STLHE 2014

STLHE 2014 Conference

Concurrent Sessions 10: Research Paper Presentations

Friday, June 20, 2014, 9:30 - 10:00am (30 minutes)
McArthur Hall, Queen's University

CON10.01 – Redesigning for Student Success: Curriculum, Classroom Communities, and Cultivating Transformative Learning (Room A236)
Launa Gauthier (Queen’s University)

In this paper presentation, I will discuss the first stage of a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) project that is based on my experiences of designing and teaching a university student success course (SSC) for students who are on academic probation. The purpose of this paper is to build a case for the benefits of higher education (HE) instructors working with students to develop classroom communities of practice as a context for cultivating potentially transformative learning experiences. According to Wenger (2006), a community of practice exists when a group of people “engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour... [and they] share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (para. 4). In this paper, I give a brief history of the original SSC, discuss the rationale of my redesign, elaborate on the theoretical framework for the new course curriculum, outline some of the key processes behind planning the course (including engaging key stakeholders), provide an overview of the course guide, and briefly touch on the next phase of my SoTL project. 

The original course that prompted my research and curriculum design work was developed by the Office of Student Experience of a small university within which I worked. The objective for this course was to support students in developing the personal and academic skills that they need in order to increase their GPA and maximize their experiences at university. In 2011, I redesigned the curriculum of this course. I aimed to change its modular design, based predominantly on a cognitive understanding of learning, to a more emergent design that supports learning in a community of practice.  I started with the assumption that through fostering a sense of community in the classroom, it could be possible to increase the shared value and relevance of academic content and cultivate a feeling of belonging among learners. In short, I saw the importance of providing a curricular framework to support open and safe contexts where students feel trust, respect, and openness to explore ideas together (Cranton, 2002). 

CON10.02 – The Gender Gap and Physics Identity: Instructional Strategies that Work (Room A239)
James Fraser and Anneke Timan (Queen’s University)

A persistent gender and minority gap in the STEM fields—particularly in both conceptual understanding and retention in programs—has concerned educators and policy makers for decades. Though women make up the majority of undergraduate students, in our particular context of physics, they represent only 20% of undergraduate degrees.  We found that in a study of 790 students from our institution, physics *identity* plays a significant role, distinct from prior knowledge, in mediating the gender gap in conceptual understanding and intention to continue in a physics program. This result suggests the optimistic viewpoint that interventions that help students develop their physics (or STEM) identity could yield important gains, opening STEM fields to a wider diversity of perspectives and viewpoints.

But how can an instructor foster identity development in the context of a large first year class?  The community of practice model is a well-validated framework shown to foster identity growth. Highly interactive courses that help students to work together in a positive environment show many of the characteristics of this approach.  Could the well documented positive gains in learning achieved by highly interactive courses compared to traditional lecture be a result not only of successful engagement of students in the material but in successful engagement of students in developing their STEM identity?  Previous work based on stand-alone single institution studies yielded contradictory results suggesting that not all interactive approaches are equally effective at overcoming the gender gap.  Here we use three different models of equity to complete a meta-analysis of results from 26 classes from 9 institutions to answer this question, examining pretest and posttest measures of fundamental conceptual understanding. We found that while collaborative, community-building instructional strategies did not completely eliminate the conceptual understanding gender gap, courses that applied community-building teaching strategies reduced the direct gender gap (p = .025, d = 1.27), normalized gender gap (p < .001, d = 1.24), and gender gap effect size (p = .009, d = .63) in only one term. Contrary to a zero-sum perspective on the gender gap, we found that increased equity through community-building instructional strategies benefited both genders.  This presentation will include an overview of both identity mediation and meta-analysis studies, as well as practical approaches that instructors can adopt to help their students build a community of practice in their first-year STEM course.

CON10.03  - Transformation and Disciplinary Differences: How Students Respond to Instructional Innovations (Room A333)
Donna Ellis (University of Waterloo)

Current higher education research literature encourages faculty members to transform their teaching and assessment methods as a means of improving student learning, but these methods have not been widely adopted, making them instructional innovations (Christensen Hughes & Mighty, 2010).  These innovative methods are typically learner-centred, requiring students to be more involved in and responsible for their learning than in traditional lecture-and-exam courses.  Given that these methods are often new or not expected for students, not all students willingly engage with them (Pepper, 2010).  Students’ resistance to engagement can discourage faculty members from trying new ways of teaching and may detract from educational developers’ credibility with their clients when their recommended methods that are not well received by students.

