Four QEP Awards for Excellence in Innovative Instruction given at TTU this year

Three individuals and a team of professors are being recognized by Tennessee Tech University this year for their innovative teaching methods.

The four recipients of the university’s QEP Award for Excellence in Innovative Instruction are Lori Maxwell, political science; Lenly Weathers, civil engineering; Melissa Geist, nursing; and the team of Linda Giesbrecht-Bettoli, Zac Wilcox and Matthew Zagumny, counseling and psychology.

“The Award for Excellence in Innovative Instruction is a part of TTU’s Quality Enhancement Plan, which is designed to improve students’ critical thinking and real-world problem solving skills using active learning strategies,” said Ada Haynes, QEP director at TTU.

“These recipients have done just that in ways that can be replicated in other disciplines, and each will receive $1,000 to disseminate these valuable practices,” she continued.

Faculty, staff, administrators, students and alumni were given the opportunity recently to nominate individuals for the award.

Shelley Brown, a colleague of Maxwell’s who nominated her for the award, said, “She has used debate in an extremely innovative way to improve not only the critical thinking of her own students but that of school-age children in the community.”

Maxwell taught parliamentary procedure to her political science students, who then taught middle school students in the community to work in teams, use parliamentary procedure and properly speak and debate in public.

Geist led a team of faculty in using the Legacy Cycle for improving students’ critical thinking. An innovative instructional design for challenge-based instruction, it begins with a contextually based challenge followed by a sequence of instruction in which students offer initial predictions and then gather information from multiple sources.

As part of a QEP grant last year, she and colleague Bedelia Russell coordinated a workshop about the Legacy Cycle with 25 participants from such university departments as engineering, nursing, geology, business and education.

Weathers had his class participate in an international design competition to introduce them to the process professional engineers and scientists use to solve problems.

Because the problem and the process were linked to a tangible goal and not just a grade, said biology professor Michael Redding, who nominated Weathers for the award, “Students became personally invested in their design products. The annual problem is novel, as must be any approach to its solution.”

Barry Stein, chairperson of counseling and psychology, said the Giesbrecht-Bettoli, Wilcox and Zagumny team are responsible for coordinating and delivering the senior thesis experience in the undergraduate psychology program.

“TTU’s own institutional research shows that participation in a culminating senior thesis experience like this improves students’ critical thinking and real-world problem solving skills,” he said.

For more information about TTU’s Quality Enhancement Plan or its Excellence Awards, go online to or e-mail Haynes at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .