From the desk of President Leslie K. Guice
Faculty Feature: Dr. Heather McCollum Just Flipped her Class
Dr. Heather McCollum always feels at home on a college campus. That is probably because of her roots growing up in the small college town of Berea, Ohio, and home of Baldwin Wallace University. And even though she spent most of her life up North and out West, she feels right at home in the South at Louisiana Tech. Heather noted, “I was delighted with the weather and the hospitality of the people. I knew instantly that I would work well with the School of Human Ecology and Director Amy Yates. Dr. Yates’ hospitality extended to finding me a very ‘cosmopolitan’ condo, hidden just 2 blocks off campus, and made my transition into the department smooth.” Before arriving at Louisiana Tech, Heather lived in Southern California for 8 years and owned a music store. She then moved to Bozeman, MT, working as an assistant buyer for a women’s boutique and helping purchase unique art (one of her artists ended with work in the Smithsonian). Similar to Ruston, Bozeman is a strong community of highly educated individuals, and being there encouraged Heather to seek higher education. She worked 40 hours a week while pursuing her undergraduate degree in Health and Human Development from Montana State University. From there, with a BS and outstanding grades, she was accepted to the nation’s #1 doctoral program in Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. She earned her Ph.D. in 2008. While at the University of Minnesota, she was involved with multiple research projects and was mentored by several renowned researchers. Her first two mentors were Drs. Sharon M. Danes and Harold D. Grotevant. Dr. Danes’ research focus is on family and economic issues. One of her publications received “Outstanding Journal Article Award of the Year.” Dr. Harold D. Grotevant’s longitudinal research on Open Adoption allowed Heather to develop interests and skills in online methodologies. She also learned about the use of technology as it relates to family and health. Her third mentor and dissertation advisor, Dr. William Doherty, focused research on parenting, couples relationships, family health issues, and action research in the community. When asked about the role that her mentors played in her career, Heather noted, “All of my mentors encouraged me to develop my own research interests and aspire to performing research to make a difference in the lives of families. I am fortunate to have not just professional relationships, but strong personal relationships with each of my mentors. To this day, as I write grants and articles, they are available to offer support, critical analysis, and encouragement.” At Louisiana Tech, Heather teaches courses such as Marriage and Family, Family Theories, Family Law & Public Policy, Family Finance, Family Stress and Intro to Human Development. No matter what the subject material, Heather’s main goal is to engage students in the critical thinking process for learning and understanding. In classes under 40 students, there is more time spent on discussion and development of material applications by the students. In larger classes, Heather incorporates the use of “clickers” or electronic student response devices as a way to engage and provide immediate feedback. Heather brought her love of research to Louisiana Tech. By the end of her first year, she had secured her first independent grant from Lincoln Health Foundation to start an outreach program for parents of Lincoln Parish to increase knowledge and good practices in areas of health, communication, and emotional wellness. Two years ago, the Louisiana Board of Regents funded her grant, Innovative Diabetes Self-Management Intervention through Technology. This grant has been involved with the local Health Hut Clinic and is evaluating the use of personal computers and internet support for individuals with Type II diabetes. Heather’s latest grant, Youth4Health, embraces the Michelle Obama’s health initiative Let’s Move. Youth4Health is a 3-year, $450,000 grant to promote healthy living choices to a new generation at a time when our nation’s obesity and Type II diabetes are at an all-time high – and even more so in Louisiana than in most other states. Youth4Health had a successful summer camp for youth 8-18 years of age where they learned how to grow an organic garden, prepare meals from their garden, learn the nutritional value of healthy foods, and the importance of family meal time in sustaining positive family relationships. Heather received the Robbie Auger Watson Endowed Professorship Award in her first year at Louisiana Tech. She has contributed significantly in her role as a member of Tech’s Institutional Research Board for use of human subjects in research. One of Heather’s greatest pleasures is collaborating with colleagues on research and mentoring students, something that fits in well with the Tech culture. We are fortunate to have her in a position to share her skills and support other professionals and students. Nothing can replace the excellence of a strong research team comprised of community members, colleagues, students, and research assistants. As I was completing my blog post on Heather, I bumped into her in a meeting and she told me about the exciting transformation that she is making in her classes. This is the type of work that I want to encourage as our faculty continue to seek the very best learning opportunities for our students. Here is Heather’s report. Heather’s report on Critical Thinking and the Flipped Classroom: This past year I had heard the term “flipping” classes. Dr. Guice mentioned this style of teaching when interviewing for the position of Louisiana Tech President. At the same time during department discussions about our goals for our students, we began to focus on what changes as faculty we could make to provide our students with the skills to “become learners who can learn for themselves and by themselves.” A colleague mentioned a workshop being held in Berkeley at the Institute of Critical Thinking. I decided this would be an appropriate use of my professorship funds so I signed up for a weekend workshop in spring 2013. In this model of instruction, the instructor is creating a relationship-rich environment that personalizes learning, increases student-teacher interaction, and leads to greater student understanding of key concepts. The workshop allowed an experienced practitioner to demonstrate the different approaches that help students develop their processes of learning and logical develop ideas from course context. This model allows far more productive instructional time to be devoted to application, analysis, and synthesis than would be available in a traditional model. The idea is to build more productive student-teacher interaction and the higher-order learning objectives from Bloom’s taxonomy. I re-worked a few of my classes that had originally been 80% lecture with 20% experiential focus, to 80% experiential and 20% lecture. The critical thinking format allows students to be held accountable for doing their outside class content study. This style of pedagogy helps students practice the intellectual skills that will help them process the class information and integrate it into their growing understanding of class concepts. This fall I teach one of my favorite classes as it is an introduction to the field of marriage and family. The class is taken by students university-wide and by a blend of freshman, sophomore, junior, and seniors. Our first class was exhilarating – for both me and the students. I found the one simple change of having them start with questioning who I am instead of giving them my spiel opened the door for 2 hours of student led questions about the course content and process.