Lee Cooper, clinical associate professor of psychology in the College of Sciences and director of the Psychological Services Center at Virginia Tech, has received the university's 2012 Edward S. Diggs Teaching Scholars Award.
Sponsored by the Diggs Endowed Professorship Fund and the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, the Diggs Teaching Scholars Award was established in 1992 and is presented annually to three Virginia Tech faculty members to recognize exceptional contributions to the teaching program and learning environment. A cash award is given to each recipient and their academic department. Diggs Teaching Scholars are invited to lead the Diggs Roundtable – a series of presentations and a discussion of their innovative teaching – a year after receiving the award.
The award is supported by an endowed fund from an estate gift by the late Edward S. and Hattie Wilson Diggs. Edward Diggs was a 1914 graduate of Virginia Tech.
Cooper has been a member of the faculty since 1998. In addition to the administrative and supervision duties of running the Psychological Services Center, he is the instructor for one clinical practicum course each semester and teaches a graduate class in clinical assessment each year. Cooper uses a learning enhancement tool based upon principles of expertise development for graduate students seeking to become clinical scientists, which may include being a researcher, therapist, or teacher.
“The core component of my teaching philosophy and method is to impart the need for continuous and deliberate professional practice and reflection, whether it is conducting therapy, teaching, or research,” Cooper said. “To teach and encourage reflectivity, I strive to create a safe yet challenging supervisory relationship.”
As students practice clinical strategies, they are encouraged to reflect on their experiences and receive feedback on their performance. Students can then modify their own strategies and challenge their mastery of the strategies with clients or with problems outside their preferred area of interest or expertise. This type of reflective process is a key component to developing personal expertise, Cooper said.
Cooper regularly uses this performance model on his own teaching skills and has proposed enhancing other teachers’ performance with a forum for organized, collaborative, and ongoing interchange. The forum will offer faculty members an environment where they can practice their skills and receive effective feedback from their peers.
“It is fair to say that Lee has a passion for teaching and that his passion translates to excellence, both in clinical supervisory training and classroom teaching,” said Bob Stephens, professor and department head. “His excellence in teaching has been documented repeatedly via high student ratings, peer evaluations, and personal testimonials from students he has mentored.”
Cooper received a Certificate of Teaching Excellence Award in 2008.
He received his bachelor's degree from Northeastern University, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.