Penn State York faculty members were fully engaged during the summer and fall of this year, participating in a variety of professional development activities to enhance and invigorate their classroom practice. From clickers to educational gaming to multi-media projects to teaching in our state-of-the-art Video Learning Network classroom to blended learning re-design projects, our faculty work continuously to improve their courses in order to enhance student engagement and support academic success.
Educational Gaming is on the rise in higher education because of the potential to motivate and engage students in higher-order thinking and problem-solving. Special mention goes out to the summer edu-gamers who went above and beyond the call of duty in terms of time and intensity exploring ways to use game-like elements in their courses: Noel Sloboda (English), Barb Eshbach (library), Fred Haag (art), Jorge Santiago-Blay (biology), Jean Marie St. Clair-Christman (human development and family studies), Kerry Magni (kinesiology), Andrew Caldwell (Advising and Career Development). Take a look at highlights from the game!
Clicker use is also growing on campus. Also called personal response systems, clickers are powerful educational tools that create an atmosphere of active learning while at the same time alert students and faculty to the gaps in knowledge during teaching. Somya Dwivedi-Burks (biology) won a Teaching and Learning with Technology Innovation grant to work with clickers in her BIOL 110 class. Jane Sutton (communications, arts and sciences) is using them in both introductory courses and upper division courses to great success. Heidi Deren (German) is using them to ask thought-provoking questions about culture. Jorge Santiago-Blay (biology) uses them in courses for majors and also in general education courses.
Instructional Videos are being explored by many of our faculty using the Media Commons Studio and equipment. Fulgentius Lugemwa (chemistry) won a Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence (SITE) grant to create a series of videos to better prepare students for chemistry labs. Student actors explain the main concepts and equipment while demonstrating processes for each lab. Students watch the videos and take a quiz before coming to do the actual lab. Ken Swalgin (kinesiology) attended training and then spent many intense hours mastering the use of iMovie for a presentation of his research at the University Park Campus. Bob Bartell and Samir Shah (Information Sciences and Technology), Jean Marie St. Claire-Christman and Kelly Moon (human development and family studies), Mike Jarrett (English), Cecilia-Heydl-Cortinez (Spanish), Dianne Creagh (history), Kristin Cole (English), Dixie Winters (education), and Ed Jenkins (business) routinely include media projects in their course assignments
Video Learning Network
Penn State York joined the state-of-the-art video learning classroom in 2010 from Academic Outreach at the University which allows faculty to teach adult learners simultaneously at multiple campuses.
Most courses in the VLN are offered in an accelerated seven-week format and are taught in a convenient format combining face-to-face sessions with video conferences and online instruction by Penn State instructors. Offering courses in this format also will help ensure that courses remain open by aggregating learners at multiple sites. The VLN was created by the Penn State World Campus as a way to give adult learners easy access to a Penn State degree.
VLN classrooms are equipped with high-definition viewing screens, document cameras and other technologies for live interaction among faculty and students at the course origination site and up to three other sites.
Mike Jarrett (English), Jane Sutton (communication arts and sciences), Dianne Creagh (history), and Joan Smeltzer (math) have been going through a series of online and face-to-face training preparing them to design and deliver courses using the equipment which in the future will make more curricular offerings and degree pathways available to students across the Penn State system. Jeff Warner (management information systems) has been teaching courses since 2010 and serves as the contact person for the VLN at the campus.
Blended learning is a delivery method that combines activities in the face-to-face classroom with activities completed online. In-class time is reduced significantly while students complete projects and assignments online. Research shows that learning is enhanced in this delivery model because of the increase in active and higher-order learning tasks.
Significant re-design is required in order to create effective blended courses and over the past several semesters many faculty have participated in informational sessions and hands-on workshops designed to help them explore blended learning as an option for their courses. Cecilia Heydl-Cortinez (Spanish) , Deborah Eicher-Catt (CAS) , Kerry Magni (Kinesiology), Joan Smeltzer (math) and Heidi Deren (German) completed the summer blended learning cohort series of workshops, and are currently exploring the re-design of parts of their courses into blended formats. Nadine Wolf (nutrition) has been offering her Intro Principles of Nutrition (NUTR 251) course as a blended course for several semesters and has been working diligently to improve it each and every semester.
