Innovative Teaching Methods: Evolutions Spanning a 25-Year Career

By Marchant, Mary A. | Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, August 2014 | Go to article overview

Innovative Teaching Methods: Evolutions Spanning a 25-Year Career


Marchant, Mary A., Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics


I begin my presentation at today's ''Southern Agricultural Economics Association's (SAEA) Lifetime Achievement Award Winners' Symposium'' by thanking those who made this award possible. Thank you to members of the selection committee and to my nominator, Dr. Michael Wetzstein, and recommenders, Drs. Steve BIank, Eduardo Seggara, and Gail Cramer. These individuals have seen me ''grow up'' in the agricultural economics profession and I am grateful for their guidance, wisdom, and friendship. I am also grateful to the members of the SAEA and the many opportunities the Association has provided, including serving as an officer for six years and coeditor of the Association's Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics with Virginia Tech (VT) colleague, Darrell Bosch, for the past three years.

In reflecting on my 25 years in the agricultural economics profession and in deciding on my topic for this Symposium, I came across one of my very first articles-''Beginning Teaching at a University: The Ultimate Onthe- job Training'' published by the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA). My intent in writing this article was to share my ''lessons learned'' with others who faced similar circumstances as I had, transitioning from a graduate student who primarily conducted research with little teaching experience at one major land grant university (University of California at Davis), to an assistant professor responsible for teaching university classes within weeks of arrival at another major land grant institution (University of Kentucky). Fast forward to 2014 and this presentation, where I compare how teaching and teaching innovations have changed over the last 25 years (1989-2014) and reflect on my teaching ''lessons learned'' through time.

Teaching Context

To provide context for historic changes in teaching innovations, it is important to remember what teaching was like in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Back then, personal computers were big, heavy, and slow, whereas smart classrooms were in their infancy, if they existed at all. The World Wide Web had yet to be created, nor had YouTube, streaming videos, and many other teaching resources we use today been created. MicrosoftOffice (Word, PowerPoint, Excel) did not exist. Instead we usedWordPerfect, Harvard Graphics, and Lotus, each owned by different companies with little compatibility. Harvard Graphics was considered ''cutting edge'' for computer-generated graphics.

For classroom teaching methods, many faculty used a lecture format, often with little student interaction, and wrote on chalkboards; dry erase boards were just starting to replace them. Many faculty also taught using an overhead projector by writing course material on transparencies, often with great fear of the light bulb burning out in class without a replacement bulb.

I characterize this lecture format similar to the ancient concept that ''learning was once visualized as filling of an empty vessel (a student) with knowledge'' (Cunnings, 2002). In contrast, today we hear of ''flipping the classroom'' with student-centered teaching, massive open online courses, experiential learning, internationalizing the curriculum, assessments to quantify student learning, and teaching accountability by government agencies and accreditation associations.

Evolution of Teaching Innovations-Then

For teaching innovations from 25 years ago, I refer back to my 1993 NACTA Journal article, which NACTA reprinted in 2007 (Marchant, 2007/1993). To this day, as each new semester begins and I prepare for teaching, I go back and reread that article. Topics covered include first day of class activities, classroom mechanics, course materials, grading, student learning methods as well as expectations and feedback. Innovations that I used back then came from listening to my University of Kentucky (UK) faculty colleagues. Subsequently I highlight these early innovations and how I have built on them over time. …

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