H. David Shew is a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at North Carolina State University (NCSU) and a native of Leland, NC. He received his B.S. degree in biology from Greensboro College in 1974 and his master’s (1977) and Ph.D. (1980) degrees in plant pathology from NCSU. Shew has demonstrated excellence in teaching in a diversity of plant pathology undergraduate and graduate courses for more than 25 years.
For 11 years, Shew has taught a highly successful introductory undergraduate course—Principles of Plant Pathology. Shew brings much interest and enthusiasm to the teaching of plant pathology by introducing students to the most up-to-date concepts and principles in the field that reflect the latest research findings. When one attends his lectures and laboratories, one quickly realizes that Shew does a great job of getting and keeping the students’ attention in class. He has an inherent and unique ability for explaining complex concepts and principles in a format that is easy to understand and follow. He works with each class to show students that he wants to be a part of their educational, personal, and professional development. The methodologies used to accomplish these goals vary with the unique personality of each class, but they are all rooted in his fundamental desire to empower students to believe in themselves, inspire them to find their passion for new knowledge and its application, and encourage them to set goals and strive to achieve those goals. His students are encouraged to interact during lectures as questions arise. Students in the course are predominately from the crop science and horticultural science curricula. Shew is able to provide relevant examples for these students due to his extensive experience with field and horticultural crop production practices and extensive knowledge of diseases associated with these crops.
In addition to his strong lecture skills, Shew is an innovator and leader in the adoption and development of new and novel instructional technology. For instance, he recognized the need to bring technical terms unique to plant pathology to students in a new system of delivery. With assistance from the Distance Education and Learning Technology Applications (DELTA) program at NCSU, Shew converted his course glossary into an integrated electronic “flashcard learning tool” that provides instant feedback for the students. He also integrated an audio pronunciation system for the terms. Images illustrating the term are available within the same window, enabling students to view a picture to associate with the term being pronounced. An additional online innovation is an animated movie that presents the steps in understanding the gene-for-gene concept. In a series of screens that includes Shew narrating, students are led step by step through the concept with animation that illustrates each step at the molecular and structural level. This is a very powerful learning tool, as students can watch the video at their own pace and return to selected segments as needed. DELTA has received numerous requests from instructors in other courses across the campus to develop software and technologies similar to that developed by Shew.
In the laboratory, Shew uses a hands-on approach to teaching concepts and principles of plant pathology. He provides demonstrations and experiments weekly that convey in a clear and concise manner the concepts and principles under study. The laboratory also offers students an opportunity to explore questions from lectures in greater detail. One component of the laboratory is the DeBary Quiz Bowl at the end of the semester, in which teams of students compete to answer plant pathology-related questions. The enthusiastic encouragement from the audience of students leads to greater interaction and serves as a nice capstone to revisit information covered in the course as students begin to review for their final exam. A virtual plant disease diagnosis program also allows the students to follow a procedure used in our Plant Disease and Insect Clinic. Students enter the virtual clinic and interact with various stations that allow them to formulate an hypothesis and make real-world decisions in a logical and sequential process toward diagnosis of a plant disease.
Shew has taken his enthusiasm for teaching in the classroom and developed a distance education version of his Principles of Plant Pathology course that utilizes many of these same teaching technologies. Students may use a set of DVDs or stream course content for lecture and lab material. Each presentation includes a video of a presentation plus the PowerPoint slide with course content. In addition, a number of class exercises and other learning modules are included as part of the online course website.
Shew’s ability as a teacher and classroom innovator has been well recognized. He is clearly a leader at NCSU in the development of web-based instruction utilizing modern technologies. He has been an invited participant in numerous workshops at NCSU, at statewide conferences and national meetings, and in departments of plant pathology. Shew’s philosophy of education is best presented in his own words: “I will never lose sight of the fact that the most important ingredient in my success as a teacher is hard work and the carefully cultivated relationships and trust that I work hard to build with students in each of my classes. There will never be a substitute for building these relationships, and it will always serve as the foundation of my teaching philosophy, even as I cope with the challenges brought on by teaching a distance education class and reaching new audiences in our new virtual realities.”
Shew’s recognition in teaching is reflected in multiple teaching awards, including election to the Academy of Outstanding Teachers in 2002, second place in the Gertrude Cox Award for Innovative Excellence in Teaching and Learning Technology in 2006, and the Alumni Distinguish Undergraduate Professor Award in 2008. The latter award represents the most prestigious award granted to faculty teaching undergraduate courses at NCSU.
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