West Hartford Residents Receive Awards at University of Hartford's Annual Faculty/Staff Kickoff

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Benjamin S. Grossberg of West Hartford

WEST HARTFORD, CT (09/12/2012)(readMedia)-- Benjamin S. Grossberg, Fei Xue, and William Major of West Hartford were honored with Innovation in Teaching and Learning Awards at the University of Hartford's annual Faculty/Staff Kickoff on Wednesday, Aug 29. The award honors faculty members who have shown exceptional dedication, innovation, and effectiveness in their teaching, as well as extensive interaction with students.

Grossberg, an associate professor of English in the University of Hartford's College of Arts and Sciences, has created a class designed to help graduating seniors understand what it means to be a career writer. Students have a variety of class requirements designed to expose them to potential career paths. They research job openings and work with career counselors to prepare practice applications. They participate in a term-long community service teaching assignment at the University High School of Science and Engineering on campus. They also welcome professional writers into the classroom and interview them about their career arcs. Meanwhile, students ply their own writing and begin the task of finding audiences for it. This involves researching publication venues, incorporating extensive revision, and submitting their work to the literary marketplace.

Grossberg's class is prudently pragmatic in that it goes beyond teaching writing to how the skill can translate into a career, providing preparation and guidance for new graduates to become independent and successful.

Xue, an assistant professor of Mathematics in the University of Hartford's College of Arts and Sciences, has introduced a new generation of Student Response Systems (clickers) that allow students to input numerical solutions and has created an extensive problem set that takes advantage of the technology. He also uses "flipping," which gives students the opportunity before class to watch videos he has created of class material. Xue's videos combine several approaches to a mathematical problem. As a result of his efforts, student engagement has improved significantly.

Xue's imaginative applications of educational technology and interactive learning tools have put him at the forefront of a department with a history of pioneering pedagogical innovations. One method he used to enhance his students' understanding of calculus is group quizzes. After students take a quiz individually, Xue asks them to break into small groups and the members work as a team to present a solution. The ensuing activity and conversations are stimulating, with students helping students and students questioning students, all the while developing critical thinking and teamwork skills.

Major, a professor of English in the University of Hartford's Hillyer College, notes that the literary significance of the written word seems distant compared to ubiquitous tweeting and texting. Thus, he has innovated a way to apply the concepts of solitude and self-reflection explored in Henry David Thoreau's Walden. While he does not ask his student to move to the woods, he does ask them to give up their cell phones for five days and write about the experience as an extra-credit assignment.

Major has stirred controversy with an article he wrote about the experiment for The Chronicle of Higher Education, which in turn inspired further conversation on The New Yorker's book blog. Despite some concerns expressed by parents and students about the experiment, most students who completed the assignment thought it to be a positive experience. Major encourages his students to leave their comfort zones and consider the world with fresh eyes.

Chartered in 1957 with the mission to be a "private university with a public purpose," the University of Hartford offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in the arts, humanities, business, engineering and technology, education, and the health professions. The University's student body of nearly 7,200 represents 48 states and more than 60 countries. For more information, visit www.hartford.edu.