CTI Podcast - Episode 26: Joshua Price

Tony Pellegrini: Good morning, good morning, friends of CETL Podcast Series, here at SUU. Teaching and Learning at Southern Utah University. Tony Pelligrini here and- with our monthly honorary today. We have Joshua Price who is an associate professor in economics here at Southern Utah University. He won the thunderbird award last year for Professor of the Year, and we wanna- we wanna know a little bit more about him and his teaching and his learning here at SUU as well. So, Josh, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

Joshua Price: Absolute pleasure.

Tony Pellegrini: It's great to be with you. Would you take a moment or two, give our listeners just a little bit of background- about yourself- and your activities here at SUU?

Joshua Price: Yeah, so I originally grew up on the west side of Portland in Oregon. And had a wonderful experience there. And thinking of pursuing education so I did some community college, Utah State, BYU, end up going to graduate school out in New York. First job was in Texas and absolutely loved Texas. Became a true Texas fan if you will had it not been before. And about seven years ago, we had to opportunity to come here to Cedar City, and we were very excited for it. We love the outdoors and this was a wonderful place to be. And so, I've been here at SUU for a little over seven years now teaching the economics department. 

Tony Pellegrini: Exciting! It's a fun place to be. Absolutely fun place to be. We've got a couple of questions for you, if you'd be willing to work with us today. We would be really interested in understanding your teaching philosophy. You know, how that developed, how you're putting that into practice, how you tweaked and adjusted that through Texas or your activities back in- back East.

Joshua Price: Yeah, so for my teaching philosophy is really to try to become an effective teacher. And to do so, I really put that into three different categories, three different things that I could do to be an effective teacher. And the first is: course design. How do I design my course in a way that is going to facilitate the students and retention and learning of the material? The second has to do with delivery. How do I deliver the course? How do I engage students in the fifty minutes that I get them three times a week? What can I do to really get them to be an active participant in their learning process? And the third one is the dedication to the students. As a teacher to be really effective to the students, and you need to do a lot for them, and show the concern for them. And be dedicated to be helping them achieve their own goals. And so when I think of my teaching philosophy, I think design, delivery, and dedication.

Tony Pellegrini: That design really intrigues me. You start, of course, from your own perspectives: how you see and how you observe things in your classroom. Do you- What feedback do you receive from students or encourage students to help you in that design overtime with a class?

Joshua Price: So I think students are always willing to give you their opinions on the design of the course. And so I absolutely 100% appreciate that and encourage that. In the midway through each semester and after every exam, I always ask students to ask for feedback. What are things that I can do personally? But more importantly, what are things that can change with the design of the class? And so one thing- I used to have deadlines at 10 PM. To me, that's like a good number, an arbitrary number, absolutely. And the feedback from students is why can't it be due at midnight? And I had no particular reason, and so it's done. Like it's due Friday at 10, now it's due Friday at midnight. I made that change midsemester. And so, when we think about the design of the course, how do we engage students regularly in the course material? And are the preferences that they have that we can meet still achieve that objective? And there's one book that I absolutely encourage everyone to read is Make It Stick. And I love this book. It talks about how learning occurs in long-term learning. And a lot of it talks about repetitive engagement with the material. And that learning is a two step process. One of them is bringing information into your mind. And the second is being able to recall that information. And so, think about designing that course that get students to do both of these things: exposure to material and then repetitive recalling of that information. And so, in the book, they talk about a lot of these low stake tests. Testing is incredibly important, but sometimes, making them very low stake, so there's not that pressure to build up, and that's when they really encourage learning is a lot of repetitive low stake tests.

Tony Pellegrini: And in education, I think we would call those formative assessments. Incrementally throughout the class, you're receiving: " oh how am I doing this? How are my learners doing? Oh they're not catching this. I've got to go back and really make some adjustments on that." You really connected with me when you mentioned, you know, "hey 10 o'clock is a good time to close" and I appreciate your learners saying, "oh can you give us until midnight?" I was thinking to myself: "oh my gosh, that's when students just start!" You know, getting work on their homework or assignments. With my learners, they said, "Tony, you don't get up until six the next morning. Why do you give us until six the next morning to get those in?" I said "yeah I'm not getting up at two, three, or four in the morning to score these. If you need a couple more hours, you take them." And so, I think that is a wonderful approach, to listen to your students.

Joshua Price: And with that, what's really interesting is also think about the technologies we have, so we have- we use Canvas here at SUU. And on Canvas, a lot of students use the calendar feature. And so, what I've found out is actually: so if I have things due in the morning, they see it "oh it's due on Monday", and so they think "I've get all-day Monday to do it." So I found out anything that is due in the morning, that students often think they get the whole day, and so they actually end up missing due dates a lot. So that's really- is be attentive to your students and think about the technology you have, and how it is displayed for students that might influence their behavior.

Tony Pellegrini: Well that- I do just want to stay with this- kind of delivery that you've kind of mentioned too. Talk to us about this last year. You know, with COVID and all the things that have gone on. How's that impacted your delivery?

Joshua Price: It's been horrible. In all honesty, like it's been horrible. One thing that I've learned a lot about is that there are tools that online delivery provides. There's a lot of tools that face-to-face delivery provides. There's tools that online synchronous provides. First asynchronous. What I've found is that trying to combine any of those aspects leads to student failure. And part of that is I don't have the ability and the bandwidth to be able to design tools and activities in the classroom for the students that are there and as well as, activities online. So one example is: I love pair and share. I love to say, "Hey (here's an example real quick) talk to the person next to you, and with them, just talk, what does this mean to you?" So to do that in the classroom, it's really quick. I can do that seven or eight times in a fifty minute classroom because it takes about one or two minutes. To do that in an online setting, in a synchronous online setting, it requires break out rooms which takes about sixty seconds for students to accept the invitation sometimes you give them and it takes sixty seconds for them to come back. So you can only do that two or three times max in a fifty-minute class period for an online synchronous. That's really where- one lesson I learned is I can't do both. So this year, I'm really trying to dedicate. I have an online asynchronous course. I'm trying to use the tools to make that successful. I have a face-to-face course, and I'm using the tools for that. Now, I'm trying to be accommodating for students that are impacted by COVID. And so, if they have to be online, I view that as- that's a temporary. I'm not going to design tools for that. You're just kind of an observer in the class, and that's something that I think has been a little more successful for me, is that this is a face-to-face class and use the tools for that because I don't know the tools to do that mix and match within a given class period.

Tony Pellegrini: Well- I think what I hear you saying is that as an instructor, as a professor, please look at the tools that we do have, look at your learners, look at the modalities that are available for us to teach. And don't try to sample the whole Rio salad bar. Focus on where you're really the most effective.

Joshua Price: And that is a part of instruction. As a teacher as well, what're you best at? And really focus on that. I was department chair, and I had some teachers that were really the best at face-to-face classes. And they're just dynamic personalities or very undynamic personalities and students like that. But they have their special talents and really think about what your talent is and build around that. And that's when I'd say, rather than trying to do something that you're not good at, focus on what you're good at and talk to the faculty member, talk to your department chair, and say "I'm really good at this. Can I do more of this?"

Tony Pellegrini: That's wonderful. Let's change the tact just a little bit here. Our podcast is about teaching and learning here at Southern Utah University. Is there anything you haven't figured out yet about teaching and learning here?

Joshua Price: Oh, there's a lot. I always say that I'm the eighth best economics professor here at SUU, which does put me at the top ten, so I'm really excited about that. There are eight professors. But there's a lot that I haven't figured out, so this last year, I look a lot of exerted effort. I asked a lot of colleagues and friends that I knew in academia: "What can I do to get better?" Or- As well as, not just what I can do, but rather, what did they do that makes them good? And so, there's two examples that really- that I found lack- myself lacking and wanting to do better. So I- actually for the first time ever, I had an outside observer come see my class.

Tony Pellegrini: Takes a little bit of intestinal fortitude for that.

Joshua Price: Well but it wasn't someone from SUU. It was a visitor from another university that was here for research and I said "why don't you come into my class?" And sat in the back and he listened to my fifty-minute lecture and I thought it went wonderful. And he's like "your slides are really bad." And I'm like "no- no they're fantastic. Did you not see how I bolded those words?" And he's like, "there's just too much- too many words. I noticed that when you started- when you put up a new slide and you started talking, they stop looking at you and start reading the slide." And so to me, it took that little bit of humility to realize- maybe my slides are not as good as I think they are. And so I reached out to- I have a friend who works as a director of teaching and learning at Canvas. He was actually Canvas' Instructor of the Year. His folks live here in Cedar to give him a connection: Sean Nefer. But he put together videos on how to design slides. And his- one of the messages that I took from that is: fewer words, more pictures. And let me be the one that's instructing you and guiding you along that path. And for me, as a teacher, that's hard because sometimes I don't remember the story. Or sometimes I don't remember where I'm supposed to go, so I put a lot of words on the slide to help me as much as the students. And so, his suggestion is have slides on the screen that you're looking at and slides for the students to be looking at so you don't get lost and students can engage in your lecture. And the second with that is I was talking to Dave Lunt, history professor here at SUU. And I just have tons of respect for Dave. Both- I think one of our first years here, he beat me in the Great Raft Debate. A well-deserved victory for him. But I asked him, "what makes you a great teacher?" And he said, "I'm really good at storytelling." And talking the way that he is, he tells you a story, and you're engaged so much with that story, and you want to know how it ends. So what I learned from Dave is I need to be a better storyteller. To both engage the student and use stories as a way to teach principles. Economics can be boring. Not every student really loves "hey let's get into the math of this." But if I can tell a story of why it is that supply and demand changes prices. Now the student gets engaged. And that's something I'm not very good at it. I'm not a very good storyteller, so I've tried to- as I listen to others give talks or give speeches, I look "what's the stories that they're telling?" and "how can I incorporate that?" And that's something I learned from Dave Lunt that is- for me, something that I lack in doing is telling interesting stories that engage students and to capture their interest and to teach important principles.

Tony Pellegrini: I think that's profound- that auditory storytelling, the visual writing, the visualization of the pictures. I think that, you know, having a picture on there absolutely says a thousand words but gives the students some context to be able to put that in. I think the support of those three is just so powerful. Thank you so much for sharing. Another question I have for you is: As you reveal your instruction, your prior instruction with your learners, like you've said, you have them three days a week. In previous courses, how do you prepare your learners for what's coming up next in your class? You know where you wanna go, how do you make that- how do you communicate that or keep your learners engaged in that? 

Joshua Price: Well, I think that kind of goes back to the design of the course. And so for me, is from day one, my course is fully on canvas. They know what we're going to do every class period, in terms of topics, not necessarily the details. I might have some lecture slides posted. I might have- assignments are always posted. Discussions are always posted. So from the day one, they know exactly where we're going. And so part of that is to, you know, if you're a good storyteller, sometimes you don't know the ending, you live that cliffhanger. At the end of the chapter, you stop and you want to read the next chapter. So I think part of this is- and I'm not there yet, but as we get to the end of a class period, let's let them know what's next- why are we doing this? What're we doing today and how does it connect to the bigger picture? The other is, I remember when one of my teachers, I was taking Econometrics from Gramson, it's one of the courses that I teach now. And I just remember being lost. Completely lost. And then just one day, he just stopped and said let's just look at the forest. What is it that we're trying to do? And he described the forest of econometrics. What's the big picture that we're trying to do? And in that moment, it was a clairvoyant moment where all of the sudden, oh I see what I'm doing. I see why we're focusing on these individual trees. And for me, that was just this amazing moment of learning. And so that's something that I think I can do better at. But I think a good teacher is really good at saying: "here's the forest. We need to focus on the trees. And we need to focus on the details. And these little assumptions. These little- different variations of it. But to keep the big picture in mind."

Tony Pellegrini: Thank you so much. You really- I really connected with what you mentioned about storytelling. And the- you know, the story kind of continues. A hundred years ago, a radio announcer, Paul Harvey, would always-

Joshua Price: "And now you know the rest of the story."

Tony Pellegrini: There you go! You got the voice! I mean, it absolutely fascinated me. It was at lunch time; we were able to have lunch out on the farm. And I wanted to know the rest of the story! And it may be ongoing. It may be something that we have to continue with, but I think, as humans, we want to know what happened next, they lived happily ever after. Well, what does that mean?

Joshua Price: With storytelling- I don't think you have to tell a twenty-minute novel, if you will. Storytelling could be as short as two minutes. You know, something that just engages and tells something very interesting. As I teach an U.S. History and Economics course, that is when storytelling is incredibly important. And we talk about the founding fathers, and this is where Lin Manuel Miranda with- Alexander Hamilton. I think the story he tells is so fascinating. And you can read Ron Chernow's book and you get the same story. And Ron Chernow is a great author and does a great job describing that. But when it's put to words, when it's put to the way that Lin Manuel Miranda can really bring things alive, it really brings in that beef that Alexander Hamilton had with the other founding fathers to light. It talks about the assumption plan. And it really teaches us a lot. So I use that a lot of my course- I wish I could excite it more often. But I tell students like "listen to that musical because you're going to learn some really important things. And it's really going to bring these characters to life like no other can." So I guess I would just encourage other song writers out there please- let's just go through all of my courses and see what we can do to add music to it, to tell these stories in a very lively way.

Tony Pellegrini: And I would just encourage those dancers to bring that to. And maybe that would be as helpful as well to that physical part. That would be interesting. Dancing for economics. Just another question for you. Activities that you've sponsored at SUU, it seems you're very student orientated. That's wonderful. How do you get your students involved with activities beyond the classroom?

