Faculty Spotlight: Rosalie Ocker

“The longer I teach, the less I lecture.”
Rosalie Ocker, Ph.D.
Professor of Practice

Dr. Ocker, the recipient of the George McMurtry Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award for 2007-2008, leverages a wide variety of active learning strategies and methods to engage students in the classroom. “I put it on them [the students]. You walk into class, you’re quizzed, before we talk about anything.” Dr. Ocker’s typical class involves a short lecture, followed by a student-centered discussion, and then a closing activity. Dr. Ocker’s course is structured similar to a flipped classroom approach. “The longer I teach, the less I lecture. I’m putting more onus on the students, then using the time together for solving problems or applying knowledge.”


ocker_vertical.jpgThis model stays consistent across her various courses, whether she’s teaching 30 students or 125 students. Dr. Ocker also teaches online, and states “If I excel in teaching, I should be able to excel across different venues. This includes online.” All these experiences, Dr. Ocker reflects, add to her toolbox of teaching skills and techniques. “Online teaching has improved my resident teaching, without a doubt. It has forced me to be more organized, clearer. I remember, in the past, not having a course schedule finalized at the start of the semester. I would never do that now, in any course. Online courses have brought a discipline to my teaching.”

When asked how she goes about planning her course, Dr. Ocker stresses the need to think critically about what knowledge we want the students to walk away with. “We could teach less content, and they would still learn the essentials. We need to clearly identify the top 3 to 5 things the students need to get out of the course and focus our energies on that. Sometimes less content is better.” When thinking about the students, Dr. Ocker states, “Every instructor that a student has thinks differently. That’s like having 5 different bosses at once.” Dr. Ocker always takes the students into consideration, and understands that each student is likely to be in many different courses at the same, with instructors that are using different styles, approaches and tools to teach.

One approach to course design that is consistent across all of Dr. Ocker’s courses is the use of student teams. Specifically, Dr. Ocker focuses on partially-distributed teams (PDT), where two or more team members are located in one geographic area and two or more team members are located in other geographic areas. Throughout her teaching, Dr. Ocker incorporates PDT projects, where students in the College of IST are in teams with students from other universities around the world. When talking about strategies to implement teams in a course, Dr. Ocker emphasizes that students need to be taught how to work in teams. “Be prepared to discuss the good, the bad and the ugly when working in teams.” Instructors also need to allot plenty of time for student teams to work through the teaming process, and in Dr. Ocker’s courses this includes in-class time to work on team projects and provide team status updates to her each week.

An important aspect of teaming projects, Dr. Ocker states, is to identify what you want to assess. For instance, is the goal of the teaming project to illustrate how to work in teams and collaborate, or is the goal to produce a final deliverable or outcome? “You cannot manage what you do not measure,” says Dr. Ocker.

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Be sure to create a grading mechanism that fairly and accurately assesses the teaming process and output (depending on what your learning goal is for the team project). For Dr. Ocker, factors that are often included in the assessment of the teams include observations, participation, multiple peer evaluations, team status meetings and so on. Even though these are team projects, Dr. Ocker assigns both a team and an individual grade. If the team assignment is worth 100 points, Dr. Ocker includes an individual grade, often based on peer evaluations and feedback that is also worth 100 points.

Dr. Ocker received two different Teaching Project Grants from the Schreyer Institute to assist her with teaming initiatives, the most recent grant focusing on educating students around aspects of cultural awareness and sensitivity when working in global teams. She also attended several Schreyer seminars, including OL 4000, a collaborative seminar designed, developed and delivered by the Schreyer Institute and World Campus specifically for online teachers.

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