Catherine is the Program Coordinator for the Information Technology program, and has been teaching at UALR for 14 years. Prior to that she taught at Dale Carnegie for ten years. Perhaps due to her training as an administer of the MyersBriggs Type Indicator, she is very aware of the various learning styles and preferences that students have.
Catherine’s primary goal as a teacher is to meet people where they are and to take them where they need to go. She encourages students the first day of class to communicate with the faculty team about their specific needs. For example, if a student tells them that sitting in the front greatly enhances their learning, they will make that happen without requiring a reason or documentation of a disability. As a result of this open and welcoming attitude, there are students in her class who have a disability but who are getting their needs met in the classroom, and have never registered with the Disability Resource Center at UALR.
One way the IT Minor program works to meet students where they are is in how they deliver materials. The vast majority of documents are provided electronically, but there are some students, particularly those in their 50s and 60s and older, for whom paper handouts are greatly preferred. Students in that generation often don’t trust electronic documents and are much more comfortable with a piece of paper instead. Catherine begins the program by providing more paper copies, and over the course of the semester weans them off of paper as they become more accustomed to electronic handouts. The handouts are always available in electronic format, which makes it accessible to not only students who might need to use a screen reader or to enlarge the size, but also to students using iPhones and similar technology. Everyone’s needs are met.
She utilizes a great technique that she calls ‘think, write, and share.’ When she wants to get a discussion going, she gives the class time to think about the concept they are talking about, and a few minutes to write their thoughts down. This helps introverts by giving them time to map out their thoughts. It helps extroverts slow down and not dominate the conversation. After some time to write down a few words, she asks the class for a volunteer, and the class knows everyone can and will be called on. Because introverts have had time to thoughtfully consider what they want to say, they won’t feel embarrassed or won’t reflexively say “I don’t have anything.” If they do, Catherine will instruct him or her to think about it and “I’ll come back to you.” In this way the students know that participation is required, but it’s done in such a way that is comfortable and non-threatening. The ‘think, write and share’ technique works with all of these populations and brings out the best in them, and in the class in toto.
Rather than have students memorize information and recite it on an exam, they provide performance-based assessments. For example, rather than answering questions about how Excel works, students are given data and are asked to translate it into an Excel spreadsheet. These are the skills that are required in the workplace, and so the assessments prepare students for real-life work experience. Students have two opportunities to take any assessments, with feedback provided. The entire program is a lab experience where students can learn things about themselves as they work in groups, which will only benefit them in the work place.
Catherine and the IT Minor program are shining examples of student-focused teaching. The DRC is proud to work with Catherine and her team to make UALR more inclusive for everyone!