University of Nebraska Kearney

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Center for Teaching Excellence


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 Bending Twigs


Affecting Eternity

Volume 4 Issue 3

Center for Teaching Excellence

Spring 2008


Kaufman Receives Leland Holdt Award

Wadkins Receives OTICA

Engaging UNK Students through Undergraduate Research

American Democracy Project Presentation

Engaging UNK Students with Service Learning

Survival Strategies for Teaching Large Classes

Using Collaborative Teams In and Out of the Classroom

Tentative Fall 2008 Calendar


About the Newsletter Title…

Contact Information

UNK CTE Website




Don Kaufman Receives Leland Holdt Award

At winter commencement ceremonies in December, Dr. Don Kaufman was named recipient of the 2007 Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award. Dr. Kaufman, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, became the 12th UNK faculty member to receive the award since it was established in 1998. Recipients of this award must “demonstrate influential intellectual impact on students, have published research or produced creative activity,” and “…demonstrate extraordinary education-related service to students, the campus, the profession, the discipline or the community.”

During his career, he has mentored more than 50 undergraduate research students, as well as given numerous presentations of his own research at professional meetings. In the past three years, he has published four refereed journal articles.

In addition to the Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award, Dr. Kaufman has received all three major campus and system-wide awards for teaching, including the University of Nebraska Outstanding Teaching and Instruction Award, the Pratt-Heins Award for Outstanding Teaching and the Nebraska Board of Trustees Outstanding Teaching Award.

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Theresa Wadkins Receives OTICA Award

Dr. Theresa A. Wadkins, Associate Professor of Psychology in the College of Natural and Social Sciences at the University of Nebraska at Kearney has received the OTICA Award. The Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award (OTICA) recognizes individual faculty members for sustained records of excellence in teaching.

Dr.Wadkins is an exemplary teacher-scholar at UNK who has made major contributions to instructional creativity in her role as a classroom teacher, mentor of undergraduate research, journal reviewer, and scholar in teaching and learning. Over the past several years Wadkins has mentored more than 40 undergraduate projects, helping students to articulate the initial research idea, conduct the study, analyze the data and prepare the paper for presentation. But perhaps what moves Wadkins to the next level are her innovative endeavors within the realm of teaching, developing unique and highly effective teaching tools. One summer she built an entire course in abnormal psychology completely around popular movies. More recently she developed creative review tools such as Psych Feud and Psych Jeopardy to help students understand some complex psychological concepts.  Wadkins is an enthusiastic teacher who has an enviable record of scholarly research on teaching issues, has conducted a number of empirical studies of the teaching/learning process and has been a solid contributor to the scholarly teaching model that characterizes UNK.

This article was taken from the University of Nebraska press release.

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Engaging UNK Students through Undergraduate Research

The Center for Teaching Excellence and the Office of Sponsored Programs co-sponsored an event titled: “Engaging UNK Students through Undergraduate Research on January 31st, 2008. Faculty presenters included: Julie Shaffer, Susan Honeyman, Tim Burkink, and Sam Lopez. Each presenter discussed their approach for using undergraduate research to engage students. Each faculty member also had a student presenter discuss how involvement in undergraduate research has made an impact on their motivation and academic success at UNK. For more information about undergraduate research and how to use it in your classroom go to

Although each presenter had differing approaches to engaging their student in undergraduate research, several themes were incorporated into each presentation. Faculty believed that they needed to identify students that would be an asset to undergraduate research. The presenters said that the students may need that personal attention from a faculty member to become involved. Other faculty comments included that students may not know how good their work is and may not submit it to conferences without faculty mentoring. Each student described the impact of being mentored by a faculty member in undergraduate research and how much they had learned from the experience. One of the students has made a career decision based on his experience in doing undergraduate research. Others discussed the advantage in having done research and being published when applying to graduate programs.

View a pod cast of this event at:

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American Democracy Project of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities

The American Democracy Project for Civic Engagement is a national, multi-campus initiative that seeks to foster informed civic engagement in the United States. On February 13th, Dr. Chapman Rackaway from Fort Hays State University gave a presentation, “The Case for Engagement: Using the American Democracy Project to Build the Next Generation of Leaders.” Dr. Rackaway explained why starting a campus ADP program is beneficial for students, faculty, staff and administration. Using ADP as an umbrella for civic engagement activities provides a branding opportunity for universities as well as methods of publicizing and programming civic engagement activities. The American Democracy Project has five main projects that it supports. The projects include: youth voter mobilization, seven revolutions, stewardship of public lands, jury project and deliberative polling.

