Emerald | Emerald/HETL Education Outstanding Doctoral Research Award - prospective-territoriale.info

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Dr Micah Modell is the 2015 winner of the Emerald/HETL Education Outstanding Doctoral Research Award. We recently interviewed him to find out a little bit more about his career so far and what winning this award means to him.

Please tell us about yourself, including details about your scholarly career to date and what your day-to-day role entails.

With a degree in Information Technology from the Rochester Institute of Technology, I began my career as an enterprise software developer. Over time, I found the greatest enjoyment in my role as technical lead, as I was tasked with researching new technologies and teaching my teams to use them.

This led me to pursue a Masters in Instructional Design, Development & Evaluation from Syracsuse University. I wanted to bring an authentic experience to the classroom, so went to Korea to teach English to elementary school students, while completing coursework online.

After two years, I returned to the US where I served as Lead Curriculum Manager for the enterprise middleware division of Red Hat, Inc. until I moved to Bloomington, Indiana to pursue my Ph.D. in instructional systems technology.

Still craving design opportunities, I began working as an Instructional Designer for the Learning Solutions division of GP Strategies, Inc. where I designed and supervised the development of training materials for corporate clients.

As a Senior Instructional Designer and a Manager of Instructional Designers, I also have the opportunity to mentor emerging talent within our field and influence the continuing growth and development of the organization itself.

Can you provide a brief background on why you decided to write your dissertation on “Distinguishing between healthy and dysfunctional student project teams: An elusive instruction challenge”

I enjoy both taking part in collaborative groups and using them in my teaching. However, I always hear groans when students learn they’ll be working in groups and I inevitably receive reports of dysfunction from one or more students at the end of the semester – when it’s too late to meaningfully do anything about it.

In my search for solutions, I synthesized reported methods into a self-and-peer assessment method and built an online system to drive it . This helped me by providing a stream of data, by making students aware of what goes into teamwork and by showing students that I care. However, for it to be truly useful, it seemed I would need to understand group dysfunctions, their markers and how we (as instructors) diagnose them. Thus, my dissertation was born.

What does winning this award mean to you?

This award means a number of things to me, but the most important thing is that it gains this important line of research visibility within the scholarly community. It validates for me the significance of the problem in the eyes of those whose judgement matters the most. This is further enhanced by the opportunity to present the topic at a HETL conference and I am hoping this will translate into collaborators on future research.

What inspires your work?

I am a designer and I like to reduce problems where I see them. I am also very extroverted and I know that I gain a great deal from working in teams. When I first experienced teamwork as an instructor and the vocally negative reactions to the method, I felt it was incumbent upon me to do what I could to help both students and instructors recognize value from their teamwork.

Do you have any advice you would give to anyone who is starting a career in academia?

My career in academia is only just starting, but I have found that finding the right mentor is of utmost importance. This may not mean the most knowledgeable academic in your intended field, or someone that has successfully taken the path you’re on, but they do need to be the type of person who shares their knowledge and experience with you in a way you’ll be willing to listen to. They may not always be right, but you have to have the confidence that what they have to say is worth considering.

2015 Winner

Image: Dr Micah Modell

2015 winner Dr Micah Modell


Emerald Group Publishing and the Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL) are delighted to offer a grant award for a doctoral research project in the field of education. Visit our awards page here.

The Emerald Literati Awards, which include the Awards for Excellence and Citations of Excellence, were established to celebrate and reward the outstanding contributions of authors and reviewers to scholarly research. Visit our Literati Awards page here.

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