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    DECEMBER 1, 2005
 
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Fox School’s Hodge wins award for innovative teaching

hodge
To engage students in his 600-student “Law and Society” course, Fox School professor and chairman of legal studies Samuel D. Hodge Jr. uses electronic response pads, which students purchase for $40. The system, set up by Computer Services, allows students to “instantaneously register their votes to a question, much like what’s used on a game show,” Hodge explained.

It’s no accident that Samuel D. Hodge Jr., professor and chairman of legal studies at The Fox School of Business, won the 2005 gold prize for innovative teaching from the Mid-Atlantic Association of Colleges of Business Administration in October.

His winning teaching philosophy is simple: This generation of students doesn’t just need to be educated; it needs to be energized.

At the association’s 2005 conference, Hodge, who also is director of The Fox School’s Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, detailed his innovative teaching techniques in his acceptance speech, “How to Energize Students with Technology and Humor.”

“Students of the 21st century are part of the ‘MTV generation,’” said Hodge, who was recognized in 1991 with the University’s Great Teacher Award. “They have grown up with visual stimulation and instantaneous access to video games. Therefore, it is no longer sufficient to merely teach the materials.”

From the start, Hodge, a 1974 graduate of Temple Law School, understood that the only way to captivate the roughly 600 students in his mandatory freshman introductory course “Law and Society” would be by delivering engaging lectures and by encouraging student involvement. He has been so successful that a 2003 survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education listed his course under the category of “Large but Loved.”

“My class gives students a common experience — it’s the one class every freshman in The Fox School has to take. I realized I had this task at hand, and I knew I had to motivate them,” Hodge said.

One key technique he brings into play is the use of electronic response pads, set up by Computer Services, to “allow students to instantaneously register their votes to a question, much like what’s used on a game show,” Hodge said.

hodge

Students purchase the $40 response pads as part of their course materials. Not only do the pads make lectures come to life, they also make it easier for Hodge to take attendance and give out the daily quizzes he administers to ensure that students master assigned readings.

According to Hodge, the response pads allow students to have their voices heard. “In a large class, some students are reluctant to participate,” Hodge said. “This allows everyone to become involved.”

Hodge also keeps students engaged by spicing up case studies. He often will illustrate the obscure court cases he teaches by telling stories about his fictional “family.” “If I say ‘my brother Joe,’ everyone knows who I’m talking about,” Hodge said.

Each of these stories has a unified theme that helps students understand the significance of an important court case.

“I began by researching lawsuits that involved the rich and famous or presented unusual fact scenarios, such as a pet bear that mauled the next-door neighbor, or a woman who was injured while attempting to dry her cat in the microwave. The concepts presented are standard business law issues, but the fact patterns are not.”

To re-create these court cases, Hodge has traveled from Atlantic City to the Grand Canyon filming footage of places his “brother Joe” visited, such as courtrooms, jails and casinos. This visual component to his storytelling makes his stories come alive.

As director of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, Hodge is helping his fellow Fox professors enhance their teaching through seminars on how to use technology, the proper way to grade papers and how to prepare rubrics, as well as through professor evaluations.

Hodge often recommends taping a classroom sessions as a method of classroom evaluation for both new and experienced faculty. After reviewing their lecture on tape, the center’s evaluators provide suggestions for improvement.

Sometimes, the center pairs up two Honors students with a professor. The students observe a class and gather feedback from the rest of the students on the teaching strengths and weaknesses of the professor.

“Faculty should not be afraid to experiment with new technology in the classroom,” Hodge said, summing up his approach. “A host of easy-to-use products are available that can add excitement and vitality to a normally dull lecture with minimal effort.”

- By Rebecca Carroll

Hodge’s prescription for innovative teaching
Hodge’s teaching tactics have earned him the respect of educators throughout the country. Here, he offers advice to his colleagues on how to captivate students.
Do’s
• Be interactive. Use the classroom as a stage.
• When they are available, use electronic response pads to enable students to instantly register their votes to key questions.
• Use the Internet to your advantage. A number of sites offer funny pictures, animations and video clips for download.
• Always provide an outline of the topics to be covered in class each day.
• Create stories to engage the class.
Don’ts
• Don’t talk down to students; treat them as you would expect to be treated.
• Don’t just stand in front of the classroom and lecture.
• No matter how silly a question is, don’t let the student feel you think it’s inappropriate.
• Don’t read from the book.

 

 


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