Dr. Eddie Boucher Receives Faculty Teaching Innovation Award

May 3, 2021 - Brandon Drain

Eddie BoucherThe world is always in a constant state of forward perpetuation: The earth’s rotation, innovation in technology, slang and clothing, and in this case—education and teaching methods. Current higher-ed educators are in a constant battle. They must distill complex information in a way that is palatable to newer generations; find ways to engage students in meaningful ways outside of just receiving a grade; and creating an optimal learning environment in the “Zoom era” of teaching—in other words, it’s a tall order for anyone. Dr. Eddie Boucher—Assistant Professor at Michigan State University—not only spearheaded this task, but has thrived as an educator in doing so, earning him the CSS Faculty Teaching Innovation Award: an award given to an educator who displayed an approach to innovative undergraduate teaching in a unit that has resulted in desired student learning outcomes.

One of, if not the most, innovative approaches to teaching can be found in Dr. Boucher’s class, “Laugh your ISS Off”: A course which emphasizes the use of Netflix and comedy to explore issues of national diversity and social inequalities. As part of the undergraduate experience, MSU students are required to take a few Integrative Social Science (ISS) courses throughout their four years regardless of their major. Unlike most ISS courses, which operate in the typical lecture-based format, Boucher’s class reinvents that entire process, creating a new roadmap in teaching. “I wanted to draw from everybody’s obsession with streaming, whether it was Netflix or whatever, and also address Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” said Dr. Boucher. “It’s innovative insofar as I’m meeting the students where they are […] and it’s somewhat ironic that when I would teach a large lecture section, students were on their laptops watching Netflix when I’m talking. I was like, ‘Well let’s flip the script for real and make Netflix the curriculum.’”

One of the caveats that follow innovation is pushback; people, as a whole, fear change, they fear former foundations being completely dismantled. For Boucher, in his first semester teaching, this came in the form of low Student Instructional Rating System (SIRS) reviews in which students voice their opinions about the course and professor. “Change happens very slow in a place like this,” said Boucher. “My first semester, my SIRS scores were not that high because I didn’t know how to teach that many students yet—this was also the start of my innovative teaching.” During this period, students were opposed to these new methods of teaching, imploring Dr. Boucher to restructure the class in the empirical manner they were used to. 

Despite the setback, Dr. Boucher wasn’t deterred and was granted an unprecedented opportunity during unprecedented times. “Once COVID hit, I was able to play around and innovate,” said Dr. Boucher. During this period in which all classes were subject to an online format, Boucher was able to really shift the foundation of teaching, as the previous model was no longer suitable. As other teachers scrambled to adjust their methods of educating in an online setting, Dr. Boucher thrived and was able to create courses that weren’t only congruent to new safety protocol, but met students where they were in terms of engagement.

For Dr. Boucher, this award was vindication—it meant his against-the-grain approach towards teaching can be effective. “The award is validation that I’m doing something right teaching, but it’s also validation that students will step up to the plate and take on creative risks themselves,” said Dr. Boucher.