STLHE 2014

STLHE 2014 Conference

Concurrent Sessions 11: Research Paper Presentations

Friday, June 20, 2014, 10:30am - 11:00am (30 minutes)
McArthur Hall, Queen's University


CON11.01 – Student Engagement and Learning Networks: Collaborating on a New Frontier (Room A232)
Heather-Lynne Meacock, Elaine Khoo, and Sischa Maharaj (University of Toronto Scarborough)

A strong integration of linguistically and culturally diverse students into the university enables both a better learning experience at the undergraduate and graduate levels for students, and enriches the broader academic community. The significant increase in the student population over the past decade has brought both the opportunity for enrichment and the challenge of creating relevant co-curricular and academic programming that resonates with the needs and interests of these diverse groups of students.

The University of Toronto Scarborough has a vibrant and diverse student body, with a significant number of students who identify as ‘ESL’ (English as a second language) or ‘multilingual’. In growing numbers, these students have demonstrated their capacity to become actively involved in the unique process of their own learning, through the sustained creation of academic-focused peer networks. This presentation reports on research conducted by the English Language Development Centre (ELDC) and the Student Life Department, which systematically explored students’ perceptions of the academic and engagement benefits of participating in Knowledge Learning Networks on campus. In this session, we will both share our early data and analysis and invite participants to explore the following questions with us:

How did students represent their participation in co-curricular and academic support programming as forming a Knowledge Learning Network (KLN)?
What factors did students suggest influenced their engagement and sustained their motivation to participate in co-curricular programs and KLNs?
How did students represent their self-efficacy and academic identity as changing throughout their course of engagement with particular programming and KLNs?
How did students represent their involvement in their KLNs as helping them with their academic skills and commitments (e.g. specific academic success in courses, exams, study habits, oral communication etc.)?
How did students represent their involvement in KLNs as helping them to navigate their university environment and/ or participate more fully in academic life?

The research included an online survey which was widely disseminated on campus and available to any UTSC student who identified as being linguistically or culturally diverse and identified English as an additional language to their mother tongue. Extended semi-structured individual interviews were also conducted and a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods was used to analyze the data. The findings of this research seek to contribute to the understanding/development/improvement of Knowledge Learning Networks as opportunities for both formal and informal integrated support.

CON11.02 – The Use of an Electronic Learning Portfolio as a Means to Promote Self-Awareness and Accountability for the Learning Process (Room A236)
Nancy McKenzie (McMaster University)

The fast-paced nature of university life promotes a climate where students pay little attention to a piece of work after it has been submitted, resulting in a missed opportunity for learning and skills development through self-analysis and reflection.  The electronic learning portfolio (Desire2Learn platform) was introduced into a third-year undergraduate science laboratory course (Winter 2014; 22 students) as a means to promote self-awareness and accountability for the learning process.  Students created a learning portfolio to document and reflect on their learning goals in the course, their in-class presentation, and the feedback they received on both past and present pieces of work.  The goal of the learning portfolio is to help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and to develop effective strategies for improvement through reflective practice.  Science students have minimal, if any, experience with writing reflections, so students were provided with a series of questions to analyze and address within their reflections.  Statements and claims made within a reflection were supported by artifacts/evidence and uploaded to the learning portfolio, along with the reflection.  Students were required to critically analyze their past work and academic experiences for evidence that supported their identified strengths and weaknesses for a particular attribute (e.g., laboratory technical skills, oral and written communication skills).   The nature of the evidence could be quite diverse (e.g., a written comment on a marked piece of work, a solicited statement from a former supervisor or teaching assistant), and it was the responsibility of the student to ensure that their statements and claims were adequately supported by appropriate evidence.  Revisiting and analyzing past work promoted self-awareness and allowed students to develop their own personalized learning goals.  The use of a learning portfolio to organize and track learning and skills development and to transform passive students into active learners is not discipline-specific and can be adapted to a variety of courses and situations.  The work presented will provide a detailed overview of the initial use of an electronic learning portfolio and its advantages and disadvantages, followed by a discussion period with the audience.