An exploratory, qualitative research study was conducted to investigate why students may resist engaging with instructional innovations as a first step in determining how such resistance may be mitigated.  An embedded case study design was employed (Yin, 2009), with questionnaires (n=229) being used in two sections of one course and follow-up interviews with 17 students serving as individual cases.  Classroom observations, document analyses, and interviews with the course instructor were also data sources.  The course employed four instructional methods that were innovative for second-year Economics courses:  interactive lectures, extensive group work (80% of course grade), choice of group assignments, and random attendance checks.  It also had large enrolments of students from different years of study and programs and had an experienced faculty member who had witnessed student resistance to the instructional methods over the past few years.  Data were coded according to an initial codex based on an extensive literature review, and the codex was modified as needed to better represent the data collected.  The findings revealed eight thematic barriers on what discourages students from engaging with innovative instructional methods.      

One key barrier involved students’ conceptions about instruction.  One variable that appeared to affect this theme was the academic discipline of a course.  Students were asked in the interviews whether the innovative methods would work in courses in their own discipline.  Overwhelmingly, students from “hard” disciplines (Biglan, 1973) indicated that one or more of the methods would not work in their discipline.  In this conference session, the data and analyses behind this finding will be shared and connected to existing literature after a brief overview of the research study.  Time will be left to discuss the possible implications of this finding on transforming students into active learners in different types of disciplines. 

CON10.04 – Developing Professional and Academic Identities in First Year Undergraduate Business Students (Room A339)
Ian Deamer and Hilary Duckett (Plymouth University)

Universities are expected to be instrumental in transforming young people into highly knowledgeable, skilled, motivated academics and professionals.  Students, particularly those studying business degrees, need to quickly appreciate that whilst at University they are developing an academic and professional identity that will be used by others to make judgements about them.  During the first year, they need to acquire the knowledge and skills to ensure these identities are developed as they would wish.  They also need to know how to appraise their development and become reflective professionals.

The learning experience offered to students needs to reflect a world where information about the individual is made readily available through interactions with social media and the internet in general.  Students need to learn how to deal with their exposure and, often unintended, lack of privacy.

At Plymouth we have themed our personal development modules (first and second year undergraduates) to take into account the responsibility students have to develop academic and professional identities and to minimise the risk of these being contaminated by their internet publicised social and personal identities.

We are conducting research to consider how effective we have been and will present our progress.  We hope that this will stimulate discussion not only about our choice of methods but our findings to date.

CON10.05 – Learn How to Learn: Learning Module Program (Room A342)
Ken Cramer and Lisa Plant (University of Windsor)

Whether students acquire basic learning skills through special workshops or in the classroom, research shows modules on time management, exam strategies, and both reading and note-taking techniques increase student success in their coursework (e.g., MacCann, Fogarty, & Roberts, 2012; Miranda, Webb, Brigman, & Peluso, 2007). These skills create a framework from which students can learn effectively. There is reason to believe that students will make use of resources provided to them (Peat, Taylor, & Franklin, 2005), and that students who acquire these modular skills prior to the midterm will be able to apply them to the present evaluation, though they may not be especially motivated to learn the skills. Conversely, students who have already received a course’s performance evaluation should be more motivated to learn the materials presented in the modules and, thus, perform better. We evaluated whether learning modules could transform students’ learning experience and incorporate them into their learning framework for improved performance. Two preliminary studies were conducted to examine the usefulness of learning modules for students in a first year course. We compared students’ midterm and examination scores across those who received two modular skill sets (text reading and exam strategies) before or after the midterm. Relative motivation, interest, and perceived effectiveness were measured. Results from these studies will be presented in this session.

