Category: teaching

Focus on the faculty: Lisa Donovan


Lisa_donovan with plantsGreat Q & A on the UGA homepage with professor of plant biology Lisa Donovan:


When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?

I came to the University of Georgia in 1995 and was attracted by the diversity and excellence of the plant biologists here.

What are your favorite courses and why?

At the undergraduate level, I enjoy contributing to BIOL 1108, “Principles of Plant Biology II” for biology majors, because it provides the opportunity to interact with a lot of students early in their academic careers. At the graduate level, I enjoy teaching PBIO 8890, “Plant Reproductive and Physiological Ecology,” because I get to teach my specialty to receptive and enthusiastic graduate students.

What interests you about your field?

An understanding of ecological and evolutionary relationships helps explain the patterns that I see in the natural world around me. It also has the potential to help us mitigate the effects of global climate change.

What are some highlights of your career at UGA?

I have had some research successes, but I get just as much satisfaction from being graduate coordinator, which allows me to facilitate the professional development of young scientists.

How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa

Research allows me to contribute to our understanding of plant ecological and evolutionary responses to the environment. Teaching keeps my small research contributions in perspective within the bigger picture of science and society.  You never really understand something until you teach it!

Some of the world's best, right here on our campus. Read the whole thing.

Organic Chemistry II app


Local High School Student, UGA Professor Team Up to iPhone/iPad application

By Jessica Luton

For North Oconee High School student Chuanbo Pan, computer programming just comes naturally. After creating an iPhone app to help fellow high school students learn Latin, Pan was sought out by his neighbor, chemistry professor Jason Locklin, to help create an app for what is often known as one of UGA’s most difficult classes—Organic Chemistry II.

The SCALE-UP teaching method


SCALEUP - lewis and wiegert in the classroomTerrific article on classroom innovations by two of our very best: Steven Lewis and Craig Wiegert:

Two physics professors have taken Isaac Newton's first law of motion-an object at rest will continue to be at rest unless acted upon by an external force-and applied it to the way they teach the subject.

For decades there was inertia on how physics classes were taught to undergraduates: A lecturer would talk to students about physics without the opportunity for students to actively engage in the concepts.

Assistant professor Craig Wiegert and associate professor Steven Lewis, faculty members in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, are trying to be that external force to provide some movement in how introductory physics courses can be taught at UGA.

Funded in part by a 2012 Summer Innovative Instruction grant from the Office of the Vice President for Instruction, the course they developed and are jointly teaching this fall aims to bring a hands-on, small-class approach to a larger-sized class of about 50 engineering majors. The idea is to present the cerebral concepts of physics to students through group activity and instructor engagement.

"Having students engaged in activities that are designed to strengthen their learning allows them to ask questions and explore new ways of thinking about the various concepts that they have learned," Lewis said.

SEC Academic Leadership Development Program


sec-administrative-fellows with archFour faculty members, including Tracie Costantino of the Lamar Dodd School of Art, will be among the faculty and administrators from the 14 institutions of the Southeastern Conference that gather at UGA this month for a three-day workshop that aims to develop the next generation of academic leaders.

The workshop is part of the SEC Academic Leadership Development Program, which began in 2008 and has two components: a university-level program designed by each institution for its own participants and two, three-day, SEC-wide workshops held on specified campuses for all program participants. The workshop at UGA will be held Oct. 14-16, and the spring workshop will be held at the University of South Carolina.

Congratulations to these faculty members, who represent a real cross-section of campus. They are some of our best at thinking about learning, as well as how to enhance the student experience going forward. Costantino, for one, has been at the center of developing NSF-funded collaborative teaching projects between the School of Art, the College of Education and the College of Engineering.

Image: SEC Academic Leadership Development Program Fellows (l-r): Tracie Costantino, Tom Reichert, Sarah Covert and Julian Cook. Courtesy of UGA Photographic Services.

Beckmann honored with Women in Mathematics Award


kazez_sybilla with chalkboardFor all the attention that mathematics education receives nationally in the U.S., it can be difficult to determine where the front lines are in the battle to help more young people succeed. Beyond the classrooms themselves another is in higher education, where teaching strategies are refined and improved in the search to find more effective pedagogical methods. The department of mathematics is home to one of the leading thinkers on the subject, whose efforts have recently been recognized by the Association of Women in Mathematics Award:

Sybilla Beckmann, a 2011 Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, will receive the award in a January 2014 ceremony. The honor recognizes outstanding achievements in any area of mathematics education.

"Math can be approached in such a different way than is typical in math teaching and learning," Beckmann said. "I would love for everyone to appreciate how beautiful and neat mathematical reasoning is. Mathematical ideas can be as exquisite and profound as any of the great achievements in music, literature, or art.

"My special passion is for teacher education because it matters how teachers approach math and it matters that teachers know the math they will teach deeply, and from a teaching perspective."

As the release says, Beckmann's textbook, "Mathematics for Elementary Teachers," is now a standard text for teachers in training. Discovering better ways to 'teach the teachers' is among the more extraordinary efforts of our faculty, efforts than can impact innumerable students, careers and lives. Congratulations to Beckmann on this recognition and our thanks for her efforts to make a difference in mathematics education.

Image: UGA photographic services.

Music Scholarship: Power in the Progress


The Hugh Hodgson School of Music is renowned for training some of the best conductors, vocalists, cellists, violinists and other instrumental performers in the country. Many of these UGA graduates go on to outstanding international careers and we take great pride in their accomplishments. The Hodgson School also trains some of the best music teachers in America and its impact on the future of the arts in the classroom is at least as important as bringing some of the world's most beautiful music to campus. Indeed these are not exclusive of each other and function wonderfully together. But it's important to note that progress in the classroom hinges on scholarship, as this article from Hodgson school alum Josh Boyd illustrates, UGA music scholars continue to uncover methods for helping students to higher levels of musicianship:

"Power in the Progress System" created by H. Dwight Satterwhite, a professor at the University of Georgia is based on the idea that students will exceed expectations when they have an incentive program that provides constant positive reinforcement as well as a clearly charted path to success.

