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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Jill Sible

   

The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Jill Sible, professor of Biological Sciences, for her commitment to a collaborative and engaging learning environment regardless of class size, and her genuine care and concern for not only her students' learning and success, but also their unique contributions to the learning community.

Jill Sible teaches undergraduate biology courses, such as Cancer Biology (BIOL 4847), Cell and Molecular Biology (BIO 2104), and Principles of Biology (BIOL 1105). Embracing SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs) pedagogy, she has endeavored to create an inclusive and collaborative learning environment focused on higher order thinking and learning in addition to successful communication in large course sections. Class meetings are located in specially designed environments tailored for SCALE-UP: small group seating arrangements, ample whiteboard space for group work, and multiple projectors highlight information in every direction to allow for the cooperative environment inherent to her course sections.

Jill’s daily class meetings typically involve a 20-30 minute lecture followed by a time in which student teams work on weekly assignments. While the teams work collaboratively, she and her teaching assistants facilitate their learning by constantly moving throughout the classroom to offer assistance and support. These group assignments focus on problem solving skills, teamwork, and a higher understanding of the course content, and are set at an appropriate level of challenge. Visitors to her class will witness the easy team conversations and on-task orientation, as every member of the class is well practiced at teamwork and communication--important skills not only for learning, but also for success in professional environments. In addition, Jill Sible has used blogs as an instructional tool. For instance, during her spring 2013 Cancer Biology course, Jill Sible implemented blogging as a weekly assignment. Students engaged in a continuing conversation about the topic of cancer biology, with which many students have a personal connection. Everyone was encouraged to share personal stories in addition to academic learning experiences. Through this weekly blogging, the classroom’s sense of community was heightened and solidified.

In these ways and others, Jill Sible fosters a strong sense of community where motivation and learning are held paramount. Motivation, not only for and within the class topics, but also in the autonomy-supported and novel nature of the SCALE-UP class structure, is nurtured. Objectives outside of the academic arena are prominent, such as successful collaboration, self-regulation, and according to the nature of weekly learning tasks, Internet research skills and higher ordering thinking and problem solving skills. Approaching teaching with both passion for education and compassion for her students, she constantly reinvents her pedagogical strategies to offer the best learning experience possible for her students. Jill Sible shows her respect for her students’ thoughts and ideas, creating an environment in which ideas are shared, and where the students can become teachers and the teachers transform into students.

In addition to procuring more than more than $7.3 million in grants for both education and research, she has won several awards related to her teaching practices, including the Certificate of Teaching Excellence, the University Alumni Teaching Award, and the Edward S. Diggs Teaching Scholar Award. Jill Sible’s SCALE-UP course sections were also featured in CIDER’s Pedagogy in Practice spring 2012 publication in an article titled “SCALE-ing UP: Learning Through Teamwork & Engagement.” Jill Sible also serves as the Assistant Vice President for Undergraduate Education.

Homepage: http://www.biol.vt.edu/faculty/sible/





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