Success in the classroom comes down to communication.
And two distinguished presenters in the Best Teaching Practices Expo, have honed in on key aspects of communication and learning.
Haroon Stephen and Amanda Pasinski are among the four poster award winners from a field of 24 showcased this year for their innovative and research-based teaching practices. They will share their insights in the Distinguished Presenters Panel Discussion, a hybrid event that kicks off at 2 p.m. on Feb. 10.
Learning the Lingo
Every field of study and every industry has its own terms, definitions and jargon. And learning the lingo is key to understanding. So, Stephen, an associate professor of civil engineering and construction, decided to emphasize vocabulary and encouraged students to create glossaries.
“Knowing and understanding the terminology is the foundation for everything,” said Stephen, who came up with the idea after attending the National Science Foundation’s TRANSCEnD Project workshops. “If students don’t retain a term from material in the lower division course, that gap carries over to their upper division course, where the instructor will expect them to know it.”
Stephen over two semesters put the practice to the test, encouraging his students to choose five terms per lesson, reflect on them and write definitions for each, using their own words based on their understanding.
He then assessed the benefits of the practice by using post-semester surveys.
The results were impressive.
Survey responses revealed that creating glossaries increased understanding of the technical terms for 87% of respondents and increased conceptual understanding for 83% of respondents.
“Dr. Stephen's practice of helping students develop the technical vocabulary of engineering provides them a welcome into the field,” said Melissa Bowles-Terry, director of the Faculty Center, which organizes the expo each year. “And it is an excellent and inclusive practice that allows students from many different backgrounds to see themselves as potential engineers.”
Lowering the Stakes on Video Discussions
Amanda Pasinski, an associate professor-in-residence, noticed the need for better face-to-face communication among students in psychology classes, especially those taught online. Pasinksi sought to address the limitations of asynchronous text-based discussion posts and synchronous video discussions by employing an asynchronous video discussion tool.
“My practice deals with students being absolutely frustrated with typical text-based discussion boards and video conferences,” Paskinski said. “It's difficult to get students to engage with others when they're focused on word counts or are too nervous to speak up in front of their peers. Asynchronous chats bypass a lot of issues of those other methods, while focusing on their strengths.”
Pasinski incorporated the use of a relatively new application called FlipGrid to create a space where students could safely have video discussions with each other. The practice demonstrates how instructors can use FlipGrid to create simple, low-stakes video discussion assignments. FlipGrid also integrates with Canvas and works with mobile and desktop devices.
“Dr. Pasinski even uses these video-creation assignments as an opportunity to tell students about research symposia and conferences, which first-generation students in particular might not know about,” Bowles-Terry said. “This is another great example of an inclusive practice that builds student skills so that they can gain confidence without the fear of being penalized for so-called ‘failures.’"
2022 Best Teaching Practices Winners
The Expo's presentations were selected by a committee to ensure that the teaching practices described are important in addressing a particular need to improve teaching; demonstrably beneficial for UNLV students in particular; and applicable in a variety of teaching contexts. This year's Distinguished Poster Award winners are:
- Haroon Stephen, Engineering — Learning Retention through Glossary Development
- Amanda Pasinski, Psychology — Utilizing Asynchronous Video Discussions
- Katie Rafferty, Life Sciences: — Toward Building Science Literacy
- Nicole Espinoza, Public Health — Accreditation Woes: Thinking Outside the Box for program and Course Assessment Design—Competency and Outcome Rubrics in Canvas