Submitted by Kendra Uhe, Medical Office Administration
I requested a teaching consultation with the Academy for Teaching Excellence in order to find ways to make my lectures more interactive and interesting for my students. I believe this to be a common problem—especially for those teaching in disciplines that require a common exam and/or certification as certain material must be covered. What is the best way to cover all this material and still keep the class engaged and attentive? This was the question I wanted to answer through my consultation. First, I met with the Academy Chair, Stephanie Whalen, to establish my goals for making the lecture content more interactive for students. We worked together to determine ways to allow students to pause and work with the material in chunks before moving onto the next content. We developed an additional goal of creating exit slips to check for understanding. Then, I met with an Instructional Designer, Melissa Baysingar, to help me work on the actual course materials. An added benefit of a consultation is the referral to the Academy staff member who has particular expertise to support your design and technology needs.
In order to continue working on my goals, I also enrolled in a GEC that started in the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester. The class, “Creating an Accessible Environment,” taught me how to employ the universal design concepts to address students’ needs without changing the course outcomes or rigor of the course. I learned how not to eliminate the necessary content contained for the class on the PowerPoints, but rather how to include more engaging visuals, backgrounds and questions. The students need to be exposed to the technical language of their future career, but they need it broken up to make it easier to comprehend for their national exam. I changed all of my presentations in two classes. Students appeared to appreciate having more visuals, including pictures and clip art throughout the presentation. A question was asked about every five to six slides to allow for discussion of key concepts. Charts were employed to clarify a concept; for example, people get overwhelmed with the amount of vitamins, so I included a chart to show which vitamins are contained in each food. Students appeared to be more attentive to the lecture and participatory in discussion with the revised PowerPoint presentations. The increased student interest in the material led to better discussions of the case studies that followed the lecture.
This course was immediately relevant to increasing my understanding of how to make the materials more accessible to students, but would prove even more vital the next semester when I had a student with disabilities who struggled in her field placements. Without the content in the course and the relationship with the faculty member teaching it, Pascuala Herrera, I don’t know how I would have navigated the difficult situations that took place during the spring semester.
When I finished the course on accessibility, I was able to take another GEC offered later in the semester, “Action Research” to see if the students were understanding some of the key concepts in the class. I implemented an exit slip for two classes to evaluate their effect on student learning. I found the students understood most of the key concepts, but had a few lingering questions, which they were willing to ask on the exit ticket, but not in class. I took these questions, and prepared a handout for the following class to address them. I found the students to be more successful with the chapters that exit tickets were used with.
Overall, I believe my two original goals of enhancing my PowerPoints for better engagement, and utilizing exit tickets to check for student understanding were successful. I learned a lot from the teaching consultation, work with the instructional designer, and the two GECs that I took, and utilized some of the key concepts from each experience to enhance my own teaching. I found that the process of going to the Academy for a teaching consultation to establish my goals, working with the instructional designer on my materials, and then registering for professional development opportunities that supported my needs was a meaningful way to improve my craft. I recommend this process to anyone who, like me, wants to make their course more engaging and interactive without sacrificing any of the essential content that students need to be successful in a program and in the field.
The Academy for Teaching Excellence offers one-on-one teaching consultations to all faculty members. Academy consultations are personalized to meet the needs of the faculty member, and are designed to assist the faculty member in addressing any classroom challenge or opportunity. Learn more and submit an Academy Consultation request.