Faculty Inquirere 2015

“We are taught from a very young age how to be boys or girls,” said Dr. Cynthia Ryder, the first speaker at the Faculty Inquirere presentation on Tuesday, February 17, 2015. The topic of her presentation, entitled Sex Role Stereotyping of Athletes Who Are Participating In Selected Intercollegiate Sports, was focused on gender biases and stereotypes in modern day society—how society judges both men and women based on skills, looks, or what is typically seen as ‘ideal’ for that gender.

Her research focused on college students, specifically full-time undergraduate athletes at larger universities in comparison to non-athletes. What she discovered through her research is that male college varsity athletes had “the most positive perceptions of all categories of male and female athletes,” which essentially meant that this group was the least biased, perhaps due to confidence, Ryder explained. Male college non-athletes on the other hand, had more “narrow or rigid stereotypic perceptions.”

When asked what the most surprising component of her research was, Ryder responded, “The most pleasant surprise was seeing how accepting those male college athletes were of all various types of female athletes. That was a gratifying, happy surprise.” Due to her research, Ryder is now encouraged to expand her study to either universities in the Midwest or smaller/liberal arts colleges.

The second presentation of the evening was Dr. Paul Bartelt, Occupancy Estimates for Eastern Tiger Salamanders Among Restored Wetlands in Winnebago County. “I’ve been studying frogs and toads for 30 years,” said Bartelt at the opening of his presentation. With a colorful slideshow in the background, he started speaking, showing the audience a collection of pictures, photographs, and full-color maps.

Bartelt’s research focused on the different breeds of frogs and salamanders, beginning by outlining the differences in breeds and habitats. The specific salamander he studied in this project was the Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum, or the Tiger Salamander, which is a native salamander of Iowa. His interest in the subject stemmed from the fact that Iowa has determined the Tiger Salamander as “highly vulnerable to future declines,” or in other words, on the brink of becoming extinct.

In summer of 2014, Bartelt began his study on salamanders with a specific objective: to estimate the occupancy of salamanders among 19 restored wetlands and 45 ponds in the Forest City, Thompson, and Lake Mills area. The results that he and his student assistants discovered were that the Tiger Salamanders were very present in Northern Iowa—salamanders were trapped in 24 of the total 45 ponds in the local area.

When asked about future research, Bartelt said that the future plans are to “Estimate movement patterns through telemetry.” He explained further, “Students will be tracking the movements of frogs and salamanders through radios that are fixed to the animals. These fixed radios will send frequencies that can be monitored and recorded in order to track their movements and whereabouts.” Another component of future research is biophysical models. Bartelt explained further, “These are artificial animals that simulate heating and cooling properties. This will help to estimate habitat selection as well.”  This further research will be a student project, he said, not wanting to explain too much, but regardless, the research is something that he is very excited about.

Dr. Mitchell Berger presented next, The Flipped Classroom: Empowering and Engaging the Student. The beginning slides of his presentation defined the flipped classroom—using in-class time for problem-solving, application of material, collaboration with peers, interactive activities, and feedback from the teacher, and home-time for refining skills and reviewing through videos/online material/media.

Based on his research, the benefits of the flipped approach are better assessment results, engagement by students, and encouraged interaction between students/peers and students/professors.. Drawbacks, he said, were limited internet access, issues in student motivation, and extra planning time. “Last semester I had a student that lived off campus with limited internet access,” he said, “That proved to be a challenge.”

As for his personal classes, Berger said that in the fall of 2014, he had the highest class average when he gave his students online quizzes and homework. Currently, in the spring of 2015, he has no students with grades ‘D’ or lower.

When asked what got him interested in the flipped approach, Berger said, “I’ve been looking for a way to stop talking in class.” This brought laughter from the group. He continued sarcastically, “After a while, I get tired of the wonderful, encouraging, knowledge-seeking stares in the classroom.” He laughed, “But everyone knows that if you talk more than seven to eight minutes straight, you start losing people.”

Berger found himself interested in the approach because he wanted to change and improve his chemistry classes. When asked about his biggest personal challenge, he said, “Making my own videos will be the biggest challenge. The other challenge will be putting together a process that forces the students to watch the videos and prepare them for the classroom. The object is not to make it a pure penalty. You want them to be motivated.”

For Berger, there is still room to grow with this flipped approach. His future plans are to lecture less, prepare targeted problem sets, and create his own videos for students.

The final presentation of the evening was Dr. LeAnn Nash, Planning the Unexpected: Words, Pictures and Critical Skills for the Liberal Arts.

“We all know that many of our freshman just don’t read,” Nash said to open her presentation. Her topic was centered on the importance of reading—that students should be reading not just for a grade, but reading for understanding.

Nash began by showing a slideshow of color illustrations. “No talking,” she said to the audience, “Just look at this pictures and think about the meaning.”

The illustrations told a story, but what was interesting, was that when the audience turned to whole-group discussion of the pictures, each member had a different interpretation. “You made meaning of these pictures out of your own experience,” Nash said, “Students do the same thing. They draw on what they know to explain what they are seeing.”

Nash discussed the importance of picture books, comic books, and graphic novels in the classroom, even in older grade levels. Different forms of reading, specifically reading of pictures, allows for dual-processing; studying pictures lends to a deeper, more critical understanding as well as encourages memory.

“We are a very visual society,” Nash said, “and we want to engage our students in a visual way.” She talked about how using pictures helped students in her composition classes—students were encouraged to make predictions and to connect meaning between pictures and text.

Nash talked about picture variations, that they might be symmetrical: telling the same story, complimentary: which adds to the story, and contradictory: the idea that the words and pictures seem unrelated. She said that students could analyze pictures to make more meaning of the text, which is her main focus in the classroom.

At the end of her presentation, Nash read “The Water Tower,” the picture book inspiration for the topic and what she uses in her composition classes. For the audience, this proved to be a refreshing, youthful ending to a highly educational night.



Featured Image Credit: Waldorf College