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Morrison named Meigs Teaching Professor

Alan Flurry

Richard Morrison, associate professor in the department of chemistry, is one of five University of Georgia faculty members named Josiah Meigs Distinguished Professors for 2020, the university’s highest recognition for instruction at the undergraduate and graduate levels:

As director of Organic Chemistry Instruction in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of chemistry, Richard Morrison oversees all aspects of undergraduate instruction in organic chemistry and coordinates instruction with his faculty colleagues at the graduate level. Teaching hundreds of students at a time on the front lines of a foundational STEM discipline, Morrison has used creativity and technology to enhance learning and his effectiveness as a mentor.

A large lecture hall and complex subject matter characterized as among the most difficult at the university can present real challenges for the brightest students as well as the most engaged faculty members. Morrison was quick to recognize that classroom response systems, or clickers, could help probe student understanding and misconceptions more effectively in real time, thus transforming the traditional lecture into an interactive, inquiry-based discussion between an experienced “guide” and engaged student participants.

“Dr. Morrison possesses a keen insight into how students learn, and as a result he has been highly successful implementing pedagogical modifications to remediate student difficulties,” wrote one colleague. “His improvements to organic chemistry instruction and pedagogy have substantively enhanced our students’ education and serve as a model for university programs across the country.”

In the spirit of interactive learning, Morrison often clips on a microphone and ventures beyond the lectern to work with his students on problem solving. He has developed novel question formats that reveal the logic pathways students employ in arriving at their solutions, resulting in a personalized lecture style that extends his desire for students to individually and collectively comprehend and internalize the material he presents.

His groundbreaking repurposing of classroom response systems, from multiple choice or matching questions into interactive tools that reveal student problem-solving strategies, was deemed such a revolutionary change that his questions were made available to the chemical education community for general use by the Journal of Chemical Education. Morrison’s educational research in this area was reported in the Journal, and he was invited to organize a symposium for the 237th national meeting of the American Chemical Society to share his innovative and transformative pedagogies for large-lecture instruction.


Image: Richard Morrison in 2019 outside of the Severini School on the UGA campus in Cortona, Italy. (Photo credit: Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

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