February 2012—Dr. Kelley Jo Walters of The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership is one of two faculty members Walden University honored with its 2012 Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence. Walters was awarded for balancing her roles as the program director and transition point major assessment monitor for the Doctor of Education (EdD) program with major studies on determining doctoral students’ writing readiness and faculty members’ responses.

“It’s not enough to be a good writer. You have to be a scholarly writer,” Walters explains of the first project, titled “Automated Essay Scoring for Doctoral Level Writing Readiness: Mass Customization and Writing Profiles,” which received a Faculty Research Initiative Grant last year. “The assessment measures entry students’ writing skills and allows us to match them with the plethora of resources at Walden at the very beginning of their program.”

She lauds Walden’s Writing Center, tutors, webinars and other resources for the tools they offer to every student. “Doctoral students typically write 100–200 pages in their research studies. When we leverage the writing assessment taken by students at the beginning of our program, we don’t just look at an overall holistic score; we look at analytic scores to identify skill deficits and match student needs with the resources available at Walden,” Walters continues. “We’re building a stronger base of students who can focus on content.”

The second study she’s investigating, titled “The Genre of Instructor Feedback in Doctoral Programs: A Corpus Linguistic Analysis,” will explore how faculty members can provide transparent feedback to doctoral students, which is essential to the learning process. “It’s all about how we can improve students’ writing abilities. Looking at faculty feedback can give us great insight into the feedback students receive,” she says. “This study has the potential of impacting future faculty development in addition to the overall program.”

Leading by Example

Walters also makes a point to spend time with students and fellow faculty members on her doctoral committees. “Most of the students I have had in a committee have become colleagues of mine,” she explains. The collaboration makes it easy for her and alumni to co-publish and also puts her own writing in a position to be critiqued. “We need to practice what we preach,” she says.
Recently, she’s encouraged other faculty members to publish with their students. “Getting a doctorate isn’t only about the degree itself,” she explains. “There’s an expectation behind it to publish.”
Although she acknowledges that she has an administrative role as a program director, she keeps a pulse on her program by developing strong relationships with students. “I tell students I have an open door. They take a high priority for me,” she explains. “I think a personal approach makes a huge difference.”

About the Award

The award is bestowed upon Walden faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to the university. It recognizes their leadership and commitment to providing the highest-quality student experience as well as to upholding Walden’s mission of promoting positive social change.

Read more about the Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence and past recipients. 

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