University's 2015-2016 Coffman chair to focus on increasing faculty engagement
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
MANHATTAN — Kansas State University's 2015-2016 Coffman chair for distinguished teaching scholars, Don Saucier, associate professor of psychological sciences, is determined to bring the love for education back to the classroom.
As Coffman chair, Saucier will spend the next year researching how teachers' experiences of engagement and enjoyment in the classroom predict those same experiences in their students. He wants to understand if an instructor's autonomy in choosing which classes he or she teaches and the content discussed will affect engagement.
"I'm very interested in the faculty experience in the classroom," Saucier said. "I'm testing the trickle down engagement process — that faculty engagement leads to student engagement, which leads to student learning."
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.
"I'm very humbled by the award," Saucier said. "The list of people who have won before me is the who's who of teaching at this university and I'm very lucky to count some mentors and friends among them."
Saucier will be expanding some of his pilot studies on engagement with support from the university's Teaching and Learning Center and K-State First, a first-year experience program that helps guide students to academic success through small student groups, small classes with more instructor interaction, and mentors. He has been part of the K-State First program since 2010 through teaching, research and assessment of the program.
"We already have some pilot data that suggest students want their instructors to be engaged in the classroom and they think it helps them learn better," Saucier said. "We've seen really good outcomes with student and faculty engagement, experiences and performance in the K-State First program pilot data."
Saucier is the director of undergraduate studies, chair of the Undergraduate Program Committee, and co-director for the teaching apprenticeship program in the psychological sciences department. He has taught a broad range of classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels, from large sections of General Psychology to small classes in Advanced Psychological Research Methods.
His numerous awards and honors include the Putting Students First Award for Outstanding Service to Students, the University Distinguished Faculty Award for Mentoring of Undergraduate Students in Research, the William L. Stamey Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award from the College of Arts & Sciences, the Commerce Bank Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
Saucier earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and classical civilization from Colby College, and a master's degree and a doctoral degree in experimental social psychology from the University of Vermont.