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Oklahoma State University

Unlocking the potential of student understanding

Tue, October 11, 2016
Publication: 
Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Faculty members in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at OSU are committed to the scholarship of teaching and learning, the commitment to understanding and improving the process of unlocking students’ potential of understanding.

The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at OSU has a reputation for research-based academic programs supported through applied learning opportunities and excellent teaching. But CASNR faculty members do more than deliver knowledge; they unlock the potential of understanding. The commitment to understanding and improving this process has a name: the scholarship of teaching and learning.

“The scholarship of teaching is exceptionally student-focused,” said Cynda Clary, associate dean of academic programs for CASNR. “In CASNR, we are fortunate to have faculty members in all academic departments who are driven by a desire to understand how students learn and how teaching influences this process.”

Sergio Abit, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences, said he only succeeds in teaching if his students succeed in learning.

Abit said in order to maximize learning in higher education, instructors should research teaching interventions, just as they research other subjects.

Results of his study “Utilizing Videos to Enhance Student Understanding of Soil Science Calculations” encouraged him to implement a different teaching instrument in his Fundamentals of Soil Science course: videos.

After years of students struggling with fertilizer calculations on exams, Abit realized he needed to take a new approach. He began creating step-by- step instructional videos for calculations, which were posted to the course website. Then, Abit studied test scores and asked for student input about the helpfulness of the videos.

“The results of this study convinced me to expand my use of short video segments,” Abit said. “I am now completely sold on them.”

He said his drive behind pursuing the scholarship of teaching is that his students deserve the very best.

“I owe it to my students to improve my teaching, deliver the best product and learn how to further engage students,” Abit said.

Tyson Ochsner, associate professor of plant and soil science, said he spends time investigating the scholarship of teaching and learning because he wants to serve his students well and provide them opportunities to grow.

He said students taught by faculty who research teaching and learning immediately benefit from greater engagement with the course material itself.

“I hope my passion for plant and soil science and my curiosity for the scholarship of teaching will help my students develop some kind of love for learning,” Ochsner said.

Ochsner is working with Shane Robinson, associate director of the OSU Institute of Teaching and Learning Excellence and agricultural education associate professor, to study the effect his courses have on student confidence levels and technical skills. He also is examining the correlation between active interaction and course performance.

“Teaching is hard work, but just because we’re working hard doesn’t mean we can’t be even more effective,” Ochsner said.

In natural resouce ecology and management, professor Karen Hickman recently collaborated with faculty in rangeland ecology and management programs across the country on a USDA Higher Education Challenge Planning Grant titled “Building a Better Capstone.”

Her passion for researching effective capstone courses stems from what she said is one of her main functions as a professor – preparing students for a job. She said she believes her work in the scholarship of teaching is just starting.

“Having that impact that goes beyond the immediate short term and can effect them in the future, like preparing them for a career – that’s why I do what I do,” Hickman said. “There’s always something I can improve, and therefore, I’ll keep researching.”

By Jacy Bradford

College News Network

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Article content provided via Triangle | The official magazine of the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Oklahoma State University.

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