Congratulations to biology faculty, Dr. Tinna Ross for being NHCC’s 2019 Excellence in Education awardee! The NHCC Excellence in Education Award Program is intended to encourage, recognize, and reward the work, accomplishments, and important contributions of NHCC faculty for excellence in teaching for student success.
Receiving the award caught Ross by surprise and she feels very honored to accept it. She says, “I’m very lucky to have the students that I do here. It makes it really fun to teach.” Ross has been a biology faculty at NHCC since 2003. She enjoys staying in touch with her former students online and loves when they stop by for a visit. All of Ross’ former students are working in medical fields as, nurses, physicians assistants, or occupational therapists, to name a few.
Ross prides herself on not simply teaching students content, but in helping them understand what they’re learning and applying it to their everyday lives. She uses different analogies such as how a car runs, or how to cook and relates those actions to science. Ross works hard to make sure her students really “get it.” Ross also teaches study skills, recognizing that learning science does not come naturally to everyone.
Another attribute that really sets Ross’ classes apart from others at NHCC is her flipped classroom format. In this form of teaching, students receive all of their lectures at home via video and in-person classwork is filled with group work. Ross intentionally creates hands-on group projects in class. “Working on problems together is important because in the ‘real world’ people are constantly working in teams. There might be some individual work, however, especially with nurses, they all work in teams.” While students are enrolled in Ross’ classes, they’re actively working on fostering those necessary teamwork skills.
In regards to Ross’ flipped classroom, it wasn’t her original idea but it had been one she’d thought about for a long time. The sabbatical she took three years ago, gave Ross the time to make the lecture videos and plan the activities. By now, she’s gotten faster at creating the course materials, but when she first started, it took her around 35 hours per chapter. The extra effort and hours spent have definitely paid off though! Ross has seen significant improvements in her students’ performances, especially in her intro classes. The passing rate is close to double what it once was, from around 35% of her students passing the course to now 70% passing. Today, there are fewer students withdrawing from her classes, too.
Students find the flipped classroom method to be a fun and engaging way to learn science. It also provides students with an invaluable amount of flexibility. Ross is teaching the next generation of future nurses. There is no time to cut content when every human system is imperative. Now, students can have access to lecture videos at all times. This is also helpful to her students who are working, have kids who are sick, or to students who just started jobs and have mandatory training to attend. Students might miss a week of class, but they can still learn the material. Ross is pleased with this outcome. She likes having the flexibility to explore new ideas, instead of just delivering the course content.
In the future, Ross would like to research metacognition and brain awareness. She notes that “sometimes in science, we see students just shut down right away. They might have done poorly on the first two exams, and they think, ‘I can’t do science.’ But really, everyone can do science! We have to change how we think to be able to study.” When Ross’ students get stuck, she breaks down the process and has students focus on one exam at a time. Ross goes the extra mile and researches areas to help her students learn better.
In her classes moving forward, Ross would like to see her students develop better critical thinking skills. It’s a hard topic to teach when students are so focused on retaining content. Future nurses are caught up in gaining the knowledge and understanding of all the diseases. However, they also need to know how to synthesize the information they receive, be aware of their own abilities and focus on their attitudes, too.
Ross has cherished being a faculty member here at NHCC. She laughs, “sometimes I stop and think ‘wow, I get paid to do this?!’” Ross feels really fortunate to have her teaching career and loves coming to work every day. She feels lucky to work at NHCC and she tries to show her passion in the classroom. “That’s my philosophy in life. You have to have fun in whatever you’re doing. You can still work really hard, but you’ve gotta have fun doing it!”