Professor, Higher Education
"I look at how different approaches to teaching and learning, as well as the entire college environment, might contribute to -- or detract from -- success in the classroom."
While teaching college mathematics early in her career, Frances Stage became fascinated with the different ways in which her students related to the material. 'I saw a lot of test anxiety,' she says. 'Some of my students even abandoned their dreams of careers in medicine or science because they earned low grades in math.'
'I really wanted to help these students,' Stage says, 'so I started reading about strategies for enhancing learning in the classroom. That opened up a whole new world for me as an educator, and I began to look at how different approaches to teaching and learning, as well as the entire college environment, might contribute to - or detract from - success in the classroom.'
This line of thinking led Stage to pursue a Ph.D. in Higher Education from Arizona State University, and sparked a career-changing shift in her work to conducting research on how college students learn and how institutions of higher education can best be structured to support student achievement. Internationally known in higher education, she has been a visiting lecturer and consultant to colleges and universities across the United States, as well as in China, Malaysia, Costa Rica, and Kenya.
A book Stage co-authored with former graduate students Patricia Muller, Jillian Kinzie, and Ada Simmons, Creating Learning-Centered Classrooms: What Does Learning Theory Have to Say?, has become an important reference for college instructors. The book explores learning theories and related research in an effort to improve college-level teaching.
'In the book we emphasize the value of presenting information in a variety of ways that capitalizes on the strengths of the instructor,' Stage says. 'The corollary is that students should be allowed a variety of modes to demonstrate their learning, capitalizing on their strengths as well.'
Stage is closely involved in guiding graduate student research, and has enlisted the help of students training for careers in higher education administration as research assistants on her own projects. 'There are numerous theories about college learning, and then there is the real world of the classroom and the campus. The students who work with me - many of whom will become college deans, heads of student affairs, or even university presidents -- gain a real appreciation for the importance of linking theory and practice together to help improve the college experience as a whole.'
written by Cecilia Malm