CON11.03 – My Parents Just Don’t Understand: Increasing First Generation Student Retention Rates (Room A239)
Aaron Massecar (University of Guelph)

Research has shown that First Generation Students (FGS), or students whose parents did not attend institutions of higher education, are at a greater risk of dropping out of university. Some estimates put the number above 50%. This is bad for all sorts of reasons, but most important is the detrimental impact that this has on the individual. One of the major reasons for this retention issue has to do with an insufficient support network. When this is coupled with increased pressures from family members to perform at University, because university is seen as an investment (“you’ve got to go to university in order to get a job”, “what are you going to do with a degree in that?”), then students are left with no model to follow and no support network for the specific issues that they face. In order to provide role models and a support network, the First Generation Student Ambassador program was brought together through Writing Services and Student Affairs at the University of Guelph as part of a larger project funded by the Ministry of Education. The Writing Services project focuses on increasing self-efficacy on three levels: basic knowledge of campus resources, improved writing skills, and community outreach and engagement through social media projects.

The presentation will begin with a literature review of best practices across North America for increasing FGS retention. Based on the work of Albert Bandura, self-efficacy will be identified as one of the most important factors that influence retention rates. This background theory will be coupled with specific practices that were used in order to increase feelings of self-efficacy. Part of the intent of this project is to make participants aware of FGS as a demographic group and also to start a broader conversation about increasing retention rates overall.

CON11.04 – More than Course Content: Undergraduate Perceptions of Skill-based Learning Across the Degree (Room A240)
Tanya Martini (Brock University)

Recent accountability initiatives have resulted in an increased emphasis on undergraduate skill-based learning outcomes (LOs) (e.g., critical thinking; teamwork). Researchers interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning have suggested that the literature concerning university LOs is dominated by the perspective of academics and institutions, while students’ perceptions are documented relatively infrequently (Matthews et al., 2013). The absence of student input makes it difficult to “say with any certainty whether students have learned what academics are teaching” (AAC&U, 2002, p. 18). This concern is particularly relevant with regard to students’ acquisition of transferrable skills, which tend to develop across the curriculum rather than within the boundaries of a single unit.

In this session, I intend to describe research that speaks to undergraduates’ understanding of skill-based learning. More specifically, I will present data that speaks to participants’ reports about the skill-based LOs that they felt they had developed during their degree, and their definitions of key skill-based LOs identified by administrators as being important (Council of Ontario Universities, 2007). Participants were psychology majors (N=350) who were at various stages of their degree at a mid-sized Ontario university.

In terms of reports about the skills they were developing, students were most likely to indicate that their degree was fostering time-management skills, followed by communication and teamwork skills. A surprisingly small proportion of participants identified critical thinking or leadership skills among those being developed during the degree. With respect to defining key skill-based LOs, participant responses suggested that their understanding of these skills was somewhat rudimentary. Relatively few responses identified facets of the skill in question (e.g., communication involves reading, writing, listening; teamwork involves cooperating with others and managing tasks). Somewhat unexpectedly, many student definitions described instead how the skill might optimally be done (e.g., communication needs to be clear/succinct; teamwork requires patience).

This session speaks to the importance of transforming the classroom from a place in which individual instructors focus exclusively on learning course content to one in which they help students to understand how their career-related skills are being fostered in their courses. This presentation will also touch on the increased importance of instructors helping students to integrate their thinking about skills that are learned across the entire degree, through both the formal curriculum and the co-curriculum. While much of the talk will focus on presenting data, audience participation will be encouraged by asking attendees to begin by considering those skills that they believe they are fostering through their own courses, and to then speculate about the extent to which their responses are likely to mirror those of their students.

CON11.05 – Transforming MOOCs into Engaging Educational Opportunities: Lessons from an Experiment (Room A333)
Glen Loppnow (University of Alberta)

In the fall of 2013, the University of Alberta offered its first MOOC, Dino101.  The MOOC was taken simultaneously by 22,000 people around the world, as well as 450 University of Alberta students.  Of the University of Alberta students, 400 students took the MOOC under the same conditions as the world-wide audience, but sat a midterm and final exam in person.  Fifty University of Alberta students took the MOOC in conjunction with an in-class experience that also included field trips and active learning.  The MOOC was declared the third best MOOC ever offered and met or exceeded all Alberta Education standards for effective learning.  It also has one of the highest completion rates of any MOOC ever for the 22,000 world-wide audience, and one of the highest passing rates of any University of Alberta course for those 450 students.

