Friday, February 25, 2022

Helping Faculty Become More Culturally Responsive and Equity-Centered in Thought and Action

Students need higher education institutions to see all their identifiers in the classroom and during their interactions. For faculty and staff to see the complete student, they must examine their personal stories, biases, and practices while assessing the impact each could have on the institution's equity work. On many higher education campuses, there has been training with consultants, book studies, and professional development; moving from pedagogy to action is a challenge. However, what is the ignitor for movement from talk to action? What is an effective way to help faculty and staff become more culturally responsive and equity-centered in both thought and action?

This study will first engage in Factuality, a timed online interactive experience that simulates structural inequality in America. While participating in Factuality, participants assume the identities of specific characters encountering a series of fact-based advantages and limitations based on the intersection of their race, class, gender, faith, sexual orientation, age, and ability. Participants will read and discuss the book, From Equity Talk to Equity Walk by Tia Brown McNair, Estela Mara Bensimon, and Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux. As a culminating reflective opportunity, participants will have the option to self-report on their 21-day equity walk, where they will have the chance to demonstrate their equity practices in their learning environments.

Motivation for Doing the Study:


Action is an essential part of equity work, but it can be challenging because it forces us to confront and examine some of our socialization and personal biases. After experiencing several lecture-style trainings and book studies, the researchers were curious if a combination of learning experiences could ignite the action needed to move equity forward. Dr. Handy, a former Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at a private P-12 school, knows first-hand the challenges of shifting a 175-year-old institution forward on equity issues. Dr. Fitzpatrick has diverse experiences helping individuals and organizations ensure their actions are evidence of their commitment to the students, families, and communities that they serve. Together, this team wanted to explore a specific gaming experience followed by the book with an action framework to help provide faculty and staff the ignitor needed to build their capacity and fuel their equity work in thought and action.


Background on Researchers:

Dr. Teresa Handy
Dr. Teresa Handy is a Core Faculty member in the Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education Leadership Program in the College of Education at the University of Arizona Global Campus. Teresa has been a Turn the Tide Facilitator at UAGC, a Power of One Faculty member, and a Donna Beegle Certified Poverty Coach. She earned the Ed.D. specializing in Education Leadership and the Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Memphis, where she earned the distinction of Outstanding Leadership and Policy Studies Doctoral Student. She earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Chicago. Teresa completed her undergraduate work in Sociology and Education at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She has worked in public, charter, and private schools as an administrator, early childhood and elementary educator, and a learning specialist. She has also served as a diversity consultant, helping local and national organizations develop their inclusion initiatives. Her recent children's book, "There is an Elephant in my Ear," was written for children ages 3-5 to help begin courageous conversations about differences in the preschool classroom.

You may contact her at


Dr. Tamecca Fitzpatrick

Dr. Tamecca Fitzpatrick is the Program Chair for the Master of Art in Early Childhood Education Leadership in the College of Education at the University of Arizona Global Campus. She obtained her Ed.D specializing in Early Childhood Education from the University of North Texas. Her Master's degree in Education and bachelor's degree in Psychology were earned at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Her work experience includes positions as an elementary classroom teacher, a Diversity Scholar Lecturer, Professor, and Author.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

What types of classroom interactions do students want and what do we think they need?

Most academic literature celebrates the benefits of student-to-student and student-to-instructor engagement, which is deeper than simple interaction. However, many students, including those at UAGC, struggle to find time and energy to devote to even the simplest classroom interactions. We plan to survey all UAGC students to discover what they think of the previous types of classroom interactions they have had in the past and what they'd like to see in the future. If they want less interaction, we might want to spend more time educating them about the value of intellectual exchange and if they want more, we might want to design future classes with more opportunities for student-to-student and student-to-instructor interaction. Either way, this information will be important for us in our future course designs.

One of the most important tools UAGC is currently using is Power of One, which attempts to provide students with additional support, by working with them on deadlines and more deeply engaging with struggling students. Our research intersects with the Power of One initiative because part of that effort is designed to better know our students and the various limitations many of them face and ways we can help build their personal and intellectual skills. While we as designers of course content often believe more interaction is beneficial, with students stretched to the brink with work and family responsibilities, what ways can we create learning initiatives that acknowledge their needs, while also creating rigorous courses? This survey will help answer some of these questions.

Cheri Ketchum

Cheri Ketchum is an Associate Professor at UAGC and has been working for the university since 2010. She oversees the communication and journalism programs within the Department of Education and Liberal arts and primarily teaches courses on persuasion and communication and conflict. Her research interests focus on instructor-student engagement, instructive feedback, journalism and popular culture.

Dr. Daria S. Lafave

Daria S. LaFave, PhD is an Associate Professor at UAGC. Her research interests are interpersonal communication, instructor-student relationships in online classrooms, and effective online course design. She has been teaching communication courses at UAGC since 2012.

Elain Phompheng

Elaine Phompheng, MA is an Associate Faculty member at UAGC, teaching courses primarily in communication and information literacy. She has been with UAGC since 2008. Her research interests include online instructor/student engagement, feedback strategies for online instructors, and organizational leadership. Elaine is in the process of completing her PhD.

