Teaching and Learning: Connections

Some of the great opportunities that students are offered by the Teaching and Learning department are the available online courses that can be accessed asynchronously to accommodate students in different time zones. Dr. Katherine Terras, Associate Professor in Teaching and Learning, teaches courses in behavior analysis which give students the ability to interact with others through video and audio, and through discussion boards.

In the behavior analysis courses Dr. Terras teaches, she sets up a structured lesson plan including a weekly overview audio recording, required reading and PowerPoint, a guided activity, and an individual activity that extends to independent practice of activities that typical behavioral analysists perform in the field. For example, one of the activities that students must complete is set up a functional analysis (FA) for a particular case study that illustrates a type of behavior, like self-injurious behavior. Students complete their FA of their case study behavior on a Wiki board, then look at their classmates’ work to note strengths and areas for growth of the separate FAs. What is great about this collaborative assessment, is that students are interactively setting up and improving their FAs for different types of behaviors that can serve as professional resources later in practice. Dr. Terras works to facilitate this interactivity and guided practice to train students to be behavioral analysists.

UND is the only institution in the state of North Dakota that is approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) to offer 18 credits of course work and 15 credits of practicum that prepares students to be Board Certified Behavior Analysts. After finishing their course work and practicum, students then apply to the BACB to take the national certification examination, which then will give them the qualifications for receiving a state license.

Another way Dr. Terras engages in understanding behavioral and emotional issues is her research in the use of canines in the classroom. As a practicing teacher, she took children to the Humane Society to go through training and to walk the dogs; they were “certified dog walkers.” In her research she has found that canines in the classroom have a calming effect on students. The presence of canines helps students learn leadership skills by becoming the alpha as well as helping students decode non-verbal body language of the canine. The use of canines in the classrooms continue to give students an outlet and a way to connect with their peers, which has proven to be emotionally therapeutic.

Just as her work with understanding behavioral and emotional issues has made connections to the Grand Forks community, Dr. Terras’ online courses offer students connections across the world. Students from all over have the ability to connect on a personal level with Dr. Terras through video and audio feedback on their individual assignments. Similarly, Dr. Terras encourages and facilitates interaction between the students by use of discussion boards and getting to know one another by geography. She has found that students often connect and are more open with their peers when they know where they are located; feeling a connection with someone who is in the same state, or someplace they have traveled.

A lesson to be taken from Dr. Terras’ work is that even online courses, which may seem vast and impersonal at first glance, provide quality communication and an interactive learning experience for students who don’t have “time” to connect with their peers.

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