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Ramadoss Featured In 'Pedagogy Project' for Teaching Practices

Posted April 27, 2017

In his classroom, Dr. Jay Ramadoss, assistant professor in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology department (VTPP), employs a number of strategies to keep his students engaged.

“Students learn to apply concepts in real-life scenarios,” Ramadoss said. “We use a balance between instructional and active learning, and for every two lectures, which themselves involve a lot of active-learning components, we follow that up with what we call APPL—active physiology principles learning.

Jay Ramadoss

Dr. Jay Ramadoss

“Each week the students assume a role; for example, they could be an astronaut, researcher, physician, or a scientist, and then the class solves a real-life problem, which is an application of what they’ve learned in the previous two lessons.”

Because of Ramadoss’s commitment to teaching, he was selected by the Texas A&M University’s Office of the Provost for Undergraduate Studies as a featured instructor in the office’s Pedagogy Project, which aims to improve student success and retention through the implementation of motivating and engaging classroom instruction.

Through the project, four professors from across campus whose teachings align with the university’s undergraduate learning outcomes are interviewed on video to create two, three-minute featurettes on the best teaching practices. The pieces include an interview filmed in question-and-answer style in the KAMU studio by assistant provost for undergraduate studies Dr. Tim Scott and another filmed in the classroom.

Ramadoss was selected for his Physiology for Bioengineers 1 and 2 classes, for sophomore engineering students. He has been teaching the courses since 2015.

“The biomedical engineering students are amazing and highly motivated, and we’ve done a lot of transformation in the teaching practices of this course,” he said. “Some of the basic concepts we kept, but a lot of it we transformed to have a good mix, to not lose the good things from the traditional aspects, while also taking advantage of the best practices in teaching offered by the Pedagogical Project.”

That transformation has included creating 12-minute video summaries of each lecture he gives and allowing students to voluntarily give half-minute overviews of the topics they learn at the beginning of classes, as well as gaming such as “Physiology Millionaire.”

“It’s a large class, but we still get to do a lot of active learning; we do case-based learning, role play, critical thinking, debate-based learning, problem solving, and traditional things as well,” he said. “I want to be able to take a very complex concept and put it in a way that everyone will get it and also be able to apply it. When the students are involved in the process, it’s a very good thing.”

Ramadoss attributes his success in the classroom to a variety of factors, including his ability to learn from and be motivated by the experience of his VTPP colleagues, including Drs. James Herman, a pioneer in undergraduate education; Randolph Stewart, a veterinary physiology educator; Charles Long, in graduate education; and Katrin Hinrichs, who offered strategies for conducting the course, as well to seminars by the Center for Teaching Excellence,  and especially his past mentor Dr. Tim Cudd.

“I would like to thank Dean (Eleanor) Green for her continuous support for my endeavors,” he said. “I have received a lot of encouragement from both VTPP and BMEN department heads Drs. Larry Suva and Anthony Guiseppi-Elie and VTPP business administrator Ms. Yvonne Kovar to achieve excellence in this course.”

He said he finds inspiration in his research for his lectures, which then, in turn, inspire his labs by making him feel enthusiastic and happy about his productivity, and the recently opened, state-of-the-art technology in the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex also has greatly impacted his ability to reach his students; technology such as the abundance of microphones in his classroom facilitate the active-learning component of his class by making his lessons more accessible for students.

Everything he does, from his well-researched syllabus to the creation of the resources and activities—all designed considering the attention span of his students—is time consuming, but Ramadoss believes it’s well worth it.

“My thing is, I am passionate about really wanting this course to be cause to have a positive experience for the students, something they can remember for the rest of their lives. It’s not really about me; it’s about what I want for the students and the course,” he said. “When they leave the class after every lecture, I want to ensure that they leave with a positive experience. That makes my day. I want to constantly further to improve the course.

“It’s a lot of effort, but in the long run, this effort is going to pay in terms of what we can do in undergraduate education. I just want to do something for the class,” he said.

The videos, in which Ramadoss discusses more about his teaching and methods, and offers advice to other faculty members who are considering changing the way they teach, will be available in the Pedagogy Project website of the Office of Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies.



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