Patricia Sachs Chess, Ph.D. is a cultural anthropologist with nearly thirty years of experience working at the intersection of cognitive science, anthropology, and technology. She teaches in the doctoral Psychology and Education programs at Grand Canyon University. In addition to teaching, she chairs dissertation committees and mentors fellow dissertation chairs as a Master Chair. She has a longstanding interest in the relationship of work, technology, and learning, and is committed to integrating conceptual frameworks from cognitive psychology, anthropology, and technology.
Dr. Chess founded a consulting firm in 1990 that continues to provide services primarily to high-tech R&D firms connecting customer insight to innovation practices. Pascha received her Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and music from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., and an M.Phil. and Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the Graduate School & University Center at the City University of New York. She conducted post-doctoral research in cognitive and developmental psychology at CUNY, focusing on workplace learning and the discontinuities between learning at school and at work. She founded and was and Technical Director of the Work Systems Design Group at NYNEX Science & Technology, and was a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Research on Learning in Menlo Park, CA. She is co-inventor on two patents, one of which models work practices, which has been in use at NASA for over ten years.
How has facilitating online courses at GCU helped you find your purpose?
Facilitating online courses at GCU helped me recognize my inner educator. While I conceived of my consulting work as developmental, meaning my goal was to support the development of my clients' understanding of issues they faced, I thought of that as "effective consulting." When I began teaching online, I realized the deep satisfaction I gained from engaging intellectually and inviting and supporting learners to do the same, was similar to the experience I craved in consulting. A few months ago I acknowledged that fostering learning really is my purpose-perhaps one bred into me. My mother taught music. My dad and grandfather were neurosurgeons who taught in medical schools. In 1872 my great uncle founded the Sachs Collegiate Institute for Boys and Girls (now the Dwight School in NYC). Facilitating online courses helped me remember my roots, and put me in touch with my love of cognitive science, neuroscience, and social science.
When I joined GCU and recognized the spirit of servant leadership, the development of scholar practitioners, and the interdisciplinary nature of the doctoral degrees, I knew I had found an intellectual home.
What is one effective teaching strategy you use in your online classes?
I like to expand the thinking of learners in the class by asking questions to challenge their assumptions. At the same time, I am interested in understanding the perspectives they bring to the course. A great advantage of GCU is that most learners are mature adults with long work histories, and those experiences influence their approach to and understanding of the course material. I offer learners additional articles and references in response to their comments in the Discussion Forums. Learners have told me that while they find the articles great to have, they particularly appreciate "being heard." From my perspective, this is inherent in a developmental perspective. In addition, since learning-even online learning-is deeply situated, it is important to provide opportunities for learners to connect their current understandings and experiences to the substance of coursework.
What is a GCU online student success story you can share?
One of my favorite things is when learners write to me about their dissertation topics in courses in advance of focusing on the dissertation. What is delightful about this is that the learners have connected with the course in such a way that it has inspired them to share their thinking and plans. As one learner wrote:
I wanted to send a quick message and thank you for a terrific class! You asked me if I planned to focus my research on instructional strategies, and I wanted to share with you that my research focus is social cognition. While it's not exactly focused on education and instruction, I firmly believe that social cognition plays an important role in the classroom environment. I am currently an adjunct professor, and plan to continue teaching after completing my doctorate. I have no doubt that I will use the information learned in the course for the remainder of my career! (from E.B.)
When more advanced learners work on their dissertations and realize they are ready for the proposal defense, they are sometimes amazed that they got there after so many revisions and what seemed like an unending process. One learner noted: "I cannot believe it!!!! I am excited and terrified because it is moving faster than I expected, but so happy!!!"
It is wonderful to witness the accomplishment and the joy on the journey.