The MOOC development started in 2012, with brainstorming and the development of a team of content experts.  Although most MOOCs are simply recorded lectures, the University of Alberta chose to design this course from best principles of instructional design, including constructive alignment of pedagogy, learning outcomes and assessment.  High levels of interactivity were deliberately included.  However, numerous problems and challenges were encountered as the MOOC developed, both from the instructional and production sides.  Significant new territory at an institutional administration level was also unveiled as the MOOC moved closer to fruition.

In this presentation, both the research performed and the results of developing this new practice will be shared with conference participants, followed by discussion amongst all participants.  The results are surprising and they will validate, as well as raise questions about, some of the commonly held paradigms of post-secondary education.

CON11.06 – Transforming the Development of Inquiry Skills: To What Extent does Participation in an Inquiry Course Enhance the Development of Inquiry Skills as Compared to Other Inquiry-Based Opportunities? (Room A334)
Pippa Lock and Rebecca DiPucchio (McMaster University)

The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at McMaster University features two programs: Honours Chemistry and Honours Chemical Biology. While both programs feature inquiry-based integrated labs, only the Honours Chemical Biology program currently features a dedicated inquiry (non-lab) course. Students are initiated into the world of Chemical Biology through a first-semester Level 2 course titled ‘Inquiry for Chemical Biology’. The objectives of the course include the development of inquiry skills such as asking good questions, and accessing the primary literature.

This ethics-approved undergraduate student-led research project examines the perceptions of Chemical Biology students as to the extent they are transformed in the development of their inquiry skills through participation in the Inquiry for Chemical Biology course. It also examines to what extent these skills may be developed through other opportunities (e.g., a co-operative education experience, inquiry-based labs) for both Chemistry and Chemical Biology students. It further seeks to compare the development of inquiry skills in these two student populations, who arrive through different paths at the same Level 3 course, where, in groups, they complete an inquiry project.

Students from Levels 3-5 of the Honours Chemistry and Honours Chemical Biology programs will be surveyed to gather their perceptions as to what extent they have gained or developed certain inquiry skills (as identified by the literature and the Inquiry course syllabus) through participation in the Inquiry course (for Chemical Biology students), and other opportunities (all students). Instructors from the Inquiry course and the Level 3 course will be interviewed, along with a teaching assistant who acts as an inquiry project group mentor from the Level 3 course. Results from the student surveys and the instructor and TA interviews will be presented. Participants will leave the session with a deeper understanding of inquiry learning and inquiry skills, and the role a targeted inquiry course and other inquiry-based activities can play in supporting the development of these skills.

CON11.07 – Exploring Online/Blended Learning: Taking a bottom-up approach to Program Planning in a Teaching and Learning Centre to Transform a 'Traditional' University Environment (Room A339)
Suzanne Le-May Sheffield and Adrienne Sehatzadeh  (Dalhousie University)

MOOCS, eLearning, online learning, and blended/hybrid are buzzwords that have been intensifying around the Dalhousie campus over the last couple of years. Rather than making decisions based solely on general trends, such as those found in the ECAR study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology (2013) and Inside Higher Ed’s Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology (2013), or on our anecdotal experiences of our own university community, we wanted to make context-informed decisions about our professional development programming choices for faculty to ensure best fit.  This is especially the case as Dalhousie is at a pivotal point in its history – with a new President who has just conducted a 100 days of Listening visioning exercise that highlights eLearning as an important direction for our institution.  The recent amalgamation of instructional design staff into the Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT) also provided an opportunity for envisioning CLT development work in this area.

CLT staff believed this was an opportune moment to ask questions about the use of technology in learning and teaching on campus and in the virtual classroom (eLearning). This presentation will focus on a university-wide survey that CLT developed for delivery to Dalhousie students and faculty in the spring of 2013.  Our analysis gave us a wealth of data that has helped the Centre shape faculty and graduate student programming with respect to online learning and classroom technology, allowing us to take an informed approach to creating a roadmap for developing interest in online learning and teaching in our community over the next few years.

