University's 2016-2017 Coffman chair to increase academic discourse about critical thinking
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
SALINA — Kansas State University's 2016-2017 Coffman Chair for Distinguished Teaching Scholars, Patricia Ackerman, professor of language arts at Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus, is determined to increase academic discourse about critical thinking at the university.
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 conducts research or develops programs to improve educational methods. All who are selected for the honor retain the title of University Distinguished Teaching Scholar throughout their careers.
Ackerman's goal as Coffman chair is to facilitate a universitywide discussion about critical thinking, one of the five undergraduate student learning outcomes that the university's Faculty Senate adopted in 2004. The other outcomes include knowledge, communication, diversity awareness, and academic and professional integrity.
Ackerman will spend the next year meeting with academic leaders and faculty in all colleges of the university and in the Office of Assessment to examine how critical thinking is woven into various degree programs.
"I am interested in exploring how we currently define, teach and assess critical thinking at Kansas State University," Ackerman said.
She is working with the university's Teaching and Learning Center and the Faculty Exchange for Teaching Excellence to invite a nationally recognized scholar in the field of critical thinking to campus for the annual university teaching retreat in spring 2017.
"Receiving the Coffman Chair for University Distinguished Teaching Professors is a tremendous honor," Ackerman said. "I look forward to engaging in meaningful dialogue with colleagues across the university during the coming year. It is humbling to be included as a member of the notable K-State scholars who form the university distinguished teaching professors alumni."
Ackerman joined the Kansas State University faculty in 2000. Her leadership roles at the university have included chairing the Course and Curriculum Committee, co-chairing the Faculty Senate Academic Affairs Committee, founding and directing an interdisciplinary writing center, and advising the Kansas State Polytechnic student publication, On the Record. She also served on the executive board of directors of the Midwest Writing Center Association and was the graduate program director for the professional master's in technology degree. In 2014, she established and became the first coordinator of the Kansas State Polytechnic Faculty Resource Center. She also served as coordinator of the campus's first Interdisciplinary Faculty Teaching Exchange.
She currently serves on the board of directors for the Kansas Humanities Council, Faculty Senate Executive Committee, university's Faculty Exchange for Teaching Excellence and the university's Commission on the Status of Women. Her book, "Marymount College of Kansas: A History," was published in 2014 and was a 2015 WILLA Literary Award finalist for scholarly nonfiction.
"Research for 'Marymount College: A History' increased my awareness of cyclical patterns that recur in academia," Ackerman said. "Many of the pedagogical issues faced by the Sisters of St. Joseph nearly a century ago remain at the forefront of challenges facing contemporary colleges and universities. Student learning outcomes are critical to defining what it means to be a 'college-educated' citizen. Revisiting student learning outcomes, individually and collectively, should be part of ongoing, dynamic discourse across the university."
Ackerman has received numerous awards during her time at the university, including a Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence, Big 12 Faculty Fellowship Award, Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Professor of the Year Award and two Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow Awards. She has been twice nominated for the Iman Award. Ackerman is a fellow of the National Writing Project, the Wakonse Conference on College Teaching and the International Writing Center Association.