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JFTF Spotlight on Courtney Johnson

Posted by on Tuesday, February 28, 2023 in JFTF, News.

Throughout the year, the CFT highlights the work of their Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, Courtney Johnson shares about her work as a Fellow.

I consider myself a lifelong learner, so I am always looking for ways to refine my teaching methods, and the JFTF program has allowed me to do that.

I have been teaching in some capacity in both industry and academia for over 20 years. While at Vanderbilt, I have taught Technical Communications, managed the Engineering Science Senior Capstone Experience, and developed the Engineering Management Master’s Capstone Project courses.  One of my strengths is that I try to bridge my experiences from industry and academia to help prepare students for their post-Vanderbilt career path. I want them to think of each assessment not as an assignment but as a potential future application. Another strength is that I empower them to be more confident subject matter experts. I try to foster a classroom environment where all majors and career interests are respected as specialized. Many students are still deciding what their area of interest is, so I challenge them to explore different aspects of their major or intended career path.

The course I am redesigning is ES2100W Technical Communications. It has been in existence for several years and focuses on tailoring different types of oral and written communication to specific audiences and purposes. It is a requirement or a technical elective for several majors, and it has connections to other courses, such as senior capstone and senior design. 

First, I want to make the feedback process more efficient and purposeful for the students because it is critical in their development as communicators and experts. Another area of focus is incorporating more real world connections. One of my main goals each semester is for my students to focus not just on the assignment and rubric but also on applications beyond the course and Vanderbilt. Improving the feedback process and including more real world connections are my top priorities, but I am exploring other areas as I interact with my colleagues in the JFTF program.

The Junior Faculty Teaching Fellowship program has allowed me to learn from other colleagues who are invested in sharing their best practices not only to improve as educators but also to improve the experience for our students. The cohort’s commitment to teaching and to students is inspirational. This opportunity has widened my perspective on the different forms of teaching and curricula happening within the Vanderbilt community that I would not have otherwise experienced. I also have appreciated the guidance and support from the experts at the Center for Teaching. Their dedication to teaching and their perspective on course development has been invaluable. 

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