We are presently undertaking steps to offer and track online learning modules (e.g., time management, note taking, study skills, and test taking skills) across several years of university, beginning in the first year. Longitudinal student progress will be monitored to track student performance from their entry to university through to graduation. This program (once demonstrably successful) would offer many future opportunities to educational institutions across the country by transforming the learning experiences of all students embarking on post-secondary studies for the first time. These students attend their classes with a variety of educational foundations and skills; this program will ensure these students are given a rich educational skill set to learn effectively in today’s context of higher learning. This presentation will include an introductory scenario, questions and answers, a survey of learning modules, and a discussion section for audience engagement.

CON10.06 – Exploring a Blended Learning Model for Information and Geospatial Literacy: A Qualitative Study (Room A240)
Catherine Chiappetta-Swanson, Michelle Vine, John Maclachlan, and Jay Brodeur (McMaster University)

Participants will be acquainted with the results of a qualitative study examining a newly implemented blended (face-to-face and online) instructional model for geospatial and information literacy in the first year Social Sciences Inquiry program at McMaster University. Through focus groups with teaching assistants (TAs), instructional assistants (IAs), instructors and students we explored the following questions: 1) how well do students learn and apply geospatial and information fluency skills using online modules? and, 2) how satisfied are users with the new blended learning model?

The utilization of online technologies provides an opportunity to foster inquiry-based learning and broaden the student experience. Educators and learners are challenged to identify how useful these blended learning models are both for learners and instructors (Bednarz & Kemp, 2011).  Study results reveal one advantage of using online modules is the change in the context of classroom and lab experiences by freeing instructors and TAs to provide additional assistance to students. A disadvantage was the perceived pedagogical burden on course instructors who suggested that “library” support services and long-term planning, which includes instructors and students, are critical components of blended learning, for students (e.g., computer access, software, Internet connection), TAs (e.g., presentation) and instructors (e.g., course development needs, technical assistance). Key areas identified for module improvement include: increasing interactivity, developing generic skills-based modules, and on-going availability to upper year students.

We conclude that an opportunity exists to explore potential support services for this blended learning model, particularly as it relates to local and timely technical support in order to update digital resources. Respondents also illustrated the importance of engaging students in the process of blended learning model development. These results will spark a discussion among conference participants as to how other institutions deliver inquiry-based course content and the successes and challenges they experience.

CON10.07– Analytics and Online Learning at an Australian Tertiary Education Institute (Room A207)
Shaun Boyd (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE)

We have used a systematic approach of the use of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), managed at an institutional level, to transform learning and teaching experiences at an Australian tertiary education institute. Through an analysis of systems data analytics, we studied access to and use of the VLE by diverse cohorts of students over time.

Northern Melbourne Institute of Technical and Further Education (NMIT) has a long history of vocational education and training (VET) with large student cohorts, and more recently offered higher education (HE) courses with small but rapidly growing student numbers. The Institute has an integrated approach to the diverse student cohorts with a focus on providing pathways to further study and support for transition in particular from VET into HE courses. Online engagement is an important strategy in our blended learning and teaching approach and in achieving integration.

We will describe the implementation of the VLE in three stages. In 2011-2012, we introduced online learning and teaching using our VLE (Moodle) in all HE subjects using a model of prototyping and piloting, template development, and implementation (stage 1). In December, 2012, we evaluated the status of online learning and teaching in VET (stage 2) to provide a starting point for the same model for design and development initiated in 2013 across selected VET courses (stage 3). Professional development for staff (teachers, administrators) at multiple levels and support for students, included strategically timed structured (e.g. workshops) and unstructured (e.g. one-to-one on demand) support.

We will present simple analytics indicating access (Google analytics) and use (Moodle learning analytics) of the VLE at each stage and consider trends over time. Use was categorised as: basic (transmission of content); intermediate (transmission, self-directed learning); or advanced (transmission, collaboration replacing face-to-face learning).  We are specifically interested in the social constructivist aspects offered by online learning and the engagement of learners and teachers. We compare VLE use by cohorts of students to identify effective strategies for diverse contexts. Analysis of systems data should help to design more effective and efficient online learning and teaching environments, and further tailor learning for individuals. We will discuss benefits and limitations in the data collected and its analysis in our context. We will describe aspects of the project and discuss their importance in terms of engagement with technology and satisfaction of stakeholders.

