Patrick Cushen and colleagues tackle whether or not students benefit from instructor-provided study guides, in the current issue of Teaching of Psychology (article here). In addition to being a great source for instructors in any field of study, this research is also a wonderful example of experimental SoTL research, and sparked so many research ideas I can’t wait to get off the ground!
Writing assignments are a challenge. Students don’t usually enjoy them, and they can be cumbersome for instructors to grade. Rubrics help, but what else can instructors do make the most of their grading time? Electronic feedback has become more popular in recent years with the growing use of learning management systems. Some previous research has focused on student attitudes toward electronic feedback, and it was found that more than 80% of students would prefer to submit a copy of their assignment online (Bridge & Appleyard, 2008; Hast & Healy, 2016). The present research wanted to investigate how feedback format (electronic vs. handwritten) might affect the quality of instructor comments and subsequent student performance.
Technology in the classroom has been an interesting debate as of late. Technology can be properly incorporated into courses for the benefit of students (i.e., via a polling software), but some instructors oppose its presence altogether. Previous research has shown that frequent laptop and cell phone use is negatively correlated with overall GPA, course grades, and exam grades (Fried, 2008; Junco & Cotton, 2012; Sana, Weston, & Cepeda, 2013). Hutcheon, Lian, & Richard (2019) wanted to investigate how banning personally technology in an intro psych course would impact student perceptions and performance.
Co-teaching involves two instructors who collaboratively design and teach a course. I’ve experienced this practice twice an undergraduate, but overall it’s less common in higher education. This practice could be especially important for professions like nursing or social work where it’s more common that you’re working with a team of professionals instead of individually.
Previous work noted that there are some potential benefits to co-teaching like students are exposed to different points of view and an enlarged knowledge base. Students also have different role models from a single course, and they can see teamwork unfold in real time. This is of course assuming that an effective co-teaching model has been constructed. If an effective co-teaching model is in place, “observing teachers interacting with one another provides a model for students on how to enter into professional relationships and to manage differences in values and opinions while maintaining mutual respect and openness” (Lock et al., 2018, p. 40).
One of my favorite talks at ACT was by Regan Gurung, Andrew Christopher, and Georjeanna Wilson-Doenges. The talk was called “Inquiring Minds Want to Know: A Research Agenda for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.” It was aptly named as they did indeed provide us a much needed SoTL research agenda.
For the current semester, my in-class research centers on investigating the impact of one-on-one meetings with students within the first week of class. I was driven to begin this research because I had mandated that students meet with me at the beginning of the semester, so I could get to know them better than in previous semesters; however, I was unaware of any data supporting the utility of such meetings. As instructors of psychology we encounter hundreds of students (or more) per year. We also know that if students feel a connection to the class or the instructor they are more likely to remain engaged and invested in their education (and just before the time of writing I came across this article: “Student Success in Introductory Psychology: The Value of Teachers Knowing More About Their Students” by Wu and Kraemer (2017) which I will need to read). So, my primary motivation with this project is to figure out how an instructor of psychology can work to form a meaningful connection with all students?
After learning that when students provided feedback multiple times over the course of a semester, they rated the course higher and did better in the course (McDonnell & Dodd, 2017; see our summary of this research here), I wanted to further explore this idea.
Last school year I was tasked with teaching Statistical Methods (a.k.a. introductory statistics). In our department this class is somewhat special in that it's standardized. There are about 5 to 6 sections each semester. Each instructor uses the same lecture slides, delivers a similar lecture, and gives the same quizzes and exams. The original mastermind behind this course wanted the curriculum to be largely student-directed. As part of this new curriculum, we tell students to study exclusively from the book to prepare for assessments as they are designed to very closely follow homework questions in the book. In this case “closely follow” means the exact same questions can appear on the assessment that were part of the assigned homework questions. Depending on the schedule, there are times during the semester where course material is only lectured on for a day before the students are quizzed on it. For these two reasons it seems advantageous to do the homework; however it is not calculated into the student's grade, so not everyone does it despite the potential benefits and me telling them to.