The 2020 National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Excellence Awards have been announced, recognizing eight OSU Institute of Technology faculty and staff members.
The 2020 co-winners for the category of Collegiate Project are faculty and staff members: Taler Adney, James Allison, Jennifer Block, Terry Hanzel, Charles Harrison, Celia Melson, Ron Miller, Steven Rubert, and Joan York for Collaborative Development of the Bachelor of Technology in Applied Technical Leadership Curriculum.
Steven Rubert was also recognized as a winner in the category of Innovative Practices for his Confirmation Bias project.
The NISOD Excellence Awards were established in 1991 to provide NISOD-member colleges with an opportunity to recognize individuals doing extraordinary work on their campuses. Each year, NISOD member colleges submit the names of men and women who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment and contribution to their students and colleagues.
Excellence Award recipients will be celebrated during NISOD’s annual International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence, May 23 - 26, in Austin, Texas.
Each award recipient will receive a specially cast, pewter medallion hung on a burnt-orange ribbon. The names, titles and colleges of all Excellence Award recipients are included in a special booklet that features congratulatory ads from many of the recipients’ colleges.
The faculty and staff at OSUIT were charged with developing course content for the BT in Applied Technical Leadership that honored the technical backgrounds of their clients while delivering robust and challenging academic experiences.
Technical leadership is an evolving academic discipline with limited resources, so instructors from multiple disciplines across were selected by OSUIT Leadership to design and deliver the courses for the newly approved degree.
The BT in ATL could be the most cross-disciplinary curriculum development project that has taken place on the OSUIT campus. Team members represented Culinary Arts, Workforce & Economic Development, Power Plant Technologies, Orthotic and Prosthetic Technologies, Arts and Sciences disciplines and The Center.
Block, Orthotics & Prosthetics and BT in ATL instructor, said she found working with her colleagues to create something entirely new to be rewarding.
“The collaborative aspect of the process was dynamic and exciting,” said Block. “Everyone had great ideas and novel ways of enriching the process.”
The degree aggregates students from different disciplines, which created uncertainty and challenged the team to develop a curriculum that addressed the unknowns of the initial cohort.
The first semester has already brought some learnings for program improvement. Hanzel, Power Plant Technologies and BT in ATL instructor, said that he and Harrison, associate vice president of Workforce & Economic Development and BT in ATL instructor, are exploring the option of making the course they co-taught a full trimester course versus a half-term course.
The team said there were many challenges when creating this unique curriculum, such as keeping learners engaged in an online learning environment and on-going course deployment.
“I would say that the hardest part is finding an adequate amount of course work for these full-time students and full-time working adults,” said Adney, General Education and BT in ATL instructor. “These are not just our typical full-time students. We want to make sure that we are assigning enough work for these bachelor’s level classes but also not make it unattainable for our students.”
The collaborative process enriched all participants by creating a network of expertise that faculty and staff could draw upon to solve problems and enhance the quality of the work. Individual strengths in learning management utilization, subject matter expertise, assessment instruments and management of the online environment were augmented by sharing across program and department lines.
“The award was a team award for the whole BT in ATL team, each one of whom put in a lot of extra work and deserve the credit for that effort,” said Harrison. “I am proud of each one of them and am pleased to have been a part of a program which I think will yield significant recognition and rewards for OSUIT going forward.”
The confirmation bias assignment was created for use in United States Government courses to combat the human tendency to process information by looking for or interpreting information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs.
“As a human tendency, it has always been a part of the way we function,” said Rubert, General Education and BT in ATL instructor. “But we have seen a drastic increase in this behavior with the rise of social media, which tends to try and tailor an experience to fit our wants and likes. This is not necessarily a bad thing as a consumer, but it is especially dangerous as the behavior becomes ingrained into our political culture.
With the current political climate, Rubert thought the classroom needed to be used to dive into some of these issues by first identifying students’ personal bias and then challenging that with unbiased research. The goal was to use an approach similar to the scientific method for examining political issues.
“This collaborative effort has pushed our U.S. Government students to take into account their existing bias and challenge it so that they are doing their best research and getting at the heart of whatever problem is being examined,” stated Rubert.
Rubert said that the most challenging aspect of the project was getting students to challenge existing beliefs.
“Confronting personal bias is not an easy skill to develop, and it is often uncomfortable, especially if we realize we’ve been wrong about an issue that we hold close to our identity,” he said. “There are a lot of those hot button political issues that many people feel strongly about, and it is difficult to break through to a place where we can try to look at the issues objectively.”
With only two possible outcomes to this assignment, either proving or disproving your view on political issues, each student was able to come out of the task more informed and capable of working collaboratively to solve societal problems.
“It is a pretty great feeling to be recognized for this award,” said Rubert, who won two NISOD awards this year. “I love teaching and enjoy coming to work. I have been fortunate to have a job that is incredibly rewarding already.”
Rubert said this couldn’t have been possible without the assistance of Floyd Robison, “As busy as his schedule is, he never hesitated to help bring this project from concept to completion.”