Amy Gaffney, PhD

Amy Gaffney became the second CRDM student to successfully defend her dissertation.

Amy Gaffney's dissertation defense

Amy begins her defense

Under the direction of her chair, Dr. Deanna Dannels, Amy presented the culmination of more than 2 years of data collection and analysis to a room of keenly interested CRDM students and faculty gathered in room 129 of the 1911 building. With a long-standing research interest in communicating across the curriculum, Amy spent the last year as the graduate consultant for the Campus Writing and Speaking Program. Her dissertation, titled “Communicating About, In, and Through Design: A Study Exploring Communication Instruction and Design Students’ Critique Performance,” illustrates her commitment to CAC-centered pedagogy:

Communication is a skill set typically required of students as they complete their education and move into the working world. Disciplines typically require certain genres of oral communication from their students, which model the communication that will be expected of students post-graduation. Within landscape architecture, the most prominent genre is the critique. In this form of evaluation, students present their design ideas – developed in response to a given situation – to an audience of peers, faculty, and outside professionals. After presenting their work, students are asked questions and given feedback from the audience. Although this form of communication is ubiquitous in design education, students are not typically taught the communication genres in which they are expected to engage. In order to fill that gap, this study explored the development of students’ communication about their designs as they presented projects over the course of a semester. Then, communication instruction was implemented in two instructional models in order to examine the influence of instruction on students’ performance and affect about their performance.

Results indicated the natural evolution of students’ abilities over the course of a semester as well as students’ diminishing affect toward their own abilities. With the addition of instruction, students’ performative abilities improved, but their self-perceptions remained relatively stable. Furthermore, the nature of the instruction impacted the nature of students’ changes. Students who received periodic, lecture-based instruction improved most on their content, while students who received more interactive, weekly instruction improved most on the competencies related to their relating to others.

Together, these results indicate that students’ abilities to communicate about their designs are interwoven with their development of the design; both evolve over the course of the semester. The impact of the instruction points to the importance of communication instruction that is grounded within a particular discipline, supporting notions of situated learning. Furthermore, the instructional impact also points to the long-term influence of a discipline’s socialization on students’ affect, regardless of changes in students’ performance. Ultimately, the goal of projects such as this is to positively impact students’ communication abilities, and the results here point to the opportunities afforded by such work)

Joining Dr. Dannels on Amy’s committee were Drs. Chris Anson, Bill Jordan, and Jason Swarts, with Dr. Brad Mehlenbacher as the Graduate School representative.

What’s next for Amy? We’re happy to report that she has accepted a position as an assistant professor in instructional communication at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. We wish her all the best in her future career as a Wildcat.


1 Comment

Filed under exams and dissertations

One response to “Amy Gaffney, PhD

  1. knmartin

    Great presentation Dr. Gaffney and congratulations!

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