University's 2017-2018 Coffman chair to focus on classroom tutoring
Monday, April 24, 2017
MANHATTAN — Kansas State University's 2017-2018 Coffman chair for distinguished teaching scholars, Todd Easton, associate professor of industrial and manufacturing systems, plans to help other faculty members improve their teaching abilities by incorporating tutoring during lectures.
In contrast to traditional lecturing, Easton's method is to ask one student a question and tutor that student to the correct answer while the rest of the class listens. His paper describing this technique was awarded top paper honors at the 2016 American Society for Engineering Education Zone III Conference.
As Coffman chair, Easton will develop and lead seminars on the method, observe and give feedback in participating teachers' classes, and substitute-teach lectures to help instructors see how to use classroom tutoring in their own courses.
"I believe this teaching style can easily be implemented by other faculty, and I am excited to see their results from trying this method," Easton said. "My research shows that classroom tutoring improves both learning and teacher ratings, so I believe this method will support students and educators."
The Coffman chair for distinguished teaching scholars was created in 1995 to highlight Kansas State University's commitment to excellence in undergraduate teaching and learning. A faculty member acknowledged as a leading teaching scholar is appointed to the chair for one academic year. During that time, the chair will conduct research or develop programs to improve educational methods. All who are selected for the honor retain the title of university distinguished teaching scholar throughout their careers.
Easton's research focuses on computational efforts required to solve computationally challenging problems. Additionally, he develops optimization models to create solutions to a variety of problems, including rural disease epidemics, green energy and even dieting — a topic that resulted in his book, "The When Diet: Mathematically Optimizing Eating and Exercise for Weight Loss." As with the rest of his research, Easton's work on dieting influenced his endeavors as an instructor.
"My classes emphasize the importance of applying industrial engineering solutions to decisions and issues that are relevant to students," Easton said. "They react well to seeing how these principles can immediately impact their lives."
Easton not only allows his research findings to influence his teaching, he also researches best practices for improving teaching and student learning.
"As an industrial engineer, I focus on improving efficiency, and I believe teaching is a system that can be optimized," Easton said. "As a land-grant university, it is our responsibility to improve instruction to produce better students, which benefits K-State, Kansas, the U.S. and society."
Since joining the Kansas State University faculty in 2001, Easton has received 13 major teaching and advising awards. He has served as the director of the Master of Science in operations research program since 2009. Easton is a member of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, as well as the American Society for Engineering Education, and he is the faculty advisor of Alpha Pi Mu, the Industrial Engineering Honors Society.
Along with his book, Easton has authored or co-authored 21 refereed journal publications, 16 refereed conference proceedings and two book chapters. His publications have been cited more than 400 times. He earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Brigham Young University, a master's degree in operations research from Stanford University and a doctorate in industrial and systems engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.