Faculty Receive Inaugural Innovation in Teaching Award

Redlands Community College is encouraging modern teaching methods with its new Innovation in Teaching Award. 

The award was established last year to recognize effective and original teaching practices implemented by Redlands faculty. Professor of Chemistry and Sciences Zachary Gutmann pitched the idea to Redlands President Jack Bryant, who suggested he carry it out. 

“I wanted to reward creative, out-of-the-ordinary teaching styles that have proven effective among students,” Gutmann said. He modeled the award after a similar award offered through the Oklahoma Academy of Community Colleges.

During the process, Gutmann kept in mind the goal of the award: to promote and reward effective and innovative techniques in teaching. 

The award was designed in the fall 2018 semester and included a $1,500 stipend and plaque for the winners. By the end of that semester, Redlands put out a campus-wide call for submissions with a March deadline. 
Submissions were assessed according to utility, creativity, effectiveness, challenges and transferability of the practice. Entries needed evidence that the particular teaching method helped to solve an issue common throughout college courses. 

The top two scoring submissions were selected to receive the award.

Brenda Witt’s entry titled “Organism Specimen Collection” promoted the idea of exploring and learning outside the standard classroom and lab setting. Witt brings materials to life in her zoology course by collecting insects and critters. Students can analyze these critters closely, giving them a hands-on experience that is often lacking in most classrooms. 

Lindsey Cherry submitted her idea of “The Living Syllabus,” designed to simplify the online learning experience and increase student engagement. It streamlines online learning by keeping all pertinent videos, essay outlines, resources and schedules on one document accessible by all students. 

Cherry has found that it reduces student confusion regarding reading assignments and assignment due dates.

“Because a Google Doc can be edited at any point, and because those edits are visible to everyone who has a link to the document, I am able to post additional videos or explanations at any point if students are struggling to understand a work of literature or an assignment,” Cherry said. 

Plus, although Cherry uses the living syllabus for her online composition courses, she has found similar success using it in traditional courses. 

“To maintain a high level of instruction, it is important that our faculty continue to develop and implement good teaching practices. I am proud of our instructors for continually pursuing opportunities that challenge them and their students,” Bryant said. “I am thankful for the time and effort Professor Gutman has dedicated to establishing this new program that will enhance the learning experience for Redlands students.”

 “I am grateful that the leadership at Redlands has been eager to implement this award, and I hope that faculty continue to share their teaching strategies so all faculty can continue to learn from one another,” Gutmann said.