UA Little Rock Math Professor Selected as Inaugural Recipient of Top Hat Black Educator Grant

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock math educator has been selected as one of the inaugural recipients of Top Hat’s Black Educator Grant. 

Dr. Lakeshia Legette Jones, an associate professor of mathematics and statistics, will receive a $10,000 grant, as well as free access to Top Hat’s active learning courseware platform for her students.

Top Hat launched its inaugural Black Education Grant Program in December 2020 to examine the platform’s impact on teaching and learning and to support the Black academic community, which has historically faced unequal access to funding.

“Receiving this grant was a total shock and surprise to me,” Jones said. “I was honored and humbled to be one of the two first recipients. My husband brought the grant to my attention and suggested that I apply since I already make these efforts in my classes. I hope that the work of my students and I this semester will be effective, and that I will get some useful feedback to improve not only their learning experience, but my future courses as well. This information will also be helpful to other educators and Top Hat designers.”

Jones’ study will focus on leveraging Top Hat’s platform to level the playing field and create opportunities for students from all backgrounds to participate and succeed in her class. This includes improving accessibility for students by streamlining the course delivery experience. Instead of relying on several different teaching tools that aren’t designed to work together, Jones will consolidate all of her course materials on Top Hat’s platform to make it easy for students to access everything they need in one place.

“I’ll be using Top Hat with my STAT 2350 course, which is an introduction to statistical methods,” Jones said. “I hope that the experience with Top Hat will make the class more manageable for students and provide the flexibility they need to complete their assignments, while increasing student engagement. I’m very excited for the fall semester and truly aiming for 100 percent success!”

According to research conducted by Top Hat, students believe that community and connection with their peers is critical to realizing the value of their learning experience. When students feel like they belong in the classroom, they are significantly more motivated and engaged with their learning.

When a sense of belonging is created within learning environments that encourage students to be active participants in their education, students are more likely to feel supported to succeed. To create a sense of community, Jones will make belonging a critical component of her course design.

“I want my students to understand that they belong, they have a place here, and they can be successful,” she said. 

In her class, Jones will actively prioritize getting to know her students and engaging them in hands-on activities designed to facilitate faculty-student and peer-to-peer connections. She will create opportunities for students to learn from each other and ensure students can provide her with feedback so that she will have a pulse on how they’re feeling and how she can improve the course experience to better support them.

Jones will conduct regular attitude surveys to gather feedback from students on what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to change right away. By leveraging actionable insights on how her class is doing and how individual students are performing, she can make just-in-time accommodations that will allow her to support individual student success at scale.

In March 2022, Top Hat will spotlight Jones and Donna Smith of Sierra College, the second inaugural grant recipient. Top Hat will discuss details of the learning environments the grant recipients created to build confidence, forge community, and support student success.