Sounds simple enough. But it takes a great amount of engagement with teaching to get to a point where one can explain something that sounds obvious. The article lays out the steps of the program and importantly how it "revolutionized our band program" at a middle school in Georgia, one venue among thousands where some of our alums do their best work.

* Thanks to the commenter. Article previously referred to another HHSOM Josh Byrd instead of the correct alum, Joshua Boyd. Apologies.

Medine receives Teaching honor from AAR


The American Academy of Religion awarded one of its highest honors to Carolyn Medine:

Medine, a University of Georgia professor in the department of religion and the Institute for African American Studies, has been selected to receive the 2013 Excellence in Teaching Award from the American Academy of Religion.

The professional society for scholarship and teaching in the field of religion, the AAR has more 10,000 members who teach in about 1,000 colleges, universities, seminaries and schools in North America and abroad. The award, announced on the AAR website, will be formally presented at the academy's annual meeting in November.

"I'm very humbled by this award," Medine said. "So many important teachers of religion have won this award that I feel honored, and a bit unworthy, to be included among them."

Medine teaches courses focused on how literature and art relate to religious experience, particularly Southern and African-American women's religious experience, within the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. She has written extensively on the work of Toni Morrison and Harper Lee.

An important honor by her peers for Dr. Medine and one that brings great distinction to the Franklin College and UGA. Congratulations to Dr. Medine for bringing great instruction to her students.

Harshman to lead First-Year Odyssey program


harshman_melissa portraitThe First-Year Odyssey program has been an important innovation in teaching but also in introducing freshman to the university setting. The FYO now has a new director:

Melissa Harshman, an associate professor in the University of Georgia's Lamar Dodd School of Art, has been named faculty director of the First-Year Odyssey Seminar program. Through the program, small-group academic seminars taught by tenured and tenure-track faculty are offered to all incoming freshmen. Harshman follows Tim Foutz, who served as director in the founding year of the program from 2011-12.


"The First Year Odyssey program not only allows freshmen to work with some of the most distinguished faculty on campus, but also introduces them to the myriad of exciting opportunities at the University of Georgia," said Harshman. "I'm delighted to be leading such an auspicious program."

My own bias aside(!), it's important to have an art professor and artist rotate into this position. A lot of what we do at the university is preparing people to be active citizens, critical thinkers and leaders, if they are so inclined. The arts are a crucial aspect of the university experience as preparation for an engaged citizenry - what one contributes to them as well as what one receives. 

Congratulations to the program and to Harshman.

Focus on Faculty: William Finlay


finlay-william, with students, looking at a computer.Sociology professor and department head William Finlay is currently featured in the Focus on Faculty on the UGA homepage:

A few highlights/insights on Finlay's perspective on teaching:

What interests you about your field?

I enjoy its diversity and the sheer range of human behaviors and institutions that one can examine and explain as a sociologist. It remains as fascinating a discipline to me now as it did when I took my first undergraduate sociology class nearly 40 years ago.

What are some highlights of your career at UGA?

Becoming a Meigs professor, receiving an award from one of the sections of the American Sociological Association for my first book, and starting a study-abroad program in South Africa.

How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?

For me, they've also gone hand in hand. My current research project is a direct outgrowth of a class I have been teaching – I often get ideas for research from teaching. And when I'm working on my research, I often think about how I would present the findings to students, which I find to be a good way of forcing myself to make the argument as clear and interesting as possible.

What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?

A set of concepts and ideas for understanding the world around them, whether they are at home, at work or visiting unfamiliar places. I like to think of sociology as a kind of toolkit that we can use to explain human behavior and I hope that my students take some of these tools with them.

Be sure and read the whole thing.

Image: University of Georgia. Finlay, right, with students.

Cell signaling iBook features faculty partnership from across campus



Cell Signaling diagram in color on grey backgroundLeading-edge research and delivery format brings together faculty from across campus:

Using a combination of 3-D models and animations, a group of researchers, educators and digital artists at the University of Georgia have published the iBook "Cell Signaling: An Introduction" to help students understand the dynamic molecular world of cells.

The cell signaling iBook is the first in a suite of complementary materials designed to help students learn about how the nervous system works. Released in August through Apple's iTunes textbook store and designed for the iPad, the interactive book includes picture galleries, a dozen 3-D rotatable models of molecules and proteins, more than 50 animations and 80 self-assessment items.

The production of the iBook was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health through a Small Business Innovative Research grant awarded to UGA startup company IS3D LLC, titled "Stimulating Young Neuroscientists And Physiologists in Science Education (SYNAPSE)."


IS3D is a partnership of seven UGA faculty and staff members: Moore; Tom Robertson, associate professor of physiology and pharmacology; Dr. Scott Brown, professor of small animal medicine, and Dr. Cynthia Ward, professor of small animal medicine, in the College of Veterinary Medicine; instructional designer Flint Buchanan in the Office of Online Learning; Mike Hussey, associate professor of theatre and film studies, in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; and Casey O'Donnell, a telecommunications professor formerly in the Grady College of Journalism who recently moved to Michigan State University.

Bravo to our faculty for continuing to find innovative ways to work together, and to federal agencies for their creative funding arrangements in tough budgetary environments. Perhaps never (in peace time) have extramural resources been as scarce and continually shrinking as they are now. A society clamors for solutions to complex problems, research allocations, and especially those focused on building new teaching tools, are crucial investments in the future.