Winners of the inaugural TILL Teaching Innovation Award, along with Provost Lori Gonzalez (far right)
Winners of the inaugural TILL Teaching Innovation Award, along with Provost Lori Gonzalez (far right)

The Teaching Innovation Learning Lab (TILL) recently awarded four faculty projects with the inaugural TILL Teaching Innovation Award. The new award recognizes the importance of teaching excellence among UofL faculty and offers individual recognition to instructors who explore new methods for fostering learning.

The 2021 award recipients are Angela Storey, assistant professor in anthropology; Kathy Gosser, assistant professor and director of franchise management in management and entrepreneurship; Rachel Hopp, assistant professor in biology; and Brian Robinson, James Lewis, Nicholas Hawkins, and Gary Eisenmenger in engineering fundamentals.

“We are celebrating faculty who are exploring ideas that help students learn. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, UofL faculty have found new ways to deliver quality instruction while connecting with students online,” said Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning Executive Director and Vice Provost Gale Rhodes. “We were blown away by the applications we received for the first year of this award.”

The TILL received 22 applications for the award, which grants winners $1,000 and an invitation to share their work at the annual Celebration of Teaching and Learning Conference.

Applicants said that innovation is critical to meet the changing needs of students.

“It is important to be a responsive teacher and to situate our work within the specificity of our students, this time, and the context of our world. Specifically, finding ways to put power into the hands of our students is important for me in making decisions about how to teach,” Storey said.

Gosser found that giving her students flexible ways to engage with course content, such as the podcast she launched in her course, increased student participation.

“They tell me that they can exercise while listening, make dinner with their roommates and all listen, and even drive,” she said. “One student told me it doesn’t even feel like school. Their reactions have been my motivation to keep improving my delivery and my guests.”

“We were acutely aware that students were already fatigued by the remote nature of their education, and it was heartwarming to hear that our course was helping students feel interested in their work again,” Robinson said.

During the pandemic, the team from the J.B. Speed School of Engineering used classroom response systems to build a collaborative online environment similar to the makerspace used for face-to-face courses.

Hopp also explored ways to bring active learning methods to her online course.

“I decided I was not going to slip back into the old passive ways of instruction just because those were the simplest ways to deliver the material online,” she said. “Instead, I created an online environment that closely mimicked our Belknap Academic Building-classrooms where students stay in small, table-like groups for discussion throughout class while still being connected to the larger class audience and the instructor.”

Rhodes hopes that faculty across campus continue to build on these new ideas in their own courses.

“A common thread for these winning innovations is that they can be used as models in nearly any content area,” she said. “I hope in the year ahead that we will see faculty across campus test, refine and scale these practices in addition to exploring their own ideas.”

More information about the winning TILL Teaching Innovation Award projects is available online.