Professor Aims to Increase Participation

 

A new Oklahoma State professor is trying to increase participation by making class more interactive with new methods.

Amanda Baraldi, 34, teaches in the Psychology Department at OSU.  When she started teaching this past fall, she noticed she had a hard time getting students to interact with her in the classroom. She said no one wanted to speak up when she asked a question.

“Then I started doing finger signs during my lecture,” Baraldi said. “I would ask multiple choice learning check questions and I’d say, ‘What’s the answer?’ Maybe so often I can get someone to say ‘A’ real quietly, but then no one was responding. So, then I started doing, one for ‘A’, two for ‘B’, three for ‘C’ and four for ‘D’. I can get most of the class to put their fingers up.”

Baraldi said she thinks the biggest challenge facing students today are failing school systems, overprotective parents and engagement. She said she has noticed getting her students to engage in conversations in class and have them answer questions is not only a big challenge for her students but for her as a teacher as well.  She said she likes to start every class with a YouTube video to get the students comfortable in the environment before she begins lecturing. She said she has a hard time knowing if they understand the material she covers in class because it is rare for her to get a verbal answer. To help know her students understand her lectures she said she has them give her thumbs up or down if they understand.

Misty Hawkins, a coworker of Baraldi, is also a new professor to OSU. She said she met Baraldi when they both moved to Stillwater this summer.

“Dr. Baraldi is the first person I’ve met who is so passionate about statistics that she can make the subject fun and practical for her students,” Hawkins said. “She is a generous and excellent teacher, and I encourage students who are afraid of statistics to take her classes!”

Baraldi grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. As a high school student, Baraldi said she was in an organization called, Key Club. She said this club was a community service organization and she said it helped get her out of her comfort zone. She said she was the district treasurer and later she said she became the New England district secretary. She said this position helped her have the confidence to become a teacher.

“It taught me a lot,” Baraldi said. “I made amazing life-long friends. I learned all sorts of amazing life-long skills.”

She received her bachelor’s degree in science from University of Massachusetts in Amherst, a master’s degree in arts at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York and she received her doctorate at Arizona State University. She has chosen Oklahoma State University to start her career as a teacher and researcher.

She said she was in financial service after she received her undergraduate, but wanted to make a bigger impact on people’s lives. Baraldi said she is easygoing, gregarious and funny. She said these traits help her be the teacher and researcher she is today.

John Dexter, a student in her quantitative methods class, said she is a good teacher and energetic.

“She makes all the concepts easier to understand and really simplifies what otherwise would be really hard catty material,” Dexter said.

Baraldi said she would love to be still teaching and researching in the next five years. She said she loves teaching because she likes helping and interacting with her students and preparing them for the real world. She said she likes to feel like she is contributing. She said she wishes preparation and teaching didn’t take as much time as it does, and she said she doesn’t think the students realize how much work it takes outside the classroom. She said she thinks the qualities for an excellent teacher is someone who presents things in a clear and understandable way and is willing to explain as many ways as needed to reach students. She also said in order to be considered an excellent teacher, they have to be compassionate toward their students and be willing to meet and speak with them outside of the classroom.

She said she had job offers from Umass Lowell in Massachusetts and OSU, but she said she chose OSU because it seemed like a fit for her. She said moving from New York to Oklahoma was a big change for her. She said she loves the theater, and she said she finds it difficult to find a good place to watch shows. In her free time, Baraldi said she loves to explore Oklahoma. She said she loves the size of OSU and loves how nice and polite the students are. She said everyone she has met so far are all open, warm and welcoming to her. She said she loves how beautiful the campus is.

“It’s one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve ever seen,” Baraldi said. “It is very well done. All the buildings maintain the same style. That’s kind of rare on a campus, usually there are just a hodge-podge of buildings.”

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