 Chelsey Yeats

Chelsey Yeats, MA Associate Faculty member at UAGC, has instructed students online since 2011. Yeats primarily focuses on Communication Studies with an emphasis on critical literacy. Over recent years, Yeats has researched and explored establishing positive social presence and developing feedback literacy within the online classroom. Besides teaching and research, Yeats serves as a subject expert for course textbooks and course development.  

Monday, February 14, 2022

Live Learning – Research in Synchronous Meetings in Asynchronous Classes

Online learning provides a great pathway for students in varied circumstances to advance their education – to connect with content and engage with instructors and peers. But a predominantly asynchronous learning environment puts limits on that experience. As online instruction and distance learning platforms attempt to keep up with the advancements of technology, it is crucial that students have access to multiple learning resources to ensure success in meeting their educational goals.

One of the strategies for promoting student success and more meaningful conversations through online courses includes live chat sessions. Ultimately, the goal is to enhance the learning process so that students can gain the motivation and drive that they need to continue their online education. This, in turn, will guide the student in becoming successful in their educational journey. Implementing Live Learning sessions to all sections of a course on a weekly basis will assist students in understanding current and upcoming assessments, not only from the professor, but also from students in later weeks of the course.

The Community of Inquiry framework emphasizes the importance of social presence, which involves an inclusion of virtual office hours as an additional learning source for students. Offering weekly “live learning” video sessions as an additional resource within asynchronous online college courses will increase course satisfaction and learning of the course concepts, thereby, increasing the likelihood of student success and retention.

Since April of 2020, faculty within the Academic Engagement Center have been offering optional live learning sessions. And while the required Live Learning sessions in GEN103 were a direct result of insights and research conducted by this group, those sections are not monitored as part of this research. Data is collected and collated on a number of points – reflecting a deeper picture of the student and their needs.

The outcome will determine if weekly “live learning” sessions can positively impact student achievement and satisfaction. It will also provide insights about how course levels, sequencing, and session schedules may help students access this “live learning” opportunity.

The Professors Leading the Research:

Over the course of her career, Dr. Sonja Bethune has worn many hats in a variety of settings as an educator, administrative manager, as well as a mental health provider. She is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in the State of California in which she has served the mentally ill population in different capacities. However, for the past 10 years, she has been a dedicated professor, course content developer, and supportive colleague for different projects, while overseeing the General Education Capstone course at the University of Arizona Global Campus (previously known as Ashford University). She has demonstrated her passion for teaching through various scholastic accomplishments in which she co-authored a book that focuses on teaching strategies for online instructors. She also co-authored and published a journal article that centers on implicit bias within the online classroom. Furthermore, she has written psychology-related articles for the UAGC Hub Newsletter that emphasize ways of improving one’s mental well-being.

Dr. Nathan Pritts is an award-winning educator, course developer, and faculty mentor with a strong focus on innovation with practical applications. He brings expertise in writing, business communication, advertising & marketing, and online user experience to the General Education classroom to maximize student learning and heighten engagement, infusing curriculum with foundational outcomes bolstered by clear ties to a student's academic and career path. He serves as Professor in the Academic Engagement Center of the University of Arizona Global Campus. Dr. Pritts is the author or co-author of twelve books including Decoherence (Indiana University Press), Film: From Watching to Seeing (3e), Essentials of Academic Writing (4e), and he served as editor and wrote the introduction for Living Online: A Digital Fluency Handbook.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

UAGC Cohort Jumpstart Research Project by Dr. Connie Lower

Dr. Connie Lower
The intention of the UAGC Cohort Jumpstart project is to increase perseverance of entry-point students through the formation and support of a learning community (as defined by George Kuh in “High-Impact Educational Practices”) in a cohort of students as they navigate their first three classes together:  ASH 101, GEN 103, and GEN 102.  Entry-point students frequently express feeling alone, overwhelmed and under supported in their first entry classes.  Placing these students into a supportive cohort with the high-impact practice of a learning community will give them a stable, supportive group for fifteen weeks, thus increasing their motivation and determination to persevere. 

This effort also incorporates the Power of One initiative to improve retention and graduation through increased student/instructor engagement and care by faculty and support services.   The components of Power of One will be used to provide flexibility for student completion of work and enhanced instructor engagement with students.

Dr. Connie Lower Bio

Dr. Connie Lower is a full-time faculty member of the Academic Engagement Center at UAGC.  She has been in an instructor role at Ashford/UAGC since 2008.  She has a Doctorate in Education with a specialization in the Instructional Process and a Superintendent’s Certification from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, as well as a Master of Science in Educational Administration and a Bachelor of Science in K-12 education from Illinois State University.  She served as a public school administrator for a number of years before transitioning to higher education. Dr. Lower has always been passionate about teaching and learning, and is deeply invested in providing opportunities for students to attain their goals, whether very young or as adults. “UAGC has students that are serious about upgrading their lives and the lives of their families,” she says, “and the UAGC faculty and staff  are all dedicated individuals who wish to give our non-traditional students every opportunity to succeed.”