Published July 18, 2019
In Jessica Kruger’s undergraduate public health courses, students might be asked to submit a website instead of a traditional paper.
They toss around a small foam box equipped with a microphone to facilitate discussions in large lecture halls. And they’re afforded the opportunity to join a community group on a bicycle ride through a vastly misunderstood Buffalo neighborhood, or assist clients at a health clinic.
It’s these innovative teaching tools, among others, that have earned Kruger, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, School of Public Health and Health Professions, recognition from the State University of New York (SUNY).
Kruger has been named the recipient of the 2019 Excellence in Instruction Award from the SUNY Faculty Advisory Council on Teaching and Technology (FACT2).
FACT2 awards one faculty member from a state operated or statutory campus, and one community college teacher. The Excellence in Instruction Award recognizes faculty members who have incorporated new or existing technology in ways that enhance the curriculum and engage students using methods and strategies that are scalable and adaptable to other settings.
“I’m honored to be chosen for this award. I had an amazing group of people to nominate me, all of which have helped me to become a better teacher,” Kruger said. “Reflecting on this accomplishment, I realized that my teaching style is a culmination of my mentors from all levels of education.”
Since joining UB in 2017, Kruger has incorporated a variety of innovative tools into her teaching. She does this without sacrificing student engagement at the expense of technology, even though she teaches some of the largest sections of the undergraduate public health curriculum.
“Jessica is a driven instructor who combines pedagogical best practices and a passion for the art of teaching into learning experiences that are unique, extraordinary and foster lifelong learning in her students,” members of the Faculty Engagement Team in UB’s Center for Educational Innovation wrote in their nomination letter for Kruger.
“In an educational environment that often focuses on research to the detriment of the quality of teaching, Jessica is a unique light of caring and dedication.”
Students in Kruger’s fall 2018 PUB 320 course authored their own open educational resource textbook. The text covers topics on environmental health, health behavior theories and health disparities, and is free and accessible to all. Kruger provided each of the 75 undergraduate students in the class with a bound copy of the textbook.
Kruger has also used the video recording software Panapto to record her feedback on students’ papers when grading them.
When she attended the most recent SUNY Conference on Instruction and Technology, Kruger saw that a Catchbox — essentially a throwable microphone — was being used during the keynote session. She decided to try out the device in her large lectures and says it’s increased participation, not to mention students enjoy tossing the device to one another.
Technology allows students to display their grasp of a concept in a novel way, Kruger said.
“I live for those lightbulb moments when students figure something out or connect concepts,” she said. “They are already tech savvy, why not teach them new tools that they might use in their future careers?”
Toward that end, Kruger is constantly searching for new teaching tools to use in her classes.
“I like to research different pedagogical practices. I often survey my students on new approaches that I use in the classroom to gauge the utility and ensure that they not only are learning new concepts, but that they have had enough instruction around the new technology so it’s not frustrating to use,” she said.
Kruger also encourages her students to learn by being active in the community. She invites them on Saturday morning bicycle rides with the East Side Bike Club. Each Wednesday night she takes a group of students to the Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic, where an interdisciplinary team of UB students provides free, routine health care and preventive services to uninsured patients on the East Side.
The FACT2 award is one of several that Kruger has received this past academic year. Others include: