Graduate Teaching Award: Katherine M. Kinnaird

On June 3, 2013 by Elizabeth Molina-Markham

kinnaird_feature_editedKatherine M. Kinnaird, a PhD candidate in the Mathematics Department, was selected as one of this year’s recipients of the Graduate Student Teaching Award.

Kinnaird, who is originally from Bethesda, Maryland, earned a BA in mathematics from Wellesley College and an MA in mathematics from Dartmouth. Her research at Dartmouth is in applied mathematics. She uses algorithms to find versions of the same song (cover songs) in a music library without listening to the music. In order to do this, Kinnaird draws on work in network theory, machine learning, linear algebra, and statistical learning. Her research is of interest to those working on Music Information Retrieval (MIR). Kinnaird works with Scott D. Pauls and Daniel Rockmore of the Mathematics Department as well as Michael Casey in the Department of Music.

Kinnaird has been a teaching assistant for numerous classes while at Dartmouth, including Math 3, 8, 23, and 76. She has also taught her own sections of Math 1 and 8. In teaching Math 8, Kinnaird adopted the innovative pedagogical technique of “flipping” the classroom. Rather than presenting lectures each class, Kinnaird would record “pencasts” before class, using an electronic pen that would record both what she wrote and said. She would then upload these pencasts for her students to listen to prior to class. Following this, Kinnaird would engage students in class in collaborative learning, working in groups on problems related to the day’s pencast.

Kinnaird found that this method allowed her to focus on answering students’ questions in class. Watching her students work on problems enabled her to identify areas of difficulty that she needed to spend more time on. It also helped students to develop group-working skills. Those who understood concepts well could refine their understanding through explaining them to their fellow group members.

Kinnaird learned about using pencasts from attending the Active Learning Institute (ALI) in 2011 at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL). At this two-day workshop, Dean F. Jon Kull shared with participants about his experience using pencasts in his chemistry classes. The idea appealed to Kinnaird because, she observes, “I’m a slow note taker, and it would have been useful for me to be able to slow down my professors’ lectures or listen to them multiple times.”

Having pre-recorded pencasts facilitates students engaging with lectures in whatever way works best for them. If students struggle with a concept or need help while they are working on a homework problem, they can rewind and replay parts of the lecture. Kinnaird even observed that some of her students would re-listen to all of the lectures again before an exam in order to review the material.

Kinnaird notes that students seemed to enjoy having class time to work through problems and ask questions. Her former students have since told her that they miss having pencasts in other classes. Kinnaird also feels that flipping the classroom enabled her to know exactly what each one of her students was capable of come exam time because she had spent so much time working closely with them.

As well as teaching, Kinnaird has been involved with a number of mentoring and outreach activities. She was a Graduate Advisor in undergraduate residential halls for three years, a member of the executive board of the Graduate Student Council for two years, taught middle and high school students for Sonia Kovalevsky Math Day in 2011 and 2012, and is currently involved in organizing the Women in Machine Learning Workshop (WiML) to be held in conjunction with the Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) Foundation conference in December 2013. Kinnaird was an ethics trainer for first year graduate students in 2011 for the Professional Ethics Program. She has also worked to increase graduate student involvement in V-Week at Dartmouth, helping to organize the event for five years. In 2011, Kinnaird was honored for her community involvement with the Graduate Community Award.

Next year, Kinnaird plans to finish up her dissertation work and graduate in the spring. She will begin looking for postdoctoral and faculty positions. “My goal is to one day work at a small liberal arts school like Dartmouth that emphasizes the importance of teaching,” explains Kinnaird.

The Graduate Studies Office would like to commend Kinnaird for her excellent work in teaching and wish her the best in finishing up her dissertation.


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