CON10.08– Is the Second Time the Charm for Students Repeating Introductory Finance? (Room A317)
Ernest Biktimirov and Michael Armstrong (Brock University)

Many undergraduate students fail one or more of their courses and consequently need to repeat them. Moreover, students sometimes repeat courses that were barely passed the first time, in order to improve their mark and maintain their major or honors status. This means that university classes often contain a mixture of students: most are brand new to the course, but some have previous experience with it. Introductory courses are especially likely to have such mixtures.

This mixing raises an interesting question: does the difference in prior experience lead to a corresponding difference in course outcomes? In other words, are the repeating students generally more successful than the first time students because of their previous experience? Or are they less successful given their unsatisfactory outcomes the first time through?

Although a large body of educational literature examines various factors related to student performance in introductory courses, the practice of repeating a course has largely been ignored. The main objective of this research paper presentation is to share the results of the empirical study that examines the relation between prior course experience and subsequent performance in the introductory finance course.

The study’s sample consists of students who entered an undergraduate business program at Brock University in 2005. All the course marks and demographic data used in this study came from the university registration system, not from student surveys; this avoids the tendency of the latter to overstate actual performance.

The results of this study show that students who completed the course in the past with a failing or passing grade demonstrate a considerable grade improvement on their subsequent attempt. Moreover, after taking into account student GPA, students who previously passed the course significantly outperform new students. Students who failed the course in the past show only a marginally higher grade compared to new students. In contrast, the performance of students who dropped or withdrew from the course is not significantly different from the performance of new students.

The session will start with a brief review of the literature on student performance in the introductory finance courses. It will then describe the data set used, descriptive statistics, and correlation analysis results. The main part of the session will discuss the regression analysis of the relationship between various explanatory factors and student performance in repeated courses. The session will conclude with questions from the audience.

CON10.09– Enhancing Student Interest in the Biomedical Sciences Using Novel Teaching Modalities: A Focus on Curriculum Development? (Room A313)
Danielle Bentley (University of Toronto)

The broad field of biomedical sciences includes subject areas that can be extremely content heavy. When an exceedingly large quantity of information is packed into a single course it can be difficult as an instructor to incorporate curricular elements that stimulate genuine student interest. In order to stimulate this interest, novel teaching modalities have been incorporated into a first year course in Human Anatomy and Physiology with overwhelming success. All of the in-course modalities are heavily routed in the broader theme of constructivist learning strategies. Two examples include Movement Guided Learning© (MGL) and Inquiry Guided Learning Projects (IGLPs) which represent an in-class modality and a modality that spans the entire semester respectively.

MGL is a tutorial-styled learning package that guides students through exercises, stretches, and functional applications that build on previously taught information pertaining to bones and muscles of the human body. Formal assessments before and after the MGL activity indicate that students not only improve their academic performance on open-ended musculoskeletal concept questions (t(9) = -3.65, p=.005), but they also perceive the MGL activity positively with all students (100%) indicating they believe it should be used in future classes. The MGL activity has not only been a successful means of enhancing student interest but it has also provided an opportunity for students to independently construct deeper, more integrated concept understanding.

An additional modality, representative of a strategy that spans the entire semester, is the IGLP. These projects have been designed following common elements of student inquiry including the self-selection and research of a question pertaining to the study of the human body. In addition, the IGLPs were also designed to meet specific self-reported student needs. For example, students self-report on a pre-semester survey (using a 10-pt Likert scale) a lack of confidence in the exploration of research on a scientific topic (6.4 +/- 1.1). To address this need, while also meeting student self-identified desires to develop skills in effective communication (8.1 +/- 1.8) and resource acquisition (8.5 +/- 1.9), IGLPs were facilitated in a unique way. The IGLPs included four Information Sessions and three Check-Ins that guided students through the stages of the Information Search Process (ISP): initiation, selection, exploration, formulation, collection, and presentation. The guiding aspect was imperative as students indicated poor self-perceived abilities at selecting research questions (6.6 +/- 1.7), exploring answers to research questions using peer-reviewed literature (6.4 +/- 1.2), and effectively communicating answers (6.3 +/- 1.5).

