January 8, 2019

First Seacrest Teaching Fellows Named

First Seacrest Teaching Fellows Named
The Seacrest Fellows program cultivates exceptional teaching by identifying and recognizing instructional faculty who ignite students' passion for learning and provide high-quality learning experiences.
Dr. John Geppert, professor of finance, Dr. Laurie Miller, associate professor of practice in economics, and Dr. Uchechukwu Jarrett, assistant professor of practice in economics, were named as inaugural Seacrest Teaching Fellows in October. Made possible through the generous support of Rhonda and the late James Seacrest, the fellows program cultivates exceptional teaching by identifying and recognizing instructional faculty who ignite students' passion for learning and provide high-quality learning experiences.

“In my experience, there has always been a 'disconnect' between what we as professors teach and what students learn. I view the Seacrest fellowship as an opportunity to use innovative teaching practices in conjunction with research to simultaneously understand the divide and bridge the gap, better aligning what we believe students should learn with what they actually learn,” Jarrett said.

Faculty submitted applications describing how participation in the program would support their growth as a teacher. They also provided a statement of their teaching philosophy, curriculum vitae and a description of a teaching innovation, project or other instructional-related research question they plan to address in the program. An ad hoc faculty committee selected the fellows and included Dr. Tawnya Means, assistant dean, assistant professor of practice in management and director of the Teaching and Learning Center; Dr. Sam Nelson, associate professor of practice in management and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship; Dr. Jenna Pieper, assistant professor of management; Dr. Troy Smith, assistant professor of management; and Dr. Shawn Strother, assistant professor of practice in finance.

“The faculty were selected based on a rubric, weighted on excellence as a teacher, their project idea and impact it will have on the college – specifically the students. Funding includes $6,000 per year for two years,” Means said.

The Seacrest Teaching Fellows projects include exploring student effort to see if there are specific characteristics correlated with effort, adapting teaching innovations to improve class participation and information retention, and comparing in-class cohorts based on group composition characteristics. 
 
In exploring student effort, Miller aims to develop an effort index by utilizing student data obtained from textbook software along with office hour attendance, peer mentor sessions and other measures. Over the course of four years, she will conduct an extensive literature review, design a model of effort, collect data on approximately 1,000 students and develop the index. With the index created and calculated for each student, analysis will reveal which student characteristics correlate with effort. An effort index is valuable in understanding behavior, such as how students adjust their effort over the course of a semester and whether there is a gendered difference in how they adjust, whether seasonal patterns exist and if specific Gallup CliftonStrengths® correlate with a student’s likelihood of increasing or decreasing effort in response to a grade. The resulting insight will allow teachers to individualize their advice to students in order to enhance performance in class.
 
While addressing class participation and content retention, Jarrett will implement several solutions across his classes. He will add debates to his International Trade (ECON 421) class and include questions relating to the different viewpoints given on subsequent exams. In teaching Economics of the Less Developed Countries (ECON 423), Jarrett will highlight challenges developing countries face through moviessuch as “The Grand Tour” and “Black Panther.” The movies, in conjunction with questions, require students to identify relevant issues and possible solutions in developing countries. Meanwhile, in Introduction to International Economics (ECON 321), Jarrett aims to bridge the gap between class and the real world by constructing real world problems, solvable using each model the students are studying. In addition to teaching innovations, he intends to pursue several research ideas including investigating the differences between teaching principles of economics and international economics and identify best teaching practices for the latter. He will also study the impact of international classes on job placement, and other factors such as income and job satisfaction. Jarrett’s third research objective is to determine the impact of risk perception in international trade, finance and globalization. As the only instructor in international economics at the College of Business, he plans to retest classic arguments regarding teaching practices in various sized classes, eliminating the need to correct for instructor differences.
 
To examine the effects of group composition on student learning, Geppert will randomly generate seat assignments for his approximately 300 students in the fall semester. He will classify the three-student groups based on demographic and psychometric characteristics including gender, GPA quartile, ESL, CliftonStrengths attributes and MSLQ motivation themes. The GPA and ACT scores control for general intelligence and likely performance, while the use of MSLQ, a questionnaire used to measure student motivational orientation, tests whether having a highly motivated student in a group effectively motivates others in the group. Since there is such a large number, the study will be purely exploratory with respect to CliftonStrengths attributes.