Dr. Rackaway began his presentation explaining civic engagement and why it is so important. Civic engagement prepares students for leadership roles and provides for better classroom engagement and better grades. Starting the American Democracy Project at the university level takes strategic planning and management from key task force members. Having a faculty led process is vital to the success of the project. Dr. Rackaway stressed that taking your time is important and to use ample time for deliberation on how to proceed. Administrative support is needed and funding is important. Although, Dr. Rackaway said that their ADP started with minimal funding and various small fundraising activities.

Dr. Rackaway gave several ideas for programming through the American Democracy Project. He talked about the New York Times Readership Program bringing the newspaper to students and faculty and hosting a “Times Talk” once a week. This same type of program could be used with other national or local newspapers. He also said that their ADP sponsors Campus-Community forums that bring communities and campuses together to bridge the “town-gown” divide. Speakers present about local or university issues and discussion follows. Political programming is another topic ADP supports. ADP can help with voter mobilization and candidate forums. ADP also works well with service learning curriculum. Service projects can include surveys for community agencies to assess needs, consulting with government/not for profit agencies and providing outreach and placing students on community boards. The American Democracy Project can be integrated into course curriculum. Dr. Rackaway suggested encouraging a cross-section of faculty across colleges to implement ADP in their courses. For more information go to the ADP site at Fort Hays State University:

Dr. Rackaway ended his presentation with discussion about how ADP could begin at UNK with just a small task force of interested members.

Listen to a pod cast of Dr. Rackaway’s presentation at:

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Engaging UNK Students with Service-Learning

The Center for Teaching Excellence and the Office for Service-Learning sponsored a panel discussion with faculty from each of the four colleges about service-learning at UNK. Faculty presenters included: Ken Larson, CBT; Janice Fronczak, FAH; Tamara Smith, NSS; and Jane Ziebarth-Bovill, COE.

Student engagement has a direct impact on retention and academic success. Service-learning is one way faculty at UNK engage their students in the learning process. Each presenter shared his/her strategies and successes in using service-learning.

Ken Larson discussed his trip to Mexico for service-learning through the construction of an orphanage with his students. The trip was far from luxurious, and problems abounded, but his students learned about the value of hard work and problem solving. The construction techniques used in rural areas were very different from the techniques that the students had learned at UNK and the students left the trip with an appreciation for the work accomplished.

Janice Fronczak included service-learning in one of her writing courses. Several needs were identified with Trails and Rails Museum, and her students sought to fill one of those needs. Trails and Rails needed history to come to life and for patrons to feel a personal connection with the history of the museum. Fronczak’s students sifted through documents and court records to identify a person in Buffalo county’s history and a moment in their life to memorialize. Each student then wrote a personal account of that person to be showcased with pictures and documents, and performed a dramatization at the museum of each person’s life.

Tamara Smith had a unique population of online learners to include in service-learning. She created a program that involved long distance students in service- learning. Each student could choose their own service-learning project to fulfill requirements of their degree and Dr. Smith would help coordinate the project. Despite the extra work in doing a project, students who did learned a great deal from the experience.

Jane Ziebarth-Bovill coordinated a large service-learning project through the college of education. Each student was required to fulfill the service-learning component to receive a grade in that class. Each student was asked to fill a need in an area that was not something they had done in the past. Students could work with children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and other populations. They were required to write reflection pieces about their service to these populations.

For more information about service-learning:

A pod cast of the presentation can be accessed at the following link:

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 Survival Strategies for Teaching Large Classes

The Center for Teaching Excellence presented, Survival Strategies for Teaching Large Classes on February 25th. This DVD presentation discusses the challenges facing instructors of large classes. Dr. Peter M. Saunders, the director of Oregon State University’s Center for Teaching and Learning, presented.

Dr. Saunders began the presentation by explaining the challenges facing instructors in large classrooms. Challenges included: generally managing the class, discipline issues, grading/handling papers, motivating learners to prepare for class, dealing with inadequate facilities, technology issues and poor attendance. After detailing each of these issues, Dr. Saunders provided online and print resources for instructors to reference.

Dr. Saunders presented a cohesive plan for teaching large classes. He began by stating that learner expectations need to be set and reinforced. Set expectations clearly about attendance, doing readings and class work, participation and the use of cell phones and laptops. Link each expectation to student learning. Dr. Saunders provided clear language for use in the class syllabus.