Invigorating the General Education (Gen-Ed) Curriculum
In a recent survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities to employers about the role and importance of skills developed in the general education curriculum, employers overwhelmingly extolled the importance of the skill sets learned in these courses. Problem-solving, critical thinking, writing, mathematics, and acquiring general knowledge were just some of the important skills mentioned that students acquire from this substantial part (35-38 percent) of the Penn State curriculum. Part-time faculty, in their fall orientation program, shared their expertise in teaching gen-eds, as they participated in a workshop on strategies to enhance gen-ed courses. Additionally, Harry Payne (astronomy), Kerry Magni (kinesiology), Ann Fetterman (English), Fred Haag (art), Noel Sloboda (English), and Barb Eshbach (library) attended a session on “Tapping the Power of the Gen-Ed Curriculum” during the summer months.
Incorporating an Innovative Design Process into Instruction
During the summer and again at the opening campus meeting this fall, staff and faculty members participated in a unique workshop on innovation and creativity using materials from Stanford University’s School of Design, called the d-School Crash Course. Design principles that encourage a bias towards action, empathetic listening, creative and rapid prototyping were experienced in a fast-paced and fun 90-minute workshop that got the fall off to a positive and creative start. Ed Jenkins (business) recreated the workshop in his Contemporary Skills for Business Professional (BA 321) course to help students working on a group video project to incorporate the design principles into their work process.
Critical Thinking is another skillset that employers clamor for in college grads. In the early summer, faculty from many disciplines participated in a session on incorporating critical thinking skills into the curriculum. Jennifer Nesbitt (English), Noel Sloboda (English), Fulgentius Lugemwa (chemistry), Sukhdeep Gill (human development and family studies), Kerry Magni (kinesiology), and Barb Eshbach (library) came away with strategies to teach critical thinking skills in and through their own content areas.
This fall faculty members participated in different forums to share topics of interest in the classroom, their research, or other areas of life. Bob Farrell (biology) shared his research on abiotic stress in apples. Sukhdeep Gill (human development and family studies) led a conversation about her research on mindfulness and stress reduction. Mark Casteel (psychology), Fulgentius Lugemwa (chemistry) and Jorge Santiago-Blay (biology) shared their classroom design ideas to enhance student success and engagement. Larry Newcomer (information sciences and technology) will share his work designing online courses, Kristin Cole (English) her interest in metered English poetry, and Maureen Muller Kahle (business) her research on women chief executive officers (CEOs) in a session this November.
University Teaching Awards
It should also be mentioned, that two of our Penn State York faculty won University-level teaching awards this year for excellence in teaching! Mark Casteel, associate professor of psychology, won the 2012 Milton S. Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching. This award, established in 1992, is generally awarded to faculty members who, in addition to being outstanding teachers themselves, have also provided some kind of support or mentoring to others. Fred Haag, associate professor of visual arts,) won the Teaching Fellow Award, an award made possible by the Penn State Alumni Association, the Undergraduate Student Government, and the Graduate Student Association, to recognize distinguished teaching and to provide a forum for encouraging effective teaching.
The activities and accomplishments described above represent only a small snapshot of the work our faculty and staff do on campus every day to enhance their students’ learning experiences. In addition to their important pursuits in research and service to the campus, University, and community, Penn State York faculty and staff spend significant amounts of time learning about the latest educational technologies and best practice in teaching and learning to enhance their instruction. Our faculty care about their students’ success and their experiences in the classroom. The hundreds of hours they spend each academic year in improving their approaches to instruction and the awards they win attest to that fact! To find out more about our faculty and staff, visit the Campus Directory at http://yk.psu.edu/Information/directories.htm .