Faculty Successes

UMass Amherst is home to an impressive community of talented, dedicated, thoughtful, and innovative teachers. Recognizing that a teaching culture flourishes most when practices and stories are shared, the CTL has created this space to highlight faculty pedagogical strategies and successes. If you have a faculty success story, please consider sharing it with us at ctl@umass.edu!

 

Fall 2023

We all want all students to succeed but for many reasons some students may struggle, miss class sessions, fall behind on assignments, or do poorly on an exam. Reaching out directly to students in our class can and does help but as Nathalie Lavoie, Associate Professor in Resource Economics, has found, reaching out to students through Academic Alert can be a powerful way to connect with students and provide them with a wider range of resources.

Spring 2023

Dr. Rachel Mordecai, Associate Professor of Caribbean Literature in English, leverages discussion-based teaching techniques to not only enhance students' critical thinking and understanding of complex topics but also to foster an inclusive, dynamic learning community where diverse perspectives are shared and respected. By employing strategies such as varying discussion formats, visualizing discussions, and allowing students to have a say in the course material, she ensures active student engagement and ownership over their learning and helps students develop strong communication and collaborative skills.

Spring 2023

Tammy Rahhal is a 2022-2023 Chancellor’s Leadership Fellow working on UMass Flex initiatives and the Associate Chair of Teaching and Advising in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. In this faculty success, she describes how she incorporates flexible assessment practices into her psychology course to provide students with multiple ways to demonstrate their learning.

Spring 2023

Exam wrappers are a way to turn an exam into an authentic learning experience for students; or, as assistant professor Cathal Kearney in the Biomedical Engineering department describes, they are a more effective way to “close the loop” on exams compared to his previous strategy of providing students with exam solutions. Read more about his initial experiences with this metacognitive tool to help students continue learning after the exam ends.  

Fall 2022

How do we ensure students are retaining what they are learning in class? Asking students to explain concepts to others is one way to encourage deeper learning and better retention of course material. Read more about how Stephanie Padilla, Assistant Professor of Biology, uses oral exams to evaluate student learning while building their communication skills at the same time.

Fall 2022

Many instructors seek ways to help students engage more effectively with course readings. One method that some have found particularly helpful is the reading guide – an outline that helps students navigate a reading, respond to key concepts, and track their understanding. Dr. Youngmin Yi, Assistant Professor in Sociology, explains how she uses reading guides to help students develop a personal relationship to course material.

Spring 2022

You may have heard about colleagues using contemplative techniques in their teaching, but wondered what exactly happens. Lena Fletcher, Chief Undergraduate Advisor and Senior Lecturer in Environmental Conservation, and co-leader of the CTL’s Contemplative Pedagogy Group, explains how she uses short meditations in her large classes to deepen engagement with challenging course concepts.

Fall 2021

Hyeyoung Park, Assistant Professor in the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing, uses exit tickets as an informal Classroom Assessment Technique (CAT), which provides her with important feedback from her students, while also fostering connections with her students and prompting her students to reflect on their learning.

Fall 2021

Bogdan Prokopovych, Lecturer of Management, wanted to maximize student participation in his course evaluations, as well as to make the process meaningful both for his teaching and for his students learning about assessment practices in their industry. With a few simple changes to his approach to evaluations, he was able to get more students involved in the process, and get better feedback about teaching and learning in his course.

Fall 2020

What are the benefits of reaching out? The CTL interviewed Steve Petsch, Associate Professor in the Department of Geosciences, about some success he has found in engaging students who may be falling behind in his 200-person General Education course. Reaching out personally to students has helped them feel cared for and learn professional communication habits.  Read more about Steve’s strategies and the impact of his outreach.

Fall 2020

Wondering how to inspire academic integrity in test-taking? CTL is highlighting the excellent work of Mzamo Mangaliso, a faculty member in the Department of Management and former Lilly Fellow for Teaching Excellence.  Faced with the problem of students cheating on his exams, Professor Mangaliso revised his approach to teaching by educating his students on ethics, writing exam questions that stressed higher order thinking, and making savvy changes to how his tests are administered. He analyzed his exam results and it’s working wonders!  Read more on academic integrity and test taking.

Spring 2021

Did you know that many students – not just deaf or hard-of-hearing students – benefit from captioning of presentations? Live captioning might be easier and more reliable than you think, according to Michele Cooke, Professor in Geosciences, who has conducted a study with undergraduate student Celia Child (Bryn Mawr College) on auto captioning built into widely available software. Read more and watch their video, in which they demonstrate the effectiveness of strategies that use artificial intelligence based auto-captioning tools to greatly improve live presentation accessibility.