Solving the Learning Puzzle with Dr. Robynn K. Shannon

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dr. Robynn K. Shannon, who joined the Title III team in February 2014 as the STEM Learning Coordinator, enjoys a challenging puzzle.

 “One thing I love about teaching and learning is the intellectual challenge of teaching itself:  how to facilitate, enhance, inspire, motivate and model learning,” Shannon said. “For me, teaching—more specifically how to teach effectively—is like a brain-teaser puzzle, which is what makes it so interesting.” 

Fairmont State’s Title III project—“Revitalizing Curricula as Experiential, Collaborative and Technology-Rich”—is the perfect opportunity for Shannon to work on solving the learning puzzle. In this position, she will have the opportunity to collaborate with faculty in high-risk STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses to pilot new teaching and learning strategies.

 “Through my own teaching experience I have learned that the more engaged students are in the course material, the better they will learn,” Shannon said. “And, teaching techniques and strategies need to accommodate all of the learning styles that are present in the classroom.”

“Students change, technology changes. These continued challenges keep teaching interesting,” she said. The Title III grant has funded some new instructional technology tools—such as iPad carts and lecture capture—as resources for faculty to explore new teaching methods and classroom opportunities. Shannon will assist faculty in incorporating newer technology into their courses.

“I have found teaching to be endlessly rewarding, in part because it is endlessly challenging,” Shannon said. “In this position as the STEM Learning Coordinator, I am grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with dedicated faculty on a variety of courses to pursue this challenge and try to solve the learning puzzle together.”

The Title III grant also funds the development and piloting of student peer mentoring. Shannon has recently launched the Math peer mentoring program, with other discipline-specific programs to follow.

“Like many Fairmont State students, I was a first-generation college student,” Shannon said. “And, I sympathize with students who struggle to learn Chemistry, Physics and Math, as I also found these to be difficult subject areas to master.”

Peer mentoring, however, provides benefits beyond additional help with the subject matter.

 “Student success depends on many things in addition to learning,” Shannon observed.  “First-generation college students may struggle to navigate the system.” She said student peer mentors can also help connect students to campus resources and provide a network of support.  

Shannon looks forward to opportunities to meet with students in the College of Science & Technology.  “I am interested in their perspective and feedback about what they think some solutions are for the high DFW classes.”

Shannon holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Houghton College, a Master of Science degree in Botany from the University of New Hampshire, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Ecology from the University of Connecticut. 

As a biologist, Shannon specializes in plant biology and her interests also include evolutionary biology, ecology, and organismal biology. “It is important to me to stay actively engaged in my own disciplinary area, even as I work with faculty in several different programs and departments.  My current research is focused on the biology and control of invasive aquatic plant species, and on the species diversity and ecology of microscopic animals known as ‘tardigrades.’”

Shannon came to Fairmont State from West Virginia Wesleyan, but her teaching journey includes Wesleyan University, Eastern Connecticut State University, Ramapo College of New Jersey, Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, and two years as a general science teacher in Ghana, West Africa, as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  

Shannon said moving to West Virginia has felt like coming home. “I have spent most of my adult life in New England, but I grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania,” she said. “Faculty, staff, and students here at FSU have all made me feel very welcome.”

Shannon enjoys outdoor activities such as trail running, hiking, biking and kayaking.