My first day at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Dr. Bill Conroy’s Constitutional Law undergrad class he assigned six dense, academic books for us to read. He was one of the toughest professors on campus, and to be quite honest, I had never read anything like those books before.
He instructed us to use a method he called “active reading,” where you underline the important aspects of each paragraph and make notes in the margin. This substantially raised our understanding of the material in the book and made reviewing the book prior to discussion and exams much easier.
It’s a technique that has stuck with me a decade later. Today, I teach my students the same technique when assigning dense material on topics such as strategy or competition in healthcare. Students can recall the information they read much quicker in class, which makes class discussion much more enjoyable for all parties.
Dr. Zachary Ward
Assistant Professor of Health Administration
College of Nursing and Health Professions
Teaching my first composition class as a graduate student at Colorado State University, I was 23 years old and looked even younger. On the first day, I heard students whispering among themselves, speculating about how old I was.
I was nervous anyway, and even more so on the day I was observed by a full-time faculty member. She was encouraging, but noted that I spent the class practically glued to the same spot, almost as if I was hiding behind my desk. She encouraged me to walk around more, even walking among the students as they did small group activities.
It was as if I had to be told to literally break the invisible barrier I had built between myself and my students.
I now frequently walk around as the students work on class writing and group activities, and I have found that it makes them feel more free to ask one-on-one questions that they might not have asked if they were the ones who had to cross that barrier.
Dr. Molly Brost
Contract Assistant Professor of English
Assistant Director of Composition
College of Liberal Arts
Nearly 30 years ago, I was introduced to Carl Sagan’s popular Cosmos series on PBS. I was awed as he laid out the wonders of our universe—wonders so fantastical and grand in scale that I recall a sense of unease—until Dr. Sagan explained the physical concepts governing what seemed to my young mind like magic.
He was a masterful storyteller, capable of explaining in his very deliberate tone these concepts in a way that was both attainable and entertaining. I realized that, although we are but very small specks of star dust in our immense universe, we are specks that can discover that while grand in scale, the innerworkings of our universe are both beautiful and comprehensible.
I think back to that moment when my students encounter a topic that troubles them. In my own way, I try to make the topic approachable as Dr. Sagan did for millions of us. But equally important, I let my students know that the sense of unease is a shared human experience. Whether expanding the limits of our personal or of human knowledge, a scientist must always remember that these underlying concepts remain beautiful and strangely comprehensible.
Dr. Kenneth Purcell
Associate Professor of Physics
Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education
A few years ago I received an email from a junior colleague of mine from my graduate school, whom I had mentored when we were in the same program. She was thanking me for my teaching style, which she said made her understand even the most challenging topics in the research field.
Her message made me aware that my instructional style had become very traditional—lecture notes, slides, textbook resources and others. I was missing the spark that I had while pursuing my doctorate. She reminded me that I used to employ an active learning style in my teaching, including hands-on examples from the real world, and even role play to help students understand how a computer, an artificially intelligent machine, would process information.
I switched my teaching style back to my active learning approach for my students at USI. Now, I feel the spark in my teaching and an increased level of excitement towards learning in the students when I ask them to problem-solve as a computer would, without using their human intelligence. It helps them understand the complicated mechanisms of a computing machine, before they get into the more complex details of implementing the solutions using computer programming.
Dr. Srishti Srivastava
Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Romain College of Business