Timothy J. Pasch, Ph.D.
University of North Dakota
Department of Communication
I believe that the best teaching goes beyond the unidirectional concept of a professor transmitting information to students. In my estimation, the purpose of an educator in the discipline of Communication is to create a stimulating intellectual environment for the exchange of information, with continual awareness of applicability to the student’s career path and future demands of industry. In my experience, motivation suffers when students are required to study material with which they feel little affinity, or that contains no applicability to their personal and professional learning goals. In order to link theory to student experience and employability, my course design continuously strives to demonstrate a relationship between theory and practice.
Accomplishing this goal is a continual work in progress, and I work to implement creative and innovative ways to relate student learning to new technological and social developments. The essence of my teaching philosophy is to require student participation not only as active learners, but also as teachers and sharers of their own experiences. In my courses, students are encouraged, and often required to actively participate in their learning communities, preparing assignments (often digitally), that are designed to educate, persuade, and hone their content creation skills in a professional, respectful and rigorous learning environment.
In addition to active student participation, a hallmark of my classes is the high quality of external, professional speakers I recruit to present to the students. Some examples of speakers whom have visited my classes include Alumni from our Department now active in industry, guests from technology firms including Microsoft, Amazon, DigiKey and other media industry professionals. Most recently, professional graphic designers spoke to my students and gave demonstrations of their software workflows. Visits to the Skalicky Technology Incubator here at UND exposed student learners to real-world applications of their areas of study. When teaching a large-format (over 120 student) undergraduate Communication class, I have brought guest speakers into our room digitally using virtual/augmented reality technology, while streaming content simultaneously to online students. I have also enabled this type of communication with guests engaging with our students from international locations, which the students found to be truly engaging.
When students see the applicability of the theories and technologies they study to the careers they seek, their motivation is never a concern, and their passion and desire for excellence increases dramatically. I am proud of the fact that my course evaluations at the University of Washington were commended by both my Department Chair and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences there, and that my evaluations at the University of North Dakota have demonstrated similar commentary from students and Distinguished Teaching Awards/UND Spirit Award. With this said however I certainly cannot take full credit for these accolades, as so much of my past evaluation is related to the fact that the students in my classes also learn from each other and teach me in the process. I consider myself primarily a facilitator of knowledge rather than its sole source in the classroom.
As an information and communication technologist, I realize that knowledge of advanced computer software packages is essential for success in communication industries. That said, a focus solely on the complexity of technology (without understanding the underlying theories) can certainly detract from the learning experience. My teaching involves the incorporation of technologies designed to enhance the teaching and learning component of the course material without obscuring course content.
In the past years, I have been increasingly using advanced technologies such as collaborative workstations and virtualization to enhance student learning of the Adobe Creative Cloud, Qualtrics, Citrix, SPSS, and other software packages. My training in scholarly research database and citation software proves its value during my courses as I work with students and resolve software concerns related to qualitative and quantitative data analysis, international/intercultural communication, social network strategy, data visualization, and video and audio production among other areas from an expanding list that continues to grow as my own knowledge, capabilities of industry, and student demands evolve. I am fully aware that many students will have less experience in technological areas than others, and I work to adapt my teaching to specific student requirements.
In my graduate courses, students participate in Blackboard forums, blogs and virtual discussion groups in order to stimulate discussion and debate among their peers, and to use their newly-assimilated theoretical and methodological knowledge to prove their hypotheses. Students additionally access peer-reviewed academic journal articles to hone their perspective, while simultaneously improving their database query and information retrieval skills. When creating their final projects, or working in teams, students in my classes use digital technologies to present their information. In past courses these presentations have ranged from simple Powerpoint or Keynote presentations, through advanced digital portfolios with streaming video and audio. The range and scope of the tools employed will depend on student skill and interest, and I strive to be available for consultation and assistance in these areas.