Dr. Saunders stated that the impersonal feel of a large classroom can hinder student learning and suggested several ideas to shrink that impersonal space. One idea he provided suggested creating teams of students with unique names and identities. These teams will sit together and the instructor can have a floor plan for noting names of teams and individuals. Use the team names for random questions and give each team responsibility for collecting their assignments, editing each others’ work and creating study questions. Rotate these teams mid term to allow all teams better access.

Dr. Saunders stated that with any classroom students will have different learning styles. Dr. Saunders suggested teaching to many different learners by using different techniques. Teach to visual learners with diagrams and visual materials, use an in class essay for those who learn better through writing, use collaborative and team learning for those learners who are more hands on and use the web and existing software. Varying teaching techniques will keep more students engaged in learning.

After speaking about the varied techniques, Dr. Saunders suggested cutting down lecture time. He understood that many classes have much material to get through, but suggested moving some of the material online or through sources such as blackboard to free up lecture time to use team learning techniques. He stated that the instructor may need to have a quiz to ensure students are viewing the lecture online. Use the free class time for deep learning exercises and make sure the exercises are fun and engaging.

For more information on teaching large classes access this link:

This DVD presentation can be checked out from the Center for Teaching Excellence,

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 Using Collaborative Teams In & Out of the Classroom

Dr. Peter M. Saunders from Oregon State University’s Center for Teaching and Learning presented through DVD, “Using Collaborative Teams In and Out of the Classroom” on March 27th. Dr. Saunders believes that using collaborative teams can develop learners’ critical thinking skills, increase their persistence and improve their understanding of diversity. Students consistently rate collaborative teamwork negatively despite its many positive attributes. This DVD presentation examined the barriers that prevent the successful use of collaborative teams in and out of the classroom and suggested methods for avoiding the pitfalls.

Barriers to faculty in implementing collaborative teams can be daunting. Some barriers include: not enough time and too much material, negative student responses to teaming, management issues, and providing feedback and assessment of group work. There are also barriers to students in forming these teams. Students may have a negative attitude toward teaming, students may have management issues and some students want to be graded individually. In order to remove these barriers, an instructor needs to set learner expectations and encourage positive behavior in the syllabus. The process of learning as a team needs to be stressed rather than just the product of the team. The instructor should give the students the language and resources to recognize negative and positive behaviors within their team. Appropriate consequences of negative and positive behavior need to be established. Create learning ground rules within the syllabus. The instructor should create a system for managing teams both in and out of the classroom. Assessment and reflection should be a part of the course. Team work should be rewarded and celebrated.

To facilitate the proper management of the team aspect, Dr. Saunders suggests several team ideas. Each team should be given an electronic timer to encourage time on task. These can be used in and out of the classroom at team meetings. Give each member of the team a unique role to play within the team. This contributes to each person feeling like a valued member of the team. Use detailed reflection reports to manage the team outside of the classroom. These reports can provide assessment of performance and progress, management to help with planning, accountability, and can be used as a teaching tool to help raise the bar in reporting. Also, all members of the team should receive the same grade for work submitted. Otherwise, individuals will not commit to the teaming process. In fact, if graded individually, it may hinder the team from forming cohesively.

Dr. Saunders concluded his presentation with ideas for forming teams in large classrooms. These ideas were further explored in the DVD presentation: “Survival Strategies for Teaching Large Classes.”

For more information about using collaborative teams:

Check out DVD’s from the Center for Teaching Excellence

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 Tentative Fall 2008 Calendar


Date TBD - Faculty Presentation -  Research on Student Engagment

Date TBD - Faculty Panel Presentation - "Providing Access to Higher Education for All: Panel of Faculty and the UNK ADA Network Representatives' Response"


Date TBD - Lunch with Senior Vice Chancellor Finnie Murray

Date TBD - Faculty presentation - Engaging UNK Students Online


Date TBD - Designing Courses to Promote Deep, Intentional Learning - Barbara Millis, Director of the Excellence in Teaching Program, University of Nevada, Reno

Date TBD - Webinar


Date TBD - Webinar

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Your comments and contributions are welcome!

Please send any comments or suggestions for the newsletter to If you have information that you would like presented in the newsletter or would like to write something for one of the editions, please contact Jeanne Butler at 865-8588 or by email at the Center.


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