Sarah Butterbaugh places second at GradTeach Live

Watching TV could be seen as a waste of time, but if you are Sarah Butterbaugh, it could be seen as a teaching tool for learning valuable life lessons.

Butterbaugh, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Family Sciences, encourages her FAM 254: Life Course Human Development students to look for memes, pop culture references, or personal stories that they can use to relate course material to real life. She used this approach to win second place in a competition among graduate teaching assistants called GradTeach Live!

"Out of all these things, the pop culture reference is almost always the strongest catalyst for the liveliest discussions and the thing that students say helps them understand the material best," Butterbaugh said.

In a five-minute, three-slide presentation, Butterbaugh demonstrated her approach by using the example of "The Office" to teach about classical conditioning and Pavlov's dog. This allowed students to go beyond examples of just their pets and think in human terms. It also meant the students experienced a 100 percent pass rate on this essay question on the test.

"Ultimately, I want my students to understand that applying class material goes beyond their three exams and final paper, but it is about being able to see the theories in the world around them," she said.

Butterbaugh's commitment to relatable teaching paid off for her, too. The prize for second place was $500.

"We are very proud of Sarah," said Ronald Werner-Wilson, chair of the Department of Family Sciences. "Sarah takes her teaching very seriously, and her successful effort is a nice affirmation of her commitment to teaching excellence. She is an excellent student."

GradTeach Live! is sponsored by the UK Graduate Student Professional Enhancement Office and the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in an effort to highlight the valuable work of graduate teaching assistants. Each presenter is given five minutes to showcase an aspect of his or her teaching philosophy and how he or she puts it into practice.

Ashley Sorrell, assistant director GSPE, says the focus of the event goes beyond celebrating teaching assistants for their dedication. "By challenging them to identify and clearly communicate an aspect of their teaching philosophy to an interdisciplinary audience," Sorrell explained, "they are honing their skills in public communication, cross-disciplinary engagement and critical reflection, which are transferable to diverse career options."

Author: Alyssa Simms
Terms: FAM