Jason Bergtold is turning the challenge of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic into an opportunity to help his students and his fellow faculty members at Kansas State University.
As K-State’s 2021-2022 Coffman Chair for University Distinguished Teaching Scholars, the professor of agricultural economics will spend the next year studying how new teaching platforms, styles and techniques for remote and hybrid teaching that he and his fellow faculty members adopted because of the pandemic will impact teaching and learning into the future. He plans to share what he learns during a series of workshops on teaching scholarship.
The Coffman chair was created in 1995 to highlight K-State’s commitment to excellence in undergraduate teaching and learning. Each chair is an acknowledged leading teaching scholar and is provided the time and resources to conduct a research project or develop programs to improve educational methods at the university. Recipients retain the title of teaching scholar throughout their career at K-State.
“The previous year has greatly impacted how I approach teaching my classes,” Bergtold said. “Because of the pandemic, I offered all of my classes using hybrid formats: remote livestreamed, recorded lectures and in person. In addition, I changed how I approached organizing and engaging with students, as all instructors had to do.”
The past year’s experiences have changed how Bergtold said he will teach in the future. He plans to incorporate effective hybrid frameworks and approaches into his classes moving forward.
“The Coffman Chair for Distinguished Teaching Scholars provides a unique opportunity to develop approaches and tools that will help students better engage and improve how they learn,” Bergtold said. “Being the Coffman chair will allow me to develop research and offer teaching scholarship workshops to examine and highlight some of the most effective practices we adopted during the pandemic and how we can use them to better the learning experience moving forward for all involved, especially our students.”
Teaching and engaging students in the learning process is a passion of Bergtold’s and it shows. He has been honored for his teaching at the college, university, professional and national levels. His awards include the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2018 Food and Agricultural Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award; 2016 Outstanding Teacher Award for Less Than 10 Years of Experience from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association; the 2015 Outstanding Teaching Award for Less Than 10 Years of Experience from the Western Agricultural Economics Association; and the 2014 Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from K-State. The College of Agriculture has honored Bergtold with its 2019 Excellence in Graduate Teaching Award as well as selecting him as its commencement speaker in 2015 and 2018.
Bergtold teaches at all levels, from an introductory ag econ and agribusiness class for 125 to 230 students to graduate courses. In the large introductory course, he uses a framework with two hours of lecture and one hour of lab each week. The labs use interactive, hands-on active learning activities that allow students to apply economic principles directly and learn the concepts firsthand.
In his upper-level courses, Bergtold uses applied problem-solving and engagement, with students doing projects based on real-life economic and management problems.
Active as a researcher, Bergtold has recently focused more on teaching scholarship and providing undergraduate research opportunities. He leads a study across six land-grant universities examining undergraduate students’ experiences, challenges and enrollment decisions during COVID-19. Results from the study will help faculty, administrators and policymakers make more informed decisions regarding the challenges facing students when such crises occur.
He is principal investigator on a research project examining the influence and roles of students’ peers in and outside the classroom to better understand social dynamics in the classroom and better help undergraduate students academically succeed. With a K-State Global Food Systems seed grant, Bergtold was part of a faculty team — with Audrey Joslin and Marcellus Caldas from the geography and geospatial sciences department — teaching a course on how to conduct interdisciplinary research that involved undergraduate and graduate students in an interdisciplinary research project about wildfire and agricultural lands. Students participated in data collection, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and writing research publications and reports. He also has served as co-director of a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates project on bioenergy from 2014-2018.
At the professional level, Bergtold is the inaugural editor of Applied Economics Teaching Resources, a new journal sponsored by the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
Bergtold earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Colorado State University and a master’s in agricultural and applied economics and doctorate in economics from Virginia Tech University. He joined the K-State faculty in 2007 and was promoted to associate professor in 2012 and to professor in 2018.