Finding creative methods for engaging students in learning with the help of technology is a goal shared by faculty members Gail Hawisher, a professor of English and director of the Center for Writing Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Cleo D’Arcy, a professor of crop sciences and assistant dean of academic programs in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
In addition to their involvement with the Center for Writing Studies, Hawisher and D’Arcy have yet another thing in common: The Teaching Advancement Board recently selected them as Distinguished Teacher/Scholars for the 2005-2006 academic year. They will be honored at the Annual Faculty Retreat for Active Learning on Feb. 10.
The annual Distinguished Teacher/Scholar program recognizes outstanding faculty members who actively enhance teaching and learning on campus and supports innovative projects that recipients develop as part of the selection process. Award recipients serve as consultants and mentors to other faculty members and departments seeking to explore new instructional methods and revitalize their teaching programs.(See full list of Distinguished Teacher/Scholars.)
Distinguished Teacher/Scholar for 2005-2006 is just one of numerous teaching awards garnered by Cleo D'Arcy during her 27-year career as a professor of crop sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
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On the first day of class each semester, D’Arcy likes to show students an old issue of Science magazine with a cover picture of the Red Queen from the book “Alice in Wonderland” and the queen’s philosophy: “It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.”
“I tell my students that’s what it’s like fighting plant diseases: You’re constantly coming up with new ways to try to manage them, so they aren’t causing huge losses and subsequent problems for people,” D’Arcy said. “Some diseases have been around for hundreds, or even thousands, of years and are even referenced in the Bible. It’s not like you solve them. You win for a while and then go back and start again.”
While some people might find that a Sisyphean endeavor, that’s exactly what D’Arcy finds exhilarating about her chosen field.
When D’Arcy joined the ACES faculty in 1978, she taught graduate-level courses for the first 15 years, but then decided that she wanted to try teaching undergraduate students and developed a General Education course with an enrollment of 75 – students who encompassed an array of academic majors, levels of motivation and learning styles, some of whom had limited exposure to science or perceived it as arcane and obscure. To connect with undergraduate students in that course, D’Arcy said she had to change her teaching style: figure out how to spark students’ interest in science, employ a variety of formats and media in order to reach different students and demonstrate that science had relevance to their everyday lives.
D’Arcy and her colleagues’ research into learning styles and the effects of various media has included testing IClickers, remote control-like devices that students use to electronically answer questions, which the faculty members employed to increase student participation in large lecture classes. They also have developed a Web site, called Plants, Pathogens and People, that allows students to perform simulated lab or field activities.
“They can see how environmental conditions affect a plant disease, or they can plant a whole forest of elm trees and watch them die from Dutch elm disease,” D’Arcy said. “They can cause an epidemic and try to manage it.”
With an infectious laugh, lively sense of humor and love for storytelling, D’Arcy has appeared consistently on the Incomplete List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students and has garnered national teaching awards as well, such as the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Regional Outstanding Teacher Award in 2002 and the USDA/NASULGC Food and Agriculture Sciences Excellence in College and University Teaching Award in 2001.
A member of the College of ACES Academy of Teaching Excellence since 1997, D’Arcy led workshops in the colleges of ACES and Business this semester in which she and faculty members from each college shared their work and experiences related to scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning; she plans to lead at least two more workshops in other colleges during the spring.
“Part of what I want to do as a Distinguished Teacher/Scholar is tell people that we need to get to the point where we’re scholarly teachers: It’s our professional responsibility. And it can happen in a little way – people don’t have to give up all of their research in their discipline to do it,” D’Arcy said. “I was really excited to win the Distinguished Teacher/Scholar Award because I view the program as a positive step on the part of campus to recognize the teaching excellence that exists here. There are many excellent teachers on campus who put a lot of time and effort into it.”
Teaching with technology
As a Distinguished Teacher/Scholar for 2005-2006, Gail Hawisher, a professor of English and director of the Center for Writing Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, plans to help faculty members explore new ways of teaching with technology media, such as blogs, wikis, and Podcasting.
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Hawisher has spent her career studying the ways that computers have revolutionized writing and learning and the ways in which people have responded to the new technologies. Since she came to the UI in 1990, Hawisher also has been interested in helping students improve their writing and helping faculty members find new ways of using writing to enhance students’ learning.
