Digital Learning Blog

Gauging the Effectiveness of Compassion & Stress Reduction in Classroom

by | May 19, 2022 | Digital Learning Blog, Faculty Spotlight, Fanny Tsai

Prof. Joel Veenstra is this month’s faculty spotlight. He is an Associate Professor of Teaching from the UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts’ Department of Drama, where he also serves as the Associate Chair of Production and Co-Head of the Stage Management Program. Joel is astonishing! He teaches some of the largest classes in the Department of Drama and makes the enormous classes fun and engaging.

In his classes, it’s clear that he cares deeply about his students. With the pandemic and its aftermath forcing students and faculty to navigate new territory in learning and teaching, technologies, such as Zoom and Yuja, have given us both new challenges and new possibilities for remote and asynchronous education. No matter the modality, creating a sense of community in a classroom can be one of the best ways to keep students (and instructors) engaged. Despite knowing so much about the subject that he taught, the pandemic forced Joel to radically redefine his approach to teaching to engage his students. Since Spring 2020, Joel has continued to guide Drama 10, the Drama 101 series, Drama 135, Drama 251C, Drama 254/255, and UniStu 2 through a variety of methodologies to best engage the needs of the moment (each class cross-listed as in-person, synchronous, and asynchronous). His focus was always on building connections with his students and meeting their needs where they were in the moment. He used a lot of examples of plays and entertainment that students knew. Patience and compassion were hallmarks of his interactions with his students. Rather than simply having a text-based syllabus, he would create an impressive, well-structured layout and colorful syllabi with visual images and details. This caught my attention immediately when he joined the 2021 Digital Learning Institute (DLI) program.

Joel is an enthusiastic and humble professor; he accepted my suggestions to enhance his curriculum/syllabus to be accessible and re-designed his courses based upon evidence-based best digital learning practices. He focuses on student participation and implements mastery learning with a consistent learning pathway to cultivate students’ collaboration and self-efficacy in their Drama major. In addition to all of these elements, I believe his confidence and flexible active teaching approach are other reasons for his students to rate him as a five-star professor.

It has been my pleasure to work with Prof. Veenstra; please enjoy the faculty spotlight interview below where he will share more of his teaching insights.






About the Author:

Shu Fen (Fannie) Tsai, M.S.
Instructional Designer, Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI)

Fannie Tsai has over ten years of experience promoting teaching excellence in higher education. As an instructional designer at the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation, she supports faculty in designing courses and content for various teaching modes with backward design and learning technologies. UCI faculty appreciate her help in creating a mastery learning path to guide students’ learning. In addition, Fannie is passionate about inclusive teaching. She devotes diligence to facilitating faculty using inclusive technologies to design an accessible learning environment for all students. Fannie joined DTEI in September 2019 after nine years of service as an instructional technology designer at SDSU. She has a B.A. degree in Multimedia/Programing and an M.S. degree in Instructional Technology.