Both the MGL and IGLPs are examples of the many novel teaching modalities that are being used to enhance student interest in a course of Human Anatomy and Physiology. These novel modalities, embedded at various points within course curriculum, are effective strategies for stimulating interest and inspiring curiosity in our students.

CON10.10– Expert-guided Crowd-sourced Learning Content: A Pilot Study in a Large Enrolment Introductory Science Course (Room A301)
Simon Bates and Firas Moosvi (University of British Columbia)

We describe the implementation of and results from a pilot study to extend the pedagogy of the Flipped Classroom (FC) approach, by tasking students taking the course to become co-producers of learning content. We describe a pedagogical framework and associated procedures for using student-produced learning content extensively within FC courses, together with processes to evaluate and curate this content. Results from an initial small-scale pilot, together with more extensive deployment in several sections of a large enrolment introductory course in Physics (over 800 students), will be presented.

The implementation methodology is as follows: each week, approximately ¼ of the cohort are tasked with each producing a single learning object of their choice that pertains to the pre-reading material that is set for the whole class. The selected group of students will be supported in undertaking this by a combination of course staff (instructor, TA and recent undergraduate who has taken the course) who will hold an after-hours online tutorial which is recorded for those who cannot attend ‘live’. As with our previous work on student-generated assessment content, this scaffolding activity is critical and can have a significant impact on the quality of what is produced.

The learning objects that the students produce are submitted through the learning management system by the end of the weekly course cycle, and graded by a course TA using a simple rubric (e.g. does not meet / meets / exceeds expectations). Each week, a different group is charged with authoring artifacts, such that each student will be required to produce at least 2 artifacts per semester, for a portion of course credit (~5%). All artifacts will, with the student authors’ permission, be registered as open educational resources under a Creative Commons license, and the best ones will be incorporated into the subsequent class sessions that follow their creation, using a Just-In-Time-Teaching approach (these could be lecture, lab and tutorial sessions, depending on the content). In this model, the role of the instructor shifts towards a curating of content rather than sole producer.

We will present data illustrating aspects of student engagement, student perceptions of their experiences as co-producers of learning materials, and the evaluation of the quality of the materials they produce. This design is both novel and significant, as it tries to address one of the known limitations of the FC approach: not all students acquire the intended familiarity with the content which is presented to them ahead of class time (due to various reasons, including but not limited to, poor study strategies, lack of metacognitive ability to ‘know what it is they don’t know’ when reading an academic text, workload, etc.).The pedagogical design is transferable across a wide range of disciplines and in courses that utilize a FC modality.

CON10.11– Inquiry Learning in Undergraduate Anatomy: Students’ Experiences of Community and Creative Investigation for Learning (Room A227)
Lauren Anstey (Queen’s University)

Traditionally, anatomy courses have consisted of didactic lectures that present a myriad of anatomical terms to students (Marx, Honeycutt, Clayton, & Moreno, 2006; Sugand, Abrahams & Khurana, 2010). Students have often approached this material with surface learning techniques that encourage rote learning and recall of disconnected facts (Biggs, 2003; Pandey and Zimitat, 2006). Anatomy education has thus been challenged to develop contemporary approaches to teaching and learning with an aim to move beyond factual recall to elicit from students meaningful and deep understandings of the discipline (Hermiz, O’Sullivan, Lujan & DiCarlo, 2011). Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is one such pedagogy that involves student’s active and increasingly independent investigation of questions and problems that are of interest to them (Dewey, 1938; Lee, Greene, Odom, Schechter, & Slatta, 2004). Utilizing a qualitative hermeneutic phenomenological methodology, this study investigated anatomy students’ experiences of an inquiry-based project as a component of a second year undergraduate anatomy course. The inquiry project required that students pose and investigate an anatomically relevant question of interest in small groups of six. In this presentation, the curriculum design of this inquiry project will be discussed. Findings from the research study will demonstrate how this curriculum enabled students to: form effective learning communities; actively and creatively explore anatomy from new perspectives; and develop a range of skills useful both within and beyond the classroom.