By Mary Leet ’16
The Faculty Development Committee recognizes faculty for excellence in experiential learning, teaching, and academic achievement through an awards program. All three awards include a $500 prize. Here is a capsule look at the 2012-13 recipients:
Excellence in Experiential Learning Award: Dr. Patricia Pulver
The Excellence in Experiential Learning Award goes to a faculty member that has demonstrated an effective practice or activity that allows students to learn through their experiences.
And that is precisely what Dr. Patricia Pulver, professor of education, does through her Master Teacher Insight Project.
Pulver believes that by observing teachers in the classroom, then discussing relevant issues and reflecting on their actions, students gather first-hand knowledge and experience that shapes them into effective teachers “a lot faster than reading textbooks.”
In addition to observing current teachers teaching, students conduct four separate interviews over the course of a semester with a teacher they know and consider a “master teacher.” Students discuss what came out of the interviews with classmates and then compose a reflective paper that summarizes what they learned.
They must identify common themes and provide “specific illustrative examples.”
Through this project, “students are able to articulate what they learned about the process and any ‘take away’ strategies that they might utilize in their future classroom,” said Pulver.
Excellence in Teaching Award: Dr. Christopher Leahy
While the traditional history lecture is still important, “students learn history best— and enjoy it more— when they actually do what historians do,” said Assistant Professor of History Dr. Christopher Leahy.
Leahy employs the historical method to teach all his classes, effectively turning what can otherwise be a dry subject into a discipline that requires critical reading, logical thinking, and persuasive and effective writing.
Students respond enthusiastically to this unique approach, calling Leahy “interesting,” “captivating,” and “the best professor I have ever had.” Shelby Seeley ‘13 noted that “Dr. Leahy is a teacher who can make even the most tedious topics interesting and intriguing.” “His classes are the ones that the students are truly excited to take,” according to Diane DePrez ‘13. “It has often been said… that it is a sad semester when you don’t have a Leahy class.”
By using primary sources and working with students to interpret them, Leahy’s students say that he makes history accessible and understandable on a relevant level.
“[He] always strives to give his students a deeper understanding not just that an event happened, but how it happened, why it had to happen, what brought it about, and what might have happened if it never did occur,” said Josh Beaver ’13..
Excellence in Academic Achievement Award: Dr. William Brown
Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. William Brown isn’t hesitant to involve students in research or have them present at professional conferences.
Recently, Brown presented a poster with collaborators from Kutztown University using data that had almost entirely been generated by students in his biostatistics classes.
Brown attended the annual meeting of the Rochester Academy of Science last fall, accompanied by undergraduates Kelsey Morgan ’15 and Amber De Jong ’16. Morgan presented her research at that meeting, and De Jong recently completed a research project of her own, “Temporal Changes in Red-shouldered Hawk Morphology,” which she will present at the 2013 meeting of the Rochester Academy of Science this fall.
In January 2012, a peer-reviewed paper composed by Janelle Davidson ’12, Brown, and ecologist Marion Zuefle was published in The Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, the leading peer-reviewed journal on the science of animal welfare. Titled “Effects of Phenotypic Characteristics on the Length of Stay of Dogs at Two No Kill Animal Shelters,” it has been read more than 800 times, making it the most-read paper published in the journal.