Positivity is an essential component of my teaching philosophy, and I am rigorous with my positivity: meaning that I continually strive to perceive challenges as opportunities, and treat student questions with respect and intellectual consideration. I endeavor to continually remind myself that any question asked, no matter how seemingly elementary, has value; and that the act of asking such questions takes initiative and courage. I believe that the relationship between educator and student is a relationship of trust, and that the effectiveness of the educator is more than simply the quantity of information shared in the classroom, but rather, should be measured as a continuum that extends through into pedagogical acumen, approachability, professional decorum, and personality as well.
I have been told at times in the past that I am an effective teacher, however I do not believe this to be entirely due to my own efforts. I believe rather that my greatest asset in the classroom lies in my ability to listen. Through active listening to students, and understanding intuitively to the best of my ability the communication that the student is seeking to impart, I strive to create a professional, academically rigorous, and emotionally satisfying learning environment. It is within such an optimal learning environment that each student might take their knowledge and skill to a higher level, preparing them for success in the field of their choosing.
Published and currently visible on the UND website as one of the major “Leaders in Action” student exposés, the link below showcases top student experiences at UND selected by the Marketing Council and UND Web Team. I received letters of congratulation from the Dean, University President and Provost regarding this article and my innovative teaching after its appearance on the University’s website. The article appears below. Respectfully, Timothy J. Pasch, Ph.D.
New skills in a digital age
Since arriving at UND as a transfer student for basketball, Jafar Kinsey has adopted the “North Dakota mentality.”
“It’s a lifestyle,” Kinsey said. “For a student-athlete, being able to do our schoolwork, our on-court work and combining that, it’s a grind and mentality – whenever you have time, you have to get things done.”
“The lifestyle is crazy,” agreed Mason Bennett, a defensive end for UND football. “We’re up at 6 a.m. and going until 6 p.m. every day.”
That on-the-go lifestyle inspired them to reflect on their student-athlete roles for a new assignment in their Communication 405 class. Professor Timothy Pasch’s course “Social Implications of the Information Society” examines the implications of today’s modes of communication. In the Department of Communication, Pasch wants students to learn a variety of skills that are useful in the digital age.
So, he had his students create a podcast.
“I didn’t even know what a podcast was before I was in professor Pasch’s class,” Kinsey said.
Their camaraderie as student-athletes brought them together. Pasch assigned them to create 10 episodes, as well as track and analyze the dissemination of their work online.
As part of a class assignment, Jafar Kinsey and Mason Bennett would plan each podcast episode.
Students needed to record, edit and upload podcasts as they learned digital storytelling techniques.
The podcast brought in a variety of guests, including hockey player Christian Wolanin, who recently joined the Ottawa Senators after three seasons at UND.
“It’s pretty cool having somebody on our show who’s played at the collegiate level and now plays professionally,” Bennett said.
“The quality of the guest speakers that Mason and Jafar have invited to their shows, the thoughtfulness of their arguments, the significant personal experience that they both bring to the discussions, and the sophistication of the digital broadcast have resulted in work of exceedingly high quality,” Pasch said.
By creating a podcast, students gain insight into what it takes to reach a global audience. They syndicated their podcasts through iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and SoundCloud and learned how to use both hardware and software to enhance their work.
“Now that students have been successful in seeing their own work appear in Apple’s podcast searches on their iPhones, they know that this skill set can also be of significant value to an employer or other organization of their choice,” Pasch said.
When asked what he enjoys most about the process, Bennett says it’s having both a voice and a mode of expression.
“It’s different than going out in the field and talking about it or texting someone,” he said. “Everybody can listen to it, and it’s an easy way to get our ideas out.”
Both Kinsey, who graduated this year, and Bennett have their minds set on sports after college, but now they have some extra tools for future endeavors – no matter where they end up.
“Obviously, every football player’s dream is to play in the NFL,” Bennett said. “But football will come to an end at some point and, hopefully then, I can pursue a career in marketing. I want to see how sports and social media marketing can come together and develop my own ideas. The communication courses I’m in right now are helping me reach those goals.”