Virginia Tech Teacher of the Week
The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Kacie Hodges, instructor of Engineering Education, for involving students in critical thinking activities and making learning interesting by using a combination of team activities, class discussion, and interactive technologies. She keeps students engaged and on task, all while maintaining a fun atmosphere in the classroom.
Since 2010, Kacie has taught Engineering Exploration (EngE 1024), Exploration of Engineering Design (EngE 1114), Introduction to Engineering Computation and Control with LabVIEW (EngE 2514), Introduction to Spatial Visualization (EngE 1354), Foundations of Engineering I (EngE 1215), and a pilot section of Foundations of Engineering II (EngE 1216). Her teaching has affected over 2100 students.
Kacie currently teaches first-year engineering students, including three sections of Foundations of Engineering I (EngE 1215) and two sections of Intro to Spatial Visualization (EngE 1354), with each section consisting of 30-40 students. She has found that the most effective way to engage students is to connect with them by building a sense of trust and respect within the classroom. She does this by learning her students’ names and some personal facts about them as well as sharing her own hobbies and family information with them. She has her students make name tents so that students can learn each other’s names; in classrooms with pod seating (such as those used for EngE 1215), she mixes name tents for each class period for the first three weeks so that students meet new people in the class and share information with each other to discover what they have in common. These practices allow her to establish an early connection with her students, which is helpful when teaching or mentoring one-on-one, and also helps to give her students a sense of community.
Another important aspect to Kacie’s classroom is the open discussion in which she engages students regarding semester expectations. First-year students undergo a transitional period in their lives, which is difficult for many. Even for more experienced upperclassmen, knowing what to expect in the class is critical. During the first lecture, in addition to course policies, Kacie spends time discussing (in a back and forth discussion) expectations for the class and for the students, and what they can expect from her. This covers classroom behavior, email guidelines, late work policies and exceptions. This dialogue goes a long way to help streamline the semester.
During the semester, Kacie wants her classes to be relaxed, friendly, and open to questions, exploration and discussion. During class instructional time, she engages students by asking questions, providing ‘think-pair-share’ activities, and using real-life examples and explanations to hold their attention. She incorporates examples that open the floor for questions and interaction. Rotation of who is asking and answering questions to engage the full class is critical to ensure full classroom engagement, and knowing names is a great way to invite all students into the class discussion. When students are working on activities, she navigates the room, and asks students if they have questions. When they do, she guides them to the next step required to find the answer and make the connection, instead of giving step by step directions.
Open to classroom technologies, Kacie has used DyKnow (an interactive classroom software package) in the EngE 1215 classroom as a tool to anonymously collect and share student work to promote classroom learning. In the EngE 1354 class, she always brings physical examples for visual learning to help physically connect the material on the page to an application. For any classroom work or homework, she provides detailed feedback to promote further learning and allows class time to ask questions or review misconceptions. Anyone visiting her classroom will find students engaged and learning in an atmosphere of respect and support.
To improve her teaching, Kacie strives to continually learn new pedagogies, skills and engineering education knowledge. Over the past few years, she enrolled in two EngE graduate courses (EngE 5014: Foundations of Engineering Education and EngE 5404: Assessment Techniques on Engineering Education), attended several CIDER events including sessions on 'How Learning Works', participated in Advance VT programs, and completed several FDI workshops including Scholar management classes and a 20 hour MATLAB online program. She has finished a LabVIEW certification boot camp and passed the CLAD Exam (Certified LabVIEW Associate Developer). She was recently selected to participate in the CIDER Early Career Teaching Certificate program. Kacie was recognized as a finalist for the College of Engineering Sporn Award (2013), received a Housing and Residence Life Favorite Faculty Award (2013), was selected as Professor First Pitch (2013), and was a recipient of CIDER’s Thank a Teacher program (2013, 2014).
Kacie is always excited to share her teaching experiences with other colleagues, which benefits all, particularly new faculty, instructors, and graduate students. As additional evidence of Kacie’s extraordinary teaching ability, below are some quotes from colleagues and her former students:
"Kacie Hodges is one of the most student centered, thoughtful and thorough teachers I have ever encountered. Her care and concern for her students is extraordinary. Her energy is boundless. Her attention to detail and student understanding is without parallel. She is the teacher I wanted in my first-year of engineering."
“Two of Kacie’s greatest gifts as a teacher are her ability share her own love of engineering and learning with students and her ability to connect with the students. Kacie is approachable and inviting. There is rarely an office hour that goes unused by students. I think students relate especially well to Kacie because of her community and university involvement. Her family regularly “adopts” a college student through her church, and she connects with students through her interest in campus life, especially with the soccer, volleyball, and baseball teams. Kacie is dedicated to the success of her students. She is always looking for examples in everyday life or ways to use familiar objects to illustrate and help her students better understand the concepts she is teaching. Kacie’s concern for her students is evident in everything she does. From the thorough and timely feedback she provides to discussions with colleagues regarding the best ways to help students learn. Students can see that she cares and they respond to this!”
“Professor Hodges is concerned not only with a student's academics, but with their quality of life past graduation as well. She does not teach with the sole purpose of her students to ace an exam, but to grasp and apply the concepts outside the classroom to solve real problems. She sees potential in students when they doubt themselves. This was true for me. I struggled in engineering my first semester at Virginia Tech and approached Professor Hodges to seek her advice in another major to transfer to. She urged me to stay in engineering, noticing that my work ethic and attention to detail exceeded that of my peers. She offered to have one-on-one sessions with me to further clarify the concepts from class. Her words resonated with me and I am now in the top one percent of my class for Industrial and Systems Engineering. I owe my success in engineering thus far to Professor Hodges and her concern for the life of her students."
“Professor Hodges truly cares for the success of her students. She was always willing to help during office hours and answers questions clearly and concisely. She is very warm and welcoming, I still go to visit her even now years after having her. Her passion for teaching and seeing her students succeed is obvious, her attitude motivates her students to work hard.”