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Bretschneider,Masingila named as newest Meredith Professors
Bretschneider,Masingila named as newest Meredith ProfessorsApril 03, 2003
During an April 4 gala reception, Stuart Bretschneider, professor of public administration in the Maxwell School, and Joanna O. Masingila, associate professor of mathematics and mathematics education in The College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education, will be honored as Syracuse University’s 2003 Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professors for Teaching Excellence. The teaching honor is one of the highest bestowed by the University.
The Meredith Professorships were created in 1995 with a substantial bequest from the Meredith estate. The program seeks to recognize and reward outstanding teaching, and fosters research and dialogue on teaching excellence. Two Meredith Professors are named each year to engage in investigations of teaching and learning. They are enrolled for life in the Meredith Symposium as a signal of honor and to provide an ongoing forum for the discussion of teaching excellence.
Each recipient of the honor is designated a Meredith Professor for a period of three years. For each of the three years, they receive a supplementary salary award, a fund to support their research, and additional money to be used in developing their academic unit.
The reception honoring Bretschneider and Masingila will be held at 3:00 p.m. in Rooms 304 A and B of the Schine Student Center.
Stuart Bretschneider believes that education is what economists call a “co-produced good,” that is, not something that one person (the teacher) produces and another (the student) consumes, but something that requires the active participation of both.
“In fact, it is important that we recognize that from a logical perspective, the activities of any teacher are neither necessary nor sufficient for the student to learn,” says Bretschneider.
It may seem odd for a newly named Meredith Professor to downplay the importance of his profession, but Bretschneider believes that good teaching can quite effectively facilitate learning. He especially believes in hands-on learning and group projects, which he uses in all of his classes; he cites a study that indicates that while lectures result in only five percent of the material being retained, hands-on exercises result in 50-percent retention and student peer teaching results in 75-percent retention.
For his students, he assigns group projects for various real agencies that reinforce the lecture material by providing a real-world situation in which to use it.
Michael M. Crow G ’85, president of Arizona State University and a former student of Bretschneider’s, says of Bretschneider’s style: “The combination of technical expertise, problem awareness, dedication to hands-on teaching and his overall style made the learning experience the kind of thing one remembers for an entire lifetime.”
Bretschneider’s Meredith teaching project will develop and distribute materials on a type of student group project that he calls the “Real Leaderless Sponsored Student Team Project.” He will also provide in-service training about the Real Leaderless project and act as a consultant to professors who want to implement it.
“There are three conditions for the creation of this type of project,” Bretschneider says of his proposal. “First, the project must be a real project with enough complexity and size that no one or two individuals could complete it on their own. Second, there should be no external authority structure or leadership system imposed. Finally, each project must have a sponsor who expects a real deliverable on time.”
Despite his feeling that the teacher is the least necessary component of the teaching equation, Bretschneider is generally acknowledged to be a superior teacher himself. Barry Bozeman, who was formerly on the Maxwell faculty and now teaches at Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy, credits Bretschneider with helping a colleague at Georgia Tech, “a young professor who teaches many of the same courses, who up to that time had not had much success.” Bretschneider provided insights and shared his syllabi with the young woman and with his help she was able to improve her teaching.
This kind of individual attention is typical, according to colleagues and students. Kimberly Farrell G’97, who now directs Maxwell’s Environmental Finance Center, came into the MPA program without any experience in using the Internet. “Stuart very patiently worked with me on a one-to-one basis. His patience during those sessions gave me permission to seek him out each time I had a problem or question about computer technology.”
Rosemary O’Leary, professor and coordinator of Maxwell’s Ph.D. program in public administration and a former student of Bretschneider’s, cites the painstaking, step-by-step process that he goes through with each of his doctoral students to develop a research question and, from there, a dissertation. “The time commitment on his part in working with students is mind-boggling,” she says.
O’Leary adds that she thinks working with students is Bretschneider’s reason for being. “It truly is his higher calling-one that he takes more seriously than any of my colleagues,” O’Leary says. “I have never heard a Ph.D. student have anything but positive comments about their work with him. He is an outstanding teacher and a terrific role model. In short, he is a rare gem.”
– Cynthia Moritz
Joanna O. Masingila
Students who enroll in Joanna O. Masingila’s graduate mathematics education classes are expected to e-mail questions about the day’s readings and assignments to Masingila before class begins. She then organizes and uses the questions as a starting point for group discussion and in-class problem solving.
The technique, which students say provides a foundation for meaningful class participation, goes to the heart of Masingila’s learning and teaching philosophy: “I think people learn mathematics best by solving problems,” she says. “Teaching is also a problem solving activity. In my mathematics classes and in my mathematics education classes, people need problems to solve to learn effectively.”
It’s that philosophy that has earned her a 2003 Meredith Professorship. Masingila is an associate professor of mathematics in The College of Arts and Sciences and of mathematics education in the School of Education. Appointed to the University faculty in 1992, Masingila has taken a leadership role in developing mathematics courses for undergraduate elementary education majors and core curricula for mathematics education master’s and doctoral students.
An example of her philosophy is embedded in the “Foundational Mathematics via Problem Solving I and II” courses, a sequence she created. “As the students work in groups to solve the problems, they develop a deep understanding of mathematical ideas that form the foundation for the mathematics taught in grades K through eight,” Masingila says. “In the process, they also develop teaching skills they can then use with their future students.”
In addition to the courses she has developed and refined, Masingila was the co-principal investigator with Helen Doerr, associate professor of mathematics, and researchers from San Diego State and Vanderbilt universities on a four-year, $605,000 National Science Foundation grant to research and develop multimedia case studies for pre-service mathematics teacher development that captured the complexities and richness of classroom teaching and problem solving. The case studies on CD ROM and video, along with a Web-based facilitator’s guide, are distributed free of charge to teacher preparation programs across the nation. Further information about the project can be found on the Web at http://www.rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/jbowers/overview.htm.
A second, $98,000 NSF grant enabled the researchers to develop software that graduate students use to develop their own multimedia case studies to use with pre-service teachers. For her Meredith teaching project, Masingila plans to work with faculty members who teach gateway courses to develop multimedia mini-case studies that can be used to prepare teaching assistants to teach in these courses. The project will draw from the research and technological tools she developed through the NSF grants.
Masingila earned a Ph.D. in mathematics education from Indiana University, Bloomington, a master’s degree from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, and a bachelor’s degree from Goshen College. She received a Fulbright Scholar Award in 1997 and outstanding dissertation awards in 1992 from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and Indiana University, Bloomington. In addition to the NSF case study grants, Masingila has been principal or co-principal investigator on funded projects that exceed $3.1 million in grants from government agencies and private foundations
– Judy Holmes