Governing Board Honors Colorado State University Psychology Professor with Teaching-Excellence Award

Professor Frank Vattano from the department of psychology was awarded a 1997 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award at Colorado State University and is among three recipients honored for outstanding teaching at Colorado State, the University of Southern Colorado and Fort Lewis College.

Vattano received the award today at a meeting of the State Board of Agriculture, which sponsors the annual awards and governs the three-school Colorado State University System. Board members also honored Maya Aviña from the University of Southern Colorado and Jim Mills from Fort Lewis College.

Vattano is a pioneer in applying multimedia technology to improve classroom instruction and is one of Colorado State’s most ardent proponents of multimedia, which includes videotapes, film clips, videodiscs, compact discs and related visual presentations.

Colleagues describe Vattano as "a consummate scholar-teacher who always carries a heavy instructional load," which means he teaches introductory psychology to more than 400 undergraduates each academic year. Other colleagues said: "Above all else, he is a genuine and caring human being."

Students enrolled in Vattano’s courses comment on his skilled use of technology in the classroom and his engaging and dynamic teaching style. They also commend him for lectures that are organized and enriched because he incorporates the most current teaching technologies.

Vattano concedes his classes are demanding, but designed to bring out the best in students’ performance. Vattano said his underlying philosophy of teaching is simple: "Each student is entitled to respect, and deserves our best efforts in the teaching and learning process." Vattano also is succinct in describing multimedia as a teaching tool. "Multimedia has the potential to be the most creative, highest-impact learning experience ever conceived."

But Vattano seasons his enthusiasm for multimedia with traditional ideas. "Multimedia helps deliver the most up-to- date, important and attractive material to students in a visual format, but it’s not a substitute for reading," he said. "I expect students to read textbook assignments before they come to class." Vattano said he began experimenting with television as a teaching tool as early as the mid-1960s. However, he said it wasn’t until 1986 that he began to fully appreciate the teaching impact of multimedia. The catalyst was the instructional potential he saw in "The Brain," an eight-part program produced by WNET in New York in cooperation with the Annenberg/Corporation for Public Broadcasting Project.

Vattano, with funding from the Annenberg/CPB Project, obtained permission to edit the eight hours of material into 30 video "modules" that averaged 6 minutes in length. Vattano referenced the modules to college-level textbooks used in general psychology courses nationwide. With additional funding, he repeated the process in 1990 to create 38 video modules edited from another PBS series, "The Mind."

Vattano has since received a number of grants to update and expand the BRAIN/MIND modules. Vattano’s modules now are used in more than 6,000 schools across the country. He uses about 50 to 55 modules each semester in his psychology courses.

Vattano, a 1958 alumnus of Colorado State, has devoted almost 29 years to teaching and administration at the university. He first joined Colorado State in 1964 as an assistant professor. After one year, he moved to the University of Denver where he served three years as associate dean of arts and sciences and one year as vice chancellor for student affairs.

In 1969, he returned to Colorado State as associate director of the Human Factors Research Laboratory and associate professor of psychology. A year later, he was promoted to assistant academic vice president for instructional development. From 1976- 1986, Vattano served as dean of what now is the College of Liberal Arts. He then rejoined the psychology department to pursue his interest in teaching and multimedia. Vattano has been involved in a number of "firsts" in his career at Colorado State. In 1964, he taught the university’s first televised course, which was shown for five years. He also planned and organized the first Preview CSU as an experimental orientation program and initiated the Let’s Talk Teaching seminars, the teaching mini-grant program and a graduate seminar on college teaching, which was among the first such seminars of its type taught in the nation. Along with colleagues, he also helped create the Honors Professor Program and the Baccalaureate Honors Degree Program. In addition, Vattano has received a Pennock Distinguished Service Award and a Willard O. Eddy Teacher Award from Colorado State, and a U S West Direct Excellence in Education Award.