Joshua Price: And this where I think I turn back to my undergraduate experience. So I went to a school with 30,000 students. Huge. But in my economics degree, my senior year, there were only seven of us in these courses that would prepare students for graduate school. So I had a very personalized experience in that classroom, but I was also working as a research assistant for one of my professors, Eric Eidy, whose son actually played football here at SUU, Andrew Eidy. But that- that was the experience I had to get involved in research. So for me, that's one of the reasons why I wanted to come to SUU. I wanted to be a part of a campus community that works with students outside of the classroom. And so, there's two groups that I'm incredibly proud of that helped- I started here at SUU. The first is the investments scholars group. Grant Smith, one of our alumni that reached out to me and said, "Hey Josh, I had a wonderful experience at SUU. I think we could do more to help prepare students for the investment field." I said, "absolutely, let's do it." And so, we got twelve advisors together, alumni and others that work in the investment field, both the financial analyst and the financial planning and wealth advising. And then we got students involved. So students are connected with these advisors. We started participating in competitions across the country. We had $50,000 from D.A. Davidson to invest here on campus. We were able to work on that and the Steve Harrop investment lab in the business building. So that was a wonderful experience to really connect this extracurricular activity where you're able to take the things you learn in the classroom, but you're able to connect with alumni. And I think it's incredibly important when we think about getting students involved on campus is let's connect them with not just people here on campus but through the network that SUU provies.

Tony Pellegrini: What a wonderful idea as well because then it's an easy follow-up. A year or two or three from now when they're alumni and when they're succeeding, hey it's time to give back.

Joshua Price: And what I found is that when people want to give to an institution, donations. Donations with lots of zeros. They want to do so because they feel connected. And what I found is that when some of these advisors got connected, then asking them for donations was actually really easy. And so as we think about a university, as if we can find ways to get alumni involved with student organizations. I think we find that a lot of donations are going to come in a lot quicker with a lot more zeros behind it because they see what the impact could have on these students. So that's why I actually love being a part of the investments scholars group.

Tony Pellegrini: What wonderful connections. Josh, those are really the questions that I wanted to pose in front of you today. Can you take just a moment maybe and give our listeners any last minute words of advice? Whether they are teachers or maybe even as students. Students who may be listening to this thing. What can I do to be a better learner at SUU?

Joshua Price: So I think one of the challenges students or people ask me a lot is "what's it like teaching SUU students?" And I try to answer this as politically as possible, but I think what- the true answer that I have is we have very gifted students that have never set their sights high. They might be from rural Utah. They might be from other places where they've never been challenged to set their sights higher. And what I have found as an instructor is that if we challenge our students, if we set their sights higher, they see what they can accomplish. They see what they can do. And they'll rise to the occasion. And so, I think we have incredibly gifted students that may have not had an opportunity to be pushed before. And so we really do need to push them. And in a classroom that's hard and in extracurricular activities. That's really where I think that's at. So as professors, think about what you can do not just in a classroom, but to really get involved in the campus environment. Another group that I'm really excited about is the Health Education Action Lab. This is a student research lab here on campus. We've gotten outside funding, talkspace, operational underground railroad to donate money to help fund this so students are paid to participate in this lab and they get to do research. Either research with faculty or their own research. And it's incredibly challenging to go through that research process as a student in your extra time. When I say extra time, I should probably do air quotes because they don't have a lot of that extra time. But what I've found, especially in this group is that if we've challenged students, they really rise to the occasion. For my first time in seven years, we had a student apply to a PhD program and get full funding. Tuition, assistantship, health insurance. Calvin Melgrove. He's at West Virginia University. He was a fantastic individual who got involved as an undergrad, as a teaching assistant, as a research assistant. And that's been able to help him achieve some of his long-term goals. So that is where I say, give these opportunities to the students so they can lift their sights higher and know what they can accomplish.

Tony Pellegrini: And through that accomplishment, again as we mentioned in an earlier question. We're able to- They're able to give back. They see that as a viable option. Thank you so much, Josh, for coming in and taking a few minutes with us this morning. We sure appreciate you. Listeners, we appreciate you and your feedback. Please, I'm going to speak for Josh for a second. If you are curious about economics, stop in to be one of those observers maybe on the back of one of Josh's class. And check on his slides and give him some feedback on his slides.

Joshua Price: Absolutely.

Tony Pellegrini: But reach out. If you have questions or concerns, reach out to Josh, both for curricular but extracurricular activities that you may like to be involved in. And- or any vision you have you'd like to have him validate.

Joshua Price: And what I'd say is that the Health Education Action Lab. We are open to any student. Both economics or non economics. One of our goals is to train students to do research. If you come in and say, "hey I'm a freshman and I haven't taken these upper level classes." Fantastic, we have a spot for you. Let's get you involved.

Tony Pellegrini: Give us a location. A time general. And if they can-

Joshua Price: I'd say stop by my office. BUS 206. Shoot me an email: japrice@suu.edu But we do meet on Wednesdays at 11:30 at the investment lab. But shoot me an email, we want to find you the best way to get you involved. But everyone's welcome- we want people involved in research.

Tony Pellegrini: Fantastic. Josh, thanks again. And listeners, thanks again. We'll see you next month with another speaker here. Or speaker teacher at Southern Utah University. And we're tickled to have you as a part of our audience. Make it a good one. Ciao Ciao.


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