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Active learning is a core part of the history of our December LAMP Fellow of the Month. McKensie Harris, a Wyoming native and 2014 graduate of the University of Wyoming, had the opportunity to be a student in several courses that were on the front end of the University's transition to active strategies. Now a faculty member in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of Animal Science, McKensie was a highly distinguished, top-ranked applicant to the 2019-2020 LAMP yearlong training. In McKensie's application, she emphasized that when students are directed toward actually applying information in their real world, they become more enthusiastic about thinking for themselves, about thinking more deeply, and they more fully understand the relevance of information. Further, McKensie went on to state,
"I strive to be a role model for all of my students. It is important [that] the example I set involves a tremendous amount of hard work because the students who choose to be in my classroom deserve someone who is willing to dedicate the time and effort to make their learning experience something they will never forget."
McKensie's above words dovetail perfectly with her actions. Throughout our Summer Institute, Mckensie would rise at the crack of dawn to complete her pre-parties. These preparties entail reading, watching of videos and critical thinking about the learning that is to come that day. In fact, I recall one morning awaking to find that McKensie had placed a suggested 'assignment' on the front porch of my Sheridan College student housing. It was evident that being a role model to her students guides McKensie's life even when her students are not present! Throughout the week, McKensie immersed in various active learning modalities ranging from team-based learning to collaborative communication.
She gained the tools that she needed to achieve her goal, "to encourage students to discover and develop their interest in food science with the hope of showing them how food plays a major role in their personal lives and how it could be the focus of their professional lives."
Of the 25 Fellows in the 2019-2020 LAMP, McKensie was the first to complete her Instructional Strategy and she showed developed skills in active learning implementation and the writing of specific and measurable learning outcomes. Additionally, she showed an evolving ability to align her teaching philosophy with her instructional design. In one particularly poignant passage, McKensie states:
I believe in active learning to trigger the mind, body, and soul. I will facilitate just enough to guide students down a path of learning that they want to walk down. I will engage with the students during their learning endeavors because I am not an expert; I still have lots to learn and I want to learn with my students. I will always prioritize their perspective as a student because this allows me to cater the learning to what’s most effective for them. I will be genuine and transparent with them because I care about them. I don’t only care about them as students in my classroom, but also as individuals navigating college life.
This statement showcases McKensie's commitment to improvement; it reflects her journey and growth mindset! It shows metacognition.
McKensie's strategy entailed a complete transformation of her gateway-level food science course. She adopted TBL and adapted problem-based learning to fit her needs. She flipped her classroom, integrated drawing, gallery walks, polling and other AL modalities. McKensie's syllabus shows the revolution; it is a colorful, accessible document that invites students to want to learn. From her syllabus design to her implementation, McKensie considered inclusion and integrated reflective writings that allowed all students to have voice. In order to assess student learning, McKensie utilized a knowledge survey.
Throughout the semester, McKensie has realized that assessment of course learning outcomes, like that done with the knowledge survey, is integral for understanding the effectiveness of the course and the effectiveness of the instruction. While she is still in the process of deeply analyzing the knowledge survey results and making notes for next year’s Food Science class, McKensie has realized the power of knowing her effectiveness (and ineffectiveness). Because of this, she is now planning to consciously focus on more ways to effectively assess student learning through the course of each semester in all of her classes. This will help her, and others, shed light on the true learning gains made by her students. McKensie's students relate that their appreciation of her curriculum design, her investment and skill:
"Mackenzie is quite possibly the best professor for this course she knows how to keep people engaged."
"She is very invested in the success of her students and the course."
"It was very valuable and a good educational experience based on a different teaching style."
The theme for this year's LAMP training was "Feeling the Power of Transformative Learning". McKensie embodies this transformation and expresses the way in which she has modified those things that she took for granted; she has become more open to change:
“I am much more confident in defining who I am as an instructor. Prior to the LAMP yearlong training, my philosophy and instructional goals primarily relied on my personal experiences in the classroom as a student. While it is still important to bear in mind the student’s perspective, I realize the power of basing my philosophy on principles that are proven by time and research to best inform my pedagogy.”
Congratulations McKensie! You are a distinguished LAMP lighter!