Human development and family science lecturer Melissa Scott Kozak has been named Teacher of the Week by the UGA Center for Teaching and Learning.
Kozak said she attributes pedagogical success to her students. They are the reason she does what she does.
When Kozak prepares for classes, she said she asks herself: “What do the students need, not what do I need, to learn.”
Kozak said she believes to be a successful teacher one must be a willing and passionate learner. She learns the most about herself when classroom instruction doesn’t go according to plan.
On those days, Kozak has realized, she has the greatest opportunity for growth as a learner and as an instructor.
Kozak believes students learn by observing her failures and hopes these mistakes make it easier to endure and learn when they experience their own shortcomings.
Additionally, as part of the learning process, Kozak sets goals for her students.
Melody McTier, a former student, describes these goals as “high yet achievable expectations” that “encourage students to excel in their work and be the best they can be.”
Kozak strives to provide opportunities for students to interact with their peers as well as with her so that students can learn from one another, and that she can learn from them.
“Dr. Kozak brings the course material to life as she is always thinking of new, creative ways to involve everyone in the class,” student Lindsey Hutchins said.
Kozak said she frequently reflects on Bloom’ taxonomy of learning and Fink’s design for creating significant learning experiences.
Shaped by Bloom and Fink, Kozak’s central instructional goal is for students to learn to think critically about material in ways that are relevant to their current and future lives.
She also uses elements of the “flipped classroom” concept to connect Bloom’s and Fink’s philosophies. Informally, Kozak feels that facilitating a space in which students can take ownership of content and their learning is significant.
If she can work with students to co-create assignments they can actually use, Kozak said she finds the interaction to be a “win-win.”
For Kozak, it’s important that students have an active voice in their learning.
“In the classroom Dr. Kozak allows assignments to be flexible enough that you can research and write about something that interests you,” student Hillary Barfield said.
This story originally appeared on the UGA Center for Teaching and Learning website. You can view it here.
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