Do instructor personalities influence the learning experience? Ask Jeral Kirwan.
Jeral, a research instructor at University College since 2015, conducts research on how characteristics and personalities of instructors have an effect on student learning and interaction.
With his experience in research and educational psychology, Jeral found there was little research done on this topic in the higher education setting, particularly with adult learners in online courses.
Based on his research, Jeral found that while personalities and characteristics may not have a major influence, there was more impact on how instructors approach online learning and adult learners. He believes that University College students don’t fit the traditional student mold — they have a lot of work experience, for example — and these factors should influence how course materials are presented and taught. He also found that well-prepared instructors made the best impression on students. This included exhibiting good time management skills and updating courses to have the most up-to-date, cutting-edge content.
Jeral’s research inspired him to find new ways to engage with students and create a collaborative teaching environment. Jeral encourages students to ask questions and uses campus resources such as Zoom to connect with online students. He puts emphasis on making online students feel part of the university community by organizing a gathering close to campus with local online students once a term.
Jeral has been able to learn a lot by joining a teaching and learning group on campus through the Office of Teaching and Learning. He works with faculty from various units across campus to find new ideas for teaching. Jeral used his research to present “Building a Conceptual Framework for Online Educator Dispositions” at the Office of Teaching and Learning Week Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Poster reception, which was held on February 7.
Jeral Kirwan has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Research from the University of Tennessee. He teaches Graduate Social Research Methods and Research Practices and Applications at University College.
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