Comm.Unity (communication + unity) stems from a collective attention to our language and communication in order to build unity around recognizing and critically engaging diverse perspectives and tensions in the educational process. It is conceived as a transformative third space where the self, collective, and global spaces are present and engaged through educational processes in working across language, culture and identities. I have introduced in my courses at WSU in relation to critical pedagogies for English Language Learners (ED363) and Schools in American Culture (ED220) which includes building group norms to open the course. This presentation is an example of our critical engagements around understanding how to build a critical consciousness in our work around intersections of language, culture, power, and social identities, especially in working with English Language Leaners and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
Dr. Catherine Savini (English)
As a writing instructor, I aim to teach students rhetorical flexibility so that they are able to communicate effectively in unfamiliar contexts. I work to motivate students by asking them to identify meaningful problems and pose burning questions and by asking them to drive the direction of the course. When possible, I ask my students to write in real life genres for real world audiences. Reflection is also a central component of all of my courses because if students don't reflect on what they are learning, they will not transfer skills, knowledge, or ways of thinking to new contexts. The more I get involved in the civic engagement initiative on campus, the more I wonder about how much time universities devote to teaching students to write in academic genres; are we giving public and professional genres short shrift, especially if we want our students to be engaged citizens.