Intensive Analysis Creates Student Engagement

Deborah Porter

Out of her intensive analysis of the learning objectives for every one of her lectures and assignments came strength and greater student engagement. And that has led to new research ideas, too.

Every year brings a different crop of students — different people with different experiences and different reactions to the material, which is magical.

 — Deborah Porter

Deborah Porter had been teaching traditional “brick-and-mortar” courses for more than a decade when she began working on the development of the online Integrated Social Sciences bachelor’s degree program.

Deborah, a professor at the UW Jackson School of International Studies and co-director of ISS, was forced to codify the learning process in a way that initially didn’t feel natural. 

“We had to think about goals and objectives for each lesson without the spontaneity and back-and-forth of a live class,” she said. “I had never so rigorously thought through every single lecture or assignment and conceptualized them in terms of learning objectives.”

The process of shaping ISS’s learning objectives and outlining each class so rigorously strengthened Deborah as a teacher in all of her classes — online or off.

“That rigor and structure really made the material more exciting, and I think my brick-and-mortar classes have become sharper,” she said. “That’s been an unexpected benefit.” 

Another benefit for Deborah has been working with ISS students — the kind of intellectually curious, well-rounded and empathetic students who inspire her. 

“The various ISS courses provide lenses that students can carry through their lives and that have made them more conscious and aware citizens,” Deborah said. “Seeing their appreciation, seeing how hard they work and seeing how hungry they are is so inspiring.” 

Her students’ hunger to learn ensures that Deborah never stops learning either.  

“The interests my students have brought me have led me to pursue ideas in my research that I might not have considered,” she said. “I love to learn, so I love to teach.”