Member Spotlight

Catherine G. Rushton, EdD
Director, Forensic Science Program
Marshall University

How long have you been in education and in what capacity? 

I have been teaching at Marshall University in the Forensic Science Program since 1997 – 24 years

What is your favorite course to teach and why?

My favorite course to teach is microscopy.  I have always loved the microscopic world – so much beauty.  I teach a very hands-on microscopy course that includes the scanning electron microscope (SEM).  When teaching students how to use the SEM, I utilize a project-based learning method.  I divide the students into small groups and allow them to develop a small project to investigate using the SEM.  The students surprise me every year with their creative project ideas.  Because the students create their own projects, they expend more time and effort learning how to use the SEM. And their novel ideas allow me the opportunity to explore something new, too.

Describe one of your coolest teaching methods to keep your students engaged.

Game-based learning and gamification are my favorite teaching methods for student engagement.  Students will spend more time engaged with the material if they are having fun.  When I teach using active learning methods, such as scavenger hunts, I enjoy my time in the classroom to a greater extent.

What was the most important thing you learned from undertaking your EdD?

I took a 15-year break between my Master’s degree in Forensic Science and my Doctorate in Education.  In my doctoral studies I learned several lessons, however, two stand out in my mind.  First, work smarter not harder.  Second, it is a good thing to struggle with the material; it is in the struggle that I learn the most.   In my undergrad courses, I always looked for the easiest means for completing my assignments.  However, usually the easiest assignments provided the least knowledge and what little I learned I forgot quickly.  In my doctoral courses, I found tremendous satisfaction when I completed a particularly difficult assignment.  It drove me to evaluate each assignment for opportunities to learn even if it was a more difficult path.  I also considered how I could maximize the assignment to learn as well as implement the information in my teaching – working smarter, not harder.  Additionally, the education professors taught their courses using a variety of methods.  So, I not only worked to grasp the material, but I also studied how the professors taught the material in order to transform my own teaching methods.

What is the most fun thing you have ever done as an educator?

A particularly gratifying experience was teaching Game-based Learning in the Active Learning Methods Workshop (sponsored by COFSE) at AAFS Annual Meeting in Seattle 2018.  I enjoyed watching over 70 of my peers run excitedly around the Seattle Civic Center to complete a scavenger hunt.  And after explaining all the material they learned upon completing the scavenger hunt, I delighted in hearing from other professors how they were going to utilize game-based learning in their own courses.

What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you? 

I have hiked through the rain forest in Ecuador, camped on an island in Lake Baikal Russia, watched Geysir erupt in Iceland, climbed Mayan ruins in Mexico, and SCUBA dived with sharks (and other marine life) in Disney’s Living Seas at Epcot. When I am not traveling, I enjoy knitting socks and sewing ball gowns.