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Faculty start new programs or expand on existing ones through LEAP grants

2019-04-10-LEAP-1
University of North Georgia juniors work with elementary school children on their literacy skills in a field-based lab. Dr. Danielle Hilaski, assistant professor in teacher education at UNG, plans to offer a similar lab for seniors in the teacher education program.

Typically, University of North Georgia (UNG) seniors pursuing degrees in elementary and special education learn a teaching technique in a college classroom one day, implement it with students another day, and return to campus a week later for feedback and support from the professor.

Dr. Danielle Hilaski, assistant professor in teacher education at UNG, aims to change that one step at a time. Her project is designed to allow seniors to learn specific literacy techniques for 2 1/2 hours in class, then implement them for 30 minutes with elementary school children.

"We can provide our students support and offer immediate feedback," Hilaski said. "We want to use this field-based lab in senior-level courses, which has not been done before."

This project is one of 10 Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) into Action projects approved for fall 2019 semester. LEAP is an Association of American Colleges and Universities initiative designed to provide institutions of higher education with a practical framework for delivering an inclusive liberal education in a complex and diverse world. UNG is a part of a state-wide consortium of institutions that participate with the AAC&U’s LEAP states initiative.

UNG faculty and staff may apply for LEAP into Action grants, which provide time, space and resources to support a small-scale yet impactful creative use of LEAP in their work, said Jennifer Graff, associate professor of art and LEAP initiative chairwoman.

"Faculty and staff are re-energized in their interactions with students when given the opportunity to change and introduce new things; especially when the institution supports that effort," she said.

Hilaski has had previous success with the idea along with her colleagues Dr. Nicole Maxwell, assistant professor of teacher education; and Dr. Jennie Jones, assistant professor of teacher education.

"Many juniors in the elementary and special education program have learned through the lab experience in their literacy coursework," she said. "We've seen impact. That's the reason we want to expand it to seniors and other courses."

Marnie Phipps, associate professor of math at UNG, said her LEAP project will help her students understand the "big picture" of math education before their entering the workforce. She and three UNG faculty members from the math and teacher education departments divided a lengthy document detailing math education for grades kindergarten through 12th-grade.

"We've devised a way to parse this big document and infuse it into three course at UNG, so students can develop an understanding of math from the different grade levels," Phipps said, adding the math concepts build on each other. "It will make them a better teacher, because they will know the math concepts taught in the grades below and above the grade they are teaching."

Graff said LEAP's objective is to provide students with a 21st century education that gives them the ability to contribute in a world of unscripted problems.

"The LEAP resources are designed to give students a broad knowledge of the world and an in-depth knowledge in a specific area of interest," she said. "Students develop transferable skills in real settings with an eye on integrity and civic responsibility."

LEAP into Action projects awarded for 2019

  • "Bodies of Water" exhibition at The Bakery Atlanta by Heather Foster, lecturer of visual arts.
  • "The Progressions Documents: The Beginning of Pedagogical Literacy in Mathematics" by Marnie Phipps; associate professor of math; Patty Wagner, assistant professor of math; and Dr. Tom Cooper, professor of math; and Sherry Hix, associate professor of teacher education.
  • "From Students to Advocates: Building HIV/AIDS Awareness through Engagement Beyond the Classroom" by Michallene McDaniel, associate professor of sociology and human services.
  • "Explore and Learn Human Health on 'UNG Public Health Awareness Day'" by Jo Qian, lecturer of biology.
  • "Active Citizenship Learning Community" by Lindsay Bailey, director of student involvement; Laura Ng, assistant dean of College of Arts and Letters; and Shane Toepfer, assistant professor of communication, media and journalism.
  • "The Politics of the American Civil War through Film: A LEAP-Based Interdisciplinary Learning Community" by Lance Bardsley, associate professor of political science; and Dan Cabaniss, associate professor of English and journalism at UNG
  • "LEAPing into Content Literacy: A Laboratory Approach" by Danielle Hilaski, assistant professor of teacher education; Nicole Maxwell, assistant professor of teacher education; and Dr. Jennie Jones, assistant professor of teacher education on the Gainesville and Cumming campuses.

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