Professor Wins Award for Innovation in the University Classroom
Julie Moore strives to inspire students in the laboratory and the classroom. Recently she was recognized for her innovative classroom methods with a Creative Teaching Award from the University of Georgia.
Using a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates sociological, psychological, historical, ecological, and economic implications of infectious diseases, she makes the topics she covers relevant for the student. She draws on her own experiences of studying malaria in Kenya and other countries to provide real world examples.
In Spring, 2015 when she taught her popular undergraduate course “People, Parasites and Plagues”, she took her class back into the past to look deeper into the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak in London. Using a teaching strategy called Reacting to the Past (RTTP), she immersed her students into a pivotal moment in history that has similar arguments to current infectious disease and public health debates.
What is Reacting to the Past?
Reacting to the Past is a role-playing game in which students participate in elaborate scenarios based on a historical controversy. In Moore’s class it had students donning fake mustaches and British accents, but more importantly it had them thinking critically about a health crisis.
Intrigued by the concept after learning about it in a Center for Learning (CTL) seminar, she was happy to discover there was a game available that covered the cholera epidemic.
“I already taught the topic in my undergraduate class, and it seemed like a very novel and exciting way to liven up and enhance student engagement with the material,” said Moore.
Adding an RTTP game to her course was just one more step in her plan to provide an interactive classroom. Moore had applied for a CTL Fellowship in Innovative Teaching which focused on a “flipped” classroom. Flipping is a teaching method wherein classroom time is used to integrate and apply information students have studied before class.
“RTTP was one of the modalities that works really well in fostering active student engagement both in and out of the classroom”
RTTP in STEM courses
RTTP has been used for a while in the humanities, but Moore’s use of it in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) course is a first at UGA. She also helped to expand this method for classrooms of 100+ students.
“In my opinion, it is very important for students to understand how what they are learning in STEM courses applies to everyday life. It is also important for students from all backgrounds to learn how to critically evaluate evidence and gain command of topics and issues sufficient to argue for a specific position.”
Moore is currently in the process of creating a game based on the 2014 Ebola outbreak in west Africa, a process that started with a group of Honors students enrolled in PP&P in Spring, 2015. With a multidisciplinary group of undergraduate students last fall, Dr. Moore continued the process of imagining how debates about the US response to the outbreak would unfold in a Congressional hearing.
While she is focusing on public health crises, Moore believes that communication skills are important no matter what career a student choose and that RTTP can be a valuable tool for other STEM courses.
“I think these skills are particularly important for STEM students, as their courses in these disciplines tend to be largely lecture based, with coverage of vast amounts of information, with little opportunity to examine how all of the information is connects with their everyday lives. RTTP helps students develop communication and debate skills, and provides a fun and immersive way to gain a larger perspective on the implication of what they are learning.”