Meet Barbara Radcliffe, 2022 VSU Presidential Excellence Award for Teaching Honoree

1 September 2022

Jessica Papa
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Pictured are Dr. Barbara Radcliffe, associate professor in the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services Teacher Education Department, and Dr. Richard A. Carvajal, president of Valdosta State University. He received the 2022 Presidential Excellence Award for teaching.

VALDOSTA – Dr. Richard A. Carvajal, president of Valdosta State University, recently awarded Dr. Barbara Radcliffe with the Presidential Excellence Award for Teaching 2022.

The Presidential Excellence Award for Teaching recognizes a faculty member who uses innovative teaching strategies and demonstrates a strong commitment to student success.

Radcliffe joined the VSU faculty in 2010 and is currently an associate professor in the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services Teacher Education Department.

When asked which courses she wanted most each year, Radcliffe replied: “This is a challenging question because I enjoy all of my classes. Every class I teach in is literacy based and the students I work with are pre teachers. – service or in-service. Both fit beautifully with my research interests, which focus on developing literacy, teaching literacy and preparing teachers. “

Radcliffe said he seeks opportunities to connect and interact with his students, both inside and outside the classroom. She has the pleasure and responsibility of teaching VSU teacher candidates just as they are beginning to develop their identity as a teacher.

VSU: What strategies / tools / techniques have proven most effective in increasing student learning in your class?

Radcliffe: Safe Learning Environment / Learning Community: First, I laid the groundwork for why learning cannot happen if students don’t feel safe. I start the semester by communicating clear expectations about our vital role in creating a safe learning environment and learning community. I remain consistent with these expectations and continually build assignments that will strengthen our learning community.

Encourage Risk-Taking / Support: Learning happens when students take risks, so I focus on the development process to become a teacher and encourage students to take risks and accept and learn from mistakes. So I make sure I’m there as a safety net. Learning occurs when students engage in meaningful and authentic learning tasks, appropriate their learning, and receive constructive feedback.

Authentic learning / Applied (practical) learning: I build learning activities by highlighting the connections between theory / research and practice in the classroom. Most of my courses include experiential learning which requires students to transfer the knowledge and skills they are learning in the classroom and apply them in a public school classroom, from kindergarten through 12th degree. After the field experience, they engage in reflective practice.

Ownership / Student Voice: I include an element of choice in many assignments so that students can take responsibility for it. Although their content / skill mastery is assessed using the same rubric, they can decide how they want to approach the task and what form the work will take.

Constructive Feedback: Since I’ve developed a relationship with my students, most are open to receiving feedback. I make sure to explain or give an example of how to improve. While I address the points where students are missing their grade or not living up to expectations, I also take the time to identify the positives of the student’s work or performance. A balanced approach to providing constructive feedback allows students to grow while also feeling encouraged. In my online courses, providing feedback is my most effective learning tool.

Modeling and Scaffolded Learning: Model and offer my students multiple opportunities to put into practice what they are learning before they are evaluated or required for implementation in the classroom.

Text interaction assignments: I introduce my students to different text interaction strategies and have them apply them while reading class materials. Strategies help them engage with text, rather than passively reading, and help them prepare for class discussions.

Technology: I use a variety of technological tools for learning and teaching.

VSU: Helping students achieve success often involves countless hours of work outside the classroom. How do you actively engage with your students to continue the learning process outside of scheduled class times?

Radcliffe: My commitment to student success extends beyond the walls of the classroom and involves more than just the students I teach. I am the Executive Director of the Sullivan Scholars Program, a scholarship program for students from Georgia’s rural districts who demonstrate the need for financial support and show promise as a future teacher. In this role, I work closely with 44 students at various points in their programs, from first year students to seniors completing the last semester. I am the “official” mentor of 16 scholars; however, many other scholars have adopted me as their “unofficial” mentor. I schedule three one-to-one meetings with my 16 students during the semester and hold monthly meetings with all 44 scholars. I teach scholars how to facilitate meetings, make presentations and plan events, such as the Sullivan Summit, which is held every spring to welcome incoming scholars. I make sure that scholars have additional support, such as assigning a successful coach for those with academic difficulties. I have an open door policy as a faculty member, so many scholars stop by to chat or ask for advice. I have a scholar who stops by every week to look at his target of him which he recorded on a toilet in my office; that weekly touchpoint is important to him. I meet some scholars in more convenient or neutral areas, like the Student Union or the Palms Dining Hall. All scholars have direct access to me via the GroupMe app, which seems to act more often as a “panic button”. The most challenging and time-consuming task is to teach them how to navigate the university’s various departments and resources (housing, financial aid, textbooks, counseling, etc.). Through my experiences of supporting and mentoring Sullivan Scholars, I must admit that scholars have taught this teacher numerous invaluable lessons.

While leading the scholarship program consumes a large portion of my time, support and interaction with more than just Sullivan Scholars. I have and continue to be part of several thesis commissions. I have worked with undergraduates on their Honors College projects.

While supporting student learning is a top priority, I also like to celebrate our students and show my support as I participate in events such as freshmen convene, summer orientations, student awards night, and department sponsored celebrations. or from the program. In my 12 years at VSU, I only missed two undergraduate starts and one undergraduate start. I also participate in sporting, official and intramural and student events, including silent lunches in American Sign Language, The Happening and Deaf, Deaf World, to cheer on students or show my support. I served as a judge for the Jennett Scholarship Competition for several years. Finally, I take an active role in recruiting for VSU. I attended V-State Experience events, Future Georgia Educators and Professional Association of Georgia Educators college fairs and VSU open houses.

VSU: What advice do you have for other teachers who want to identify more effective ways to stimulate engagement and understanding in their class?

Radcliffe: To engage students in a meaningful learning experience, we need to know who we are teaching to. Take some time to get to know your students and help them get to know each other and build a learning community. You can then leverage the personal, cultural, and developmental resources your students bring to the classroom to intentionally create a safe learning environment that positions them as problem solvers, fosters collaboration, and supports critical thinking.

Expect students to become active learners and share responsibility for shaping their learning experiences. The texts and the instructor are not the absolute authority. Instead, encourage students to use both resources to build their knowledge and develop their skills. In this shared approach, students have to get out of the comfort of being passive students. Create a safe space in which to take risks, share your voice, face real problems, and try new ways of thinking. Help students see learning as an experience and not just a grade on an assignment.

Use feedback as a teaching tool. Constantly provide students with specific feedback in a timely manner. Note specific examples of where their learning shines and offer guidance in the next steps to address development areas. In providing feedback, we can tailor the instructions to each individual’s needs and use them as an opportunity to renew, enrich and challenge.

The Presidential Excellence Award for Faculty is an annual tradition at VSU, recognizing the diverse talents and contributions of the university’s innovative and active faculty. Awards are awarded for excellence in teaching, research, services, online teaching, and the teaching and learning scholarship.



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