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Congratulations to Dr. Michael Cuddy for being selected as the LAMP Fellow of the Month for January, 2019! Dr. Cuddy is a professor of Chemistry at Northwest College and when he applied to the LAMP Summer Institute and yearlong training, his goal was a big one! He stated, “I hope to improve as an educator and, ultimately, help students to truly understand the scientific concepts I'm trying to teach them. It's always disappointing to me when students forget a really important concept just a few weeks after we've discussed it in class.”
From the minute that Michael arrived in the snowy Rocky Mountains for our weeklong institute, he began incorporating the big-picture best practices into his planned instruction. His rich experience as an instructor had led him to observe that students learn when they, “experience a personal emotional connection to subject matter” and acquire information in through multimodal means.
Michael wrote a comprehensive instructional strategy guided by these philosophies
in which he planned to implement team-based learning strategies to enable students
to apply principles of mathematics to solve chemical problems. To facilitate teams
in their co-achievement of this outcome, Michael emphasized in-class practice and
Not only did Michael revise his class sessions to better engage students in their own learning, he also innovated a novel testing strategy that facilitated students’ metacognitive growth. On individual exams, Students were allowed to “wager” points on each question based upon their confidence in their answer. Students also took team exams; these exams focused on deep critical thought and application. Thus, students’ total grade was a conglomerate of individual and team performances.
Not only did Michael create assignments and evaluative exams that align with his philosophical approaches and learning outcomes but he also recognized the need for an external assessment measures of students’ motivation and achievement. Thus, he also asked his students to complete a chemistry motivation questionnaire and the standardized American Chemical Society final exam.
At the end of the semester, Michael completed extensive analysis of each student’s achievement on and confidence in each chemistry concept. He also gave each question a complexity rating. This enabled him to express student confidence as a function of item complexity! The resulting function shows a clear negative correlation: the more complex a concept, the less confidence students express in their self-assessments. Moreover, in support of work done by others on our team, Michael affirms that measures of confidence correlate with correctness.
Only two weeks ago, Michael completed his writing of a matured Statement of Teaching Philosophy. He states:
“I believe that knowledge is one of the greatest qualities for which to strive. Learning how to acquire knowledge is tremendously satisfying and opens doors to a whole host of opportunities that span disciplines. It is my desire to provide my students with the tutelage, mentorship, and guidance they need to acquire or hone this skill. I am encouraged when I receive acknowledgements of my efforts from students. One student recently commented in a post-course evaluation that “Dr. Cuddy took my fear of chemistry and turned it into a feeling of joy and pride. I no longer flinch at the sight of a chemical equation, and I can’t thank him enough for that.” I hope that each of my students will have a similar learning experience and that such an experience may make a lasting impression that resonates throughout each student’s collegiate and professional career.
Thus, while Dr. Cuddy will certainly spend a lifetime working towards the goal that he expressed in his LAMP application, it is clear that he has made one large step towards improving as an educator and allowing students to truly understand (and be confident in) scientific concepts!