By focusing on a transitional approach to faculty development in our traditional university environment, we believe that we can gradually transform attitudes and approaches to online learning, and support development of online and blended courses to complement and expand thinking about classroom learning.  Administrators and educational developers may find our survey results, approach to planning, and our ensuing faculty development programming choices useful in developing their own contextualized approach to faculty development planning.

CON11.08 – What’s in it For Them? The Transformative Experiences of Peer-Mentors (Room A342)
Dale Lackeyram and Jason Dodd (University of Guelph)

Peer mentoring in the educational context provides support, creates challenges and assists mentees in developing approaches to help make meaning of their experiences (Daloz, 1999).  Nora and Crisp (2007) have broadly classified these experiences into four general areas that include the following: psychological and emotional understanding, role-model specification, academic and disciplinary support, and career and professional support.  Peer-mentoring interactions also allow for critical and reflective dialogical encounters to occur in any of these four areas and others unique to the mentor-mentee context, such as teacher-student, boss-employee or learner-learner dyads, for example.

In the context of our peer-mentor programs, the focus is on breaking the hierarchical relationship between mentor and mentee in order to promote a form of engagement and critical dialogue where both can “become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow” (Freire, 2002).  However, the focus on the mentor-mentee exchange has mainly focused on the experiences of the mentee and not on the experiences of the mentor.  Kram (1985) and Allen and Eby (2003) reflect similar sentiments about needing to evaluate the experiences of the mentor when they examined mentoring relationships in organizations and the workplace.  Therefore, this session will focus on the (transformative) nature of the mentor experiences that occur in academic-related peer-mentorship exchanges.

Our current work utilizes the framework proposed by Nora and Crisp (2007) and goes on to demonstrate that a sustainable mentoring experience can be developed when a mentorship program provides opportunities for engagement in psychological and emotional understanding, role-model specification, academic and disciplinary support, and career and professional support.  In this presentation we examine the nature of the mentor experiences in these key areas outlined by Nora and Crisp (2007), and differentiate between experiences that are beneficial versus experiences that are transformative.

CON11.09 – The off-campus classroom: Transforming learning experiences through community partnerships (Room A227)
Kathleen Bortolin (Vancouver Island University)

This session discusses an action research project in which the instructor-researcher designed and implemented a community-based teaching and learning strategy to help undergraduates achieve learning outcomes.  This research project was situated in a teacher education course centered on issues of diversity in education.  Acknowledging that there is little agreement on how to most effectively prepare preservice teachers to work with diverse learners (Cochran-Smith, 2001; Ladson-Billings, 2001), the literature also acknowledges that preservice teachers need experience working with diverse populations in order to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to assist minority students to reach their full potential (Goodlad, 1990; Phillion; Malewski, Sharma & Wang, 2009). For this reason, I was interested in (re)designing an existing diversity-oriented course around a community-based model, and then investigating from a variety of perspectives how the project was experienced. 

Data was collected from students, community partners, and the instructor and analyzed using a qualitative, open-coding approach to inform a holistic understanding of how all participants experienced the project, how community members could be incorporated as co-educators in a teacher education course, and how assumptions of student participants were challenged by the experience. The findings suggest a number of advantages to participating in a community-based learning experience, as well as ways to improve the design and implementation of community-based courses.

This session discusses the potential for transformative learning experiences when students are supported in going beyond the classroom and partnering with experts in the community. Participants will leave this session with an overview of how community-based teaching and learning can be implemented.  As well, participants will be encouraged to share and discuss their own opinions and experiences.

CON11.10 – Online Evaluation of Courses: Advantages, Risks and Challenges (Room A313)
Jovan Groen (University of Ottawa)

In 2012, the University of Ottawa’s Senate Committee on Teaching and Teaching Evaluation began examining the possibility of carrying out online evaluation of courses. Stemming from the works of Adams and Umbach (2012); Crews and Curtis (2011); Dommeyer, Baum, Hanna and Chapman (2004); Gamliel and Davidovitz (2005); Morrison (2011); Nevo, McClean and Nevo (2010); Nowell, Lewis and Handley (2010); and Venette, Sellnow and McIntyre (2010), the committee carefully considered the advantages, risks and challenges of moving from hard copy course evaluation to fully online evaluation. In consultation with various administrative and curriculum committees, the advantages of online evaluation were recognized, but concerns remained regarding how this format may affect the response rate and scores of sub-groups within the University (program, class size, language of instruction, etc.). As such, a pilot project was initiated to assess:

  • the impact of online evaluation on participation rates;
  • the validity of the evaluation results;
  • user feedback (students and professors); and
  • the logistics associated with the online evaluation process.

