Dr. Carol Goodwillie on Helping Her Students Succeed

Creating an atmosphere where students can determine themselves when they are struggling with a key concept has been a successful strategy for Dr. Carol Goodwillie, an associate professor of biology who has been at ECU since 2001. Her students have responded positively and cited her encouraging attitude when College STAR surveyed students last year.

“As a student with learning disabilities, the motivation and true compassion towards my learning the material was essential in my succeeding at East Carolina University,” one student wrote. “She helped me learn not only the material in the class but, more importantly, how to learn in general.”

Dr. Goodwillie teaches Principles of Genetics classes that can have as many as 100 students. “As hard as I try in that setting,” she said, “there is no way for me to pick up on what individual students’ misconceptions are. But if they come in during office hours, I can review one key concept and it all falls into place for them.”

“She was always available outside class in office hours and more than willing to meet; she was never too busy,” one student wrote.

Dr. Goodwillie said she has found that giving problem sets for students to work on outside of lectures helps them identify areas they do not understand. She encourages students to work on problems in groups. “It’s not a large percentage of their grade and it’s more about learning than about evaluation,” she explained. 

Students often seek help with a problem during office hours and frequently encounter other students with similar questions. “That’s when the real magic happens,” Dr. Goodwillie said, “when they start answering each others’ questions.”

Dr. Diane Majewski, Project Director for College STAR at ECU, said students consistently value a welcoming learning environment. “They appreciate instructors who are consistently available during office hours and appear willing and happy to help students,” she said.

“I try to send out positive messages,” Dr. Goodwillie said, “I want my students to know ‘you can do this’ and it’s my job to make you succeed.”