Kathleen Lowney

Kathleen Lowney Uses Innovative Teaching Methods to Inspire Students

Bringing the classroom to life through storytelling and real-life experiences is the hallmark of Dr. Kathleen Lowney’s teaching style.

Lowney received the 2013 Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award and was recognized for her innovative teaching strategies and use of technology based on sound pedagogical rationale.

“In the class, I use a lot of stories. Sometimes they are personal stories or other people’s stories,” said Lowney, professor of sociology and 2011 recipient of VSU's Excellence in Teaching Award. “I think especially in the introductory classes students can see themselves or a family member in a story.”

Lowney said that she enjoys creating new teaching methods to engage students in learning and how to use their sociological imaginations.

For example, in her Issues in Sociological Practice—Domestic Violence course, she examines the topic from the perspective of a shelter worker. The students construct a visual shelter and work together to develop programs for the victims and their children and create policies as they deal with real-life issues of domestic violence.

Lowney, who came to Valdosta State in 1987, said she is always trying to create new learning experiences for her students and herself.

“I think now I have a more flexible teaching style and a better sense of what I do well,” she said. “I tailor my classes to play to my strengths and theirs and what the students need to know to be applied sociologists out in the field.”

Working with members of the VSU Faculty Excellence Initiative, Lowney was instrumental in the development of the IDEA Center (Innovative Designs for Enhancing the Academy).

The IDEA Center provides a place for faculty and staff to gather and share experiences to improve classroom instruction, develop leadership skills, examine research opportunities and explore different possibilities.

Lowney is serving as the IDEA Center fellow-in-residence and embraces the opportunity to work with faculty within all disciplines and years of experience.

A tenured member of the faculty, Lowney recognizes that teaching is an evolving process.

“All of us recognize that students today are different than when we were undergraduates—and different doesn’t mean ‘bad’ but that availability of technology, the economic necessities of working, sometimes several jobs, are often pulling on our students in ways that many of us did not feel or did not feel to the same degree,” said Lowney, who serves as editor of Teaching Sociology, a pedagogical journal. “So our learning about students can help us to be comfortable with creating assignments that both challenge our students intellectually but also play to their technology strengths.”

Lowney is excited to see the evolution and growth of the IDEA Center within the first year.

“Our two main goals overall the first year are certainly encouraging and strengthening teaching that can help with student retention and help faculty move through promotion and tenure,” said Lowney.