Madeline Keaveney: Outstanding Teacher

Madeline Keaveney Madeline Keaveney, Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, is the 1996-97 Outstanding Teacher. Keaveney has also been chosen as one of five faculty to be Master Teachers for 1997-99. The many students who wrote letters of support independently came to the same conclusion: Madeline Keaveney embodies student-centered teaching. As the University moves to realize goal #1 of its Strategic Plan which is to create a student-centered learning environment, the choice of Keaveney as the Outstanding Teacher is timely and fortunate: not only is it a well-deserved honor, but the University community will benefit from the opportunity to hear from and observe an accomplished model of "student-centered" teaching.

Keaveney graduated from Boston College, Magna cum Laude, with a BA in speech/English. Her father, who was a shipyard worker, and her mother, a school nurse, held education as "extremely important," said Keaveney. "It was not a matter of `if' my brother and I went to college, but when and where." She entered a college that had been open to women only ten years of its 110 year history. Women were steered into education; in fact, many other fields were simply not open to women. Keaveney prepared to be a high school teacher, but during her student teaching, she realized how little she knew of teaching and that she needed more education. She entered a Master's program as an NDEA Fellow at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, discovered how much "fun" it was and, in her words, "just kept going." She received her master's and doctorate degrees in oral interpretation.

In 1974, Keaveney came to CSU, Chico as a member of the Department of Speech and Drama. In 1985, as a result of the splitting of speech and drama, she moved to the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences. The move entailed a completely new orientation and education for her, including a sabbatical in the spring of 1992 at Arizona State University where she did graduate work. It is characteristic of her dedication to staying current in her field.

Keaveney describes her teaching style as informal, energetic, and interactive. She employs a mix of lecture, discussion, and activity in her teaching, and, in the last several years, has augmented her classroom methods with technology. In one of the largest classes she teaches, an introduction to communication theory that can have 200 students, Keaveney has used e-mail for one-on-one communication, provided a class web page, and allowed the submission of papers via computer. She created a cooperative e-mail assignment with students in Chukyo University, Nagoya, Japan.

Keaveney's students speak especially highly of both her availability to them and her commitment to their success. They also emphasize her exceptionally high standards and firmness about both deadlines and classroom conduct. They speak of the hours she spends with them outside of class and her encouragement of students at the graduate level to perfect work until it is worthy of conference presentation. Several students specifically mentioned what a difference that had made to their academic lives and careers. This individual work with students is another attribute of her "student-centeredness." She believes in and practices matching learning challenges to individual interests and learning styles.

A hallmark of Keaveney's teaching is the choices which she gives students. "I think students need choices in order to take responsibility for their own learning. I typically give four tests, for example, and count three; within the test I give multiple options. I may assign four essays and allow them to pick their best three," explains Keaveney. "I want to know what they know, not just what I think is important." She also designs assignments so that there is some pay-off beyond a classroom gradethe papers that become conference presentations, for example.

In addition to the huge investment of time and energy Keaveney puts into her teaching, her contributions to her field include numerous publications and professional presentations in areas such as reader's theatre, copyright law for performers, oral traditional literature, the rhetoric of AIDS pamphlets, communication apprehension, teaching theory and practices, intercultural, gender, and health communication. Her most recent publication is a book review, in press, for Women's Studies in Communication, 1997.

Keaveney's mission as a teacher and as a human being is to make a difference in students' lives. In that, she has succeeded, as student after student remembers and values the particular contribution she has made. "The greatest compliment I can give Dr. Keaveney," wrote one student, "is that I want to be able to impact students in the way she does. No other teacher makes more of a difference in student's lives, in my experience, than she does."

In her statement of teaching philosophy, Keaveney wrote, "Many students have said to me that I have had a significant, positive impact on their lives; I cannot think of any higher praise. For me, teaching is not just a job, but a way of life."

Keaveney will receive the award and deliver her Outstanding Teacher lecture at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, September 19, in Laxson Auditorium. The campus community is invited.


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