“Encouraging students to write effectively is among many departments’ goals, but what it means to communicate well has expanded: It’s more than talking and writing,” Hawisher said, because students today also use presentation software, create Web sites and even make videos as part of their writing projects.
Hawisher became intrigued by the “Writing with Video” (Art 199) course developed by Joseph Squier, a professor of narrative media, and graduate student Maria Lovett, in the College of Art and Design. The course allows students to explore video as a rhetorical medium using writing to conceptualize, solve problems and process what they learn as they create documentaries and other video productions.
After observing the class this summer and fall, and seeing how engaged students became with their projects, Hawisher formed a media group with several faculty members and graduate students from LAS, art and design, the department of English and the Center for Writing Studies, who met weekly to discuss successful strategies for teaching a “Writing With Video” course. The course was approved this month as a new advanced composition offering.
As a Distinguished Teacher/Scholar for 2005-2006, Hawisher plans to continue to work with the media group, as well as other faculty members to explore new ways of teaching with technology, such as blogs, Web logs that can be updated daily; wikis, collaborative software for creating Web content; and Podcasting, the distribution of audio and video programs over the Internet. During the spring semester, she plans to host a series of meetings in which these innovative instructors will share information about their high-tech teaching strategies with their colleagues from around campus.
Hawisher has written or edited numerous books, book chapters and articles and has given a lengthy list of presentations on the intersection of literacy and computers. She is co-editor of Computers and Composition: An International Journal and also co-edits the book series “New Dimensions in Computers and Composition Studies.”
In 2004, LAS recognized Hawisher’s work by awarding her the Lynn M. Martin Distinguished Award for Women Faculty and the Campus Award for Undergraduate Teaching. Among the numerous honors and awards Hawisher has received are the Outstanding Technology Innovator Award, conferred by the Conference on College Composition and Communication (2000), and the Robert Schneider Award for Outstanding Teaching Service (2000), from the department of English.
“Not only is she a quality classroom teacher in her own right, the impact of her teaching is magnified campuswide by her very active role in “Writing Across the Curriculum,” training faculty members and graduate students and spreading good teaching practices,” said Martin Camargo, head of the department of English.
“I was just delighted,” Hawisher said about being named a Distinguished Teacher/Scholar for 2005-2006, “especially since I was chosen by a faculty committee. After having worked with so many excellent faculty members on this campus through the Center for Writing Studies, I was extraordinarily proud that the committee saw fit to honor me with this award.”
Distinguished Teacher/Scholars The Distinguished Teacher/Scholar Program, sponsored by the Teaching Advancement Board and the Office of the Provost, honors and supports outstanding instructors who take an active role in promoting learning on campus. Although the Distinguished Teacher/ Scholar appointment lasts one year, honorees carry the designation with them throughout their UI careers. The honorees since the program’s inception in 1999:
- Philip Buriak, agricultural engineering
- O. Vernon Burton, history
- Cleo D’Arcy, crop sciences*
- Paul F. Diehl, political science
- James A. Gentry, finance
- Gail E. Hawisher, English*
- Steve Helle, journalism
- Paul Kelter, chemistry
- J. Bruce Litchfield, engineering
- Michael C. Loui, electrical and computer engineering
- Lenny Pitt, computer science
- Shelly J. Schmidt, food chemistry
- Thomas Schwandt, educational psychology
- Linda C. Smith, library and information science
- Joseph C. Squier, art and design
- Arlette Willis, curriculum and instruction
*Appointed this year
Mark your calendar Faculty retreat will be Feb. 10 The spring 2006 All-Campus Faculty Retreat will be Feb. 10 in the Illini Union. The plenary speaker will be Ken Bain, director of the New York University Center for Teaching Excellence. Bain’s talk will be based on his recent award-winning book, “What the Best College Teachers Do.” This year’s 2005-2006 Distinguished Teacher/Scholars, Cleo D’Arcy and Gail Hawisher, will be co-presenters of one of the five concurrent sessions at the retreat. Information about the retreat and how to register will be available soon.