Working from a randomly sampled list of courses that represent both full-time and part-time instructors, all faculties, and a variety of class sizes, 400 professors were invited to participate in the pilot project by having their course evaluated using the online format in the fall term of 2013. A total of 216 professors agreed to participate and preliminary results indicate a total response rate of 52% for courses evaluated online versus 64% for courses evaluated using the traditional paper-based format. Another 600 invitations to participate in the pilot project will be sent out in the winter term. Initial indications suggest that the relatively high online participation rates may be associated with the maintenance of the mandatory in-class 20 minute evaluation period at the end of the semester. In addition to student questionnaires, feedback will also be collected through focus groups with professors after the course evaluation results and comments from the fall semester have been released.

This session is largely structured as a presentation of the pilot project results. Resources related to the transition from paper-based to online course evaluation will be shared and discussed.

CON11.11 – The Outer Reaches of Inner Space: Creating Transformational Learning Cultures in Business Education (Room A317)
Golnaz Golnaraghi, Ginger Grant, and Anne-Liisa Longmore (Sheridan College)

The demand for innovation within organizations is a world-wide concern. Education is under heavy criticism for failure to produce the workforce needed to meet the innovation challenge and the needed 21st century skill set. In a 2010 McKinsey global survey, 84 percent of executives say innovation is extremely or very important to their company's growth strategy. Successful businesses are looking for employees who can adapt to ambiguity and changing needs, think critically and creatively, and routinely make decisions on their own. Today's economy places value on broad knowledge and skills and the ability to create, analyze and transform information into insight.  The 2013 McKinsey study suggests that employers, education providers and youth have fundamentally different understandings for preparedness for entry-level positions. Students report that experiential learning is the most effective instructional technique, but fewer than half are enrolled in this type of curricula. 

The Faculty of Business at Sheridan College has set out to develop a transformational blended pedagogical model that collaboratively engages the three stakeholders: learners, instructors and employers.  This session provides our applied research findings related to our transformational learning model. 

We embarked on a longitudinal, multi-method study of this transformational model piloted in two business courses (Leadership Development and Creativity in Business), with research objectives to measure the extent of student engagement, exhibited emotions, and social interaction. We also sought to measure student feedback on the learning opportunities that this teaching model provides, as well as explore the relationships of these measures on student satisfaction as a proxy of student success.

The theoretical framework for this model and study draw from the principles of adventure learning (Doering, 2006, 2007; Doering & Veletsianos, 2008; Veletsianos & Kleanthous, 2009; Veletsianos & Doering, 2010; Koseoglu & Doering, 2011), transformational learning (Jarvis, 2006; Mezirow, 1996; Taylor, 1987); reflective practice (Cunliffe, 2009; Bourdieu, 2004; Van Manen, 2001; Brookfield, 1995; Schon, 1987), and Phronesis (Flyvbjerg, 2011, 2012).  This transformational model stresses the importance of constructionist learning experiences grounded in complex, real world issues aligned with curriculum that are student-led, and mediated by collaboration, social interaction and dialogue, emotions, critical reflexivity, and technology.  Instructors are no longer the transmitters of static information, but facilitators and mentors who support the learning process. 

A multi-method research design was used for the study, encompassing online questionnaires designed and administered to students, faculty and employers.  Semi-structured student focus groups were also held to explore experiences in more depth. The data collected and analyzed to date will be presented using statistical analysis, text and content analysis as well as visual analytics.  Time will be afforded for meaningful discussion of the model and findings with the audience offering additional insights into the efficacy of the model in responding to the demands of the new educational paradigms and opening opportunities for transforming the lives of learners and emerging leaders.