Caughran reflects on Governor's Teaching Fellows Summer Symposium

Posted: October 19, 2021

Tashia Caughran, senior lecturer of Chemistry on the Oconee Campus, felt honored and surprised to be chosen for the Governor's Teaching Fellowship (GTF).

Caughran participated in the GTF Program during the Summer Symposium in May 2021.

Tashia Caughran

The GTF includes a combination of structured pedagogical and faculty development activities as well as self-directed activities designed to meet individual needs. Participants in the summer program attend a two-week symposium in May and participants in the academic year program attend three-day symposia held six times over the academic year. All meetings take place on the UGA campus.

"My experience was wonderfully positive," Caughran said. "I gained not only more teaching tools, but I also gained some personal focus and encouragement from other GTF fellows. I was part of the program right after spending time online for COVID. I realized how much I missed being in the classroom."

Caughran has applied lessons she learned at the fellowship, including changing her syllabi to use more positive wording and communicate more clearly, incorporating some group work into lecture time, and giving more time for students to ask questions.

"Our chemistry faculty on the Oconee campus have also implemented recitation sessions for one of our courses," Caughran said. "Using some of these practices has helped me see what students are struggling with before they take an exam and/or before we move on to new material."

Caughran says one of her favorite parts of teaching is interacting with students.

"Chemistry is traditionally a difficult subject for students because we introduce abstract concepts and layer math on top of those ideas," Caughran said. "I enjoy watching students make the connections between real world issues and the topics we cover in class and lab. I think it is important for students to understand why chemistry relates to their lives."

Caughran thinks that every student has the ability to succeed, and this is reflected in her teaching philosophy.

"My primary goals are to one: teach the necessary content well to promote long-term learning, two: explain how/why the content is relevant, and three: offer as much support as possible to my students (office hours, SI [supplemental instruction], answering email daily, case studies, chapter worksheets, and extra help sessions if possible)."

For Caughran, participation in the fellowship meant more than just picking up a few new teaching techniques.

"We focused a great deal of our time on active learning practices," Caughran said. "My favorite part of the Fellowship was meeting other faculty who were also focused on improving their teaching and encouraging students in the classroom. It was energizing to spend time with faculty who were excited about teaching."

The GTF Summer and Academic Year Fellowships applications are currently open. UNG can submit a total of two nominees for each program. The Summer Symposium deadline is Monday, November 15, 2021, and the Academic Year Symposia deadline is Friday, December 3, 2021. This nomination process is being facilitated by UNG's Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership (CTLL).

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