The purpose of the Centred on Learning Innovation Fund is to stimulate the development, implementation, and assessment of innovative teaching and learning. Click on 'Abstract' to read more about this year’s proposals:
Empowering International Students to Succeed in First Year Biology
Dora Cavallo-Medved, Department of Biological Sciences
First-year international students face the new and challenging demands of post-secondary life with the added pressures of adjusting to a different cultural environment. Although there have been many research studies that have focused on addressing the complex issues facing international students, in the Department of Biological Sciences there is currently no mechanism to identify and address their unique learning challenges within the first year biology courses. Considering that successful completion of these courses is a mandatory requirement before admission into all upper level biology courses and that enrollment of international students into the Biology program is growing each year, it is imperative that strategies to overcome these challenges are established and implemented. In our proposed study, we plan to develop a detailed questionnaire that will be aimed at identifying the unique learning challenges facing international students in their first year biology courses. We also will invite these international Biology students to participate in a focus group that will use the data collected from the questionnaire to develop potential strategies to improve teaching and learning practices within the first year biology courses. Although we aim to specifically meet the needs of international biology students, extrapolation of these results may prove useful to other disciplines. Our long term goal is to successfully implement these strategies to empower future international students to succeed academically in the first year courses, which will enhance their first year experience and increase retention within the program.
A Checklist for Evaluating Course Curriculum and Teaching
Jim Coyle & Irene Carter, School of Social Work
Higher education instructors are expected to compose course curriculum, effectively teach lessons, and assess student learning, oftentimes with limited training. While there are many resources available to help instructors, a checklist of elements associated with effective course creation and presentation would be a helpful guide for new instructors and could also assist experienced instructors or academic units when planning new courses or reviewing the effectiveness of existing courses. This project will use a formative evaluation process to develop a Course Evaluation Checklist. An initial checklist would be drafted from a synthesis of pedagogical literature, and focus groups, composed of faculty, students, and learning specialists, would review proposed checklists and suggest improvements. Comments from instructors who use the checklist to evaluate individual courses will guide final revisions. The Course Evaluation Checklist would be a user friendly tool that could be distributed by the Centre for Teaching and Learning or through new instructor orientations and trainings.
Efficacy of MyLearning Products in Student Assessment
Ken Cramer, Department of Psychology
Publishers of resources for secondary and post-secondary education are becoming more innovative in developing tools for mastery of the course material (e.g., MyPsychLab, MyChemLab, MyEconLab). For example, MyPsychLab is composed of pre-tests (an assessment of pre-existing mastery of the material), which can only be completed once and post-tests (which are completed after the text is read), which can be taken repeatedly until mastery of the material is reached. Given that such a tool is assumed to promote mastery of the material, educators expect that student performance on these tools would be related to course performance in more traditional formats. Only one study to date (Cramer et al., under review) has offered support for MyPsychLab, identifying a sizeable relationship between MyPsychLab, and five additional assessment tools of course performance in large sample of students enrolled in an introductory Psychology course. Results indicated that MyPsychLab was significantly correlated with all other measures of course performance. Moreover, data reduction techniques revealed that performance on MyPsychLab was the highest loading item on a factor that assessed overall course performance and psychology mastery. The proposed project will evaluate the efficacy of other MyLearning products utilized here at the University of Windsor, in hopes of expanding the analysis to other campuses around the country.
Assessing Likelihood of Disengagement and Academically Risky Behaviours in University Students
Kathryn Lafreniere, Rosanne Menna, Ken Cramer, & Stewart Page, Department of Psychology
Programs that intend to enhance university student engagement, and thereby increase student success and retention rates, often fail to consider individual differences in students that can contribute to disengagement, academically risky behaviours, and dropout. Previous research by our team has examined personality predictors of risk-taking in late adolescent university students (Lafreniere, Menna, Cramer, & Out, 2009). Our previous research identified proactive rebelliousness (a construct from reversal theory) and low effortful control (i.e., difficulty in suppressing tendencies to avoid a task) as predictors of the likelihood of engaging in academically risky behaviour. Other research by our team (Tippin, Lafreniere, & Page, 2010) examined predictors and consequences of having a learning orientation (i.e., being primarily oriented towards acquiring new knowledge and mastering material) versus a grade orientation (i.e., where attainment of high grades is the primary goal). We found that students with a strong learning orientation tended to be older and were higher in conscientiousness and openness, while students high in grade orientation tended to be younger, lower in conscientiousness and openness, and higher in neuroticism. The proposed research will examine the influence of these temperamental and personality constructs in relation to learning orientation and grade orientation, to examine their relative contributions to the prediction of engaging in academically risky behaviours and dropping out of university. Findings from this investigation will contribute to knowledge and recommendations for enhancing the success of programs aimed at increasing student engagement.
Providing Math Assistance Online: Assessment of Student Learning
Dragana Martinovic, Faculty of Education & Justin Lariviere, Learning Specialist and Director of the Mathematics and Statistics Learning Centre
Tutoring in any subject is usually face-to-face. Due to proliferation of distance education (especially education conducted over computer networks), educational institutions started experimenting with online tutoring. It was soon determined that communicating online has both advantages and disadvantages, some of which are unique to mathematics. The positive side is that the interlocutors are encouraged to write about different stages in problem solving, including articulating their difficulties. This successful strategy is part of the ‘commented problem-solving protocols’ method (TEPs, Powell & Ramnauth, 1992), where students provide details illustrating their understanding of the problem, as well as reasons and justifications for their theories and results. Such protocols contain explanations of student thinking, evidence of comprehension and supporting arguments. Students write for somebody who needs the full information about the matter in question. Students therefore go through a process of self-explanation and repair their own mental models more effectively than if somebody else does it for them (Chi, 1996). In reality, online help in mathematics rarely reaches these levels. Students often just send the questions they have trouble with, which makes it difficult for tutors to properly diagnose the problem (Chi, 1998) and develop appropriate teaching strategy (Martinovic, 2005). Another problem is that learners often detect a mental conflict only if they obtain an incorrect result, and may not recognize that they have misconceptions. In this study, we attempt to deal with the stated problems and design an online help environment using a CLEW site empowered with open access mathematics software, GeoGebra.
Alternative Course Assessment for Continuous Instructional Improvement and Student Engagement
Zbigniew Pasek, Industrial & Manufacturing Systems Engineering & Paul Rousseau, Political Science
Curriculum development guidelines require for courses to have defined objectives, outcomes and assessment tools. Such a view, while consistent with generally accepted instructional and institutional aims, is not necessarily aligned with the students’ view, who usually do not interpret objectives and outcomes in the same way. Often times these cognitive, affective, and skill objectives and outcomes are not communicated clearly to the students, who treat them as external expectations to which they need to conform, rather than embrace as their own needs. It is thus important to close that gap by exploring the student own reflective view, and use such information for informed course redesign. Such an alternative assessment process has also potential to increase students’ professional self-awareness, as it engages them proactively and creatively. The project will involve review of best practices in instructional design assessment systems (IDAS), including current usage of instructional design assessment at the University of Windsor. Some preliminary data have already been collected, but these early results, however, need to be expanded, generalized, and based on a more systematical and rigorous approach.
The main body of the project work is concerned with creating student survey instruments, enabling collection of data on the students’ learning process in a course, and leveraging their personal perspective. The surveys may ask questions, such as, for example, "What did you learn in this course and how do you know it?" Such questions need to be framed within confines of the original course objectives and outcomes.
Using Student Input to Enhance Academic Success and Student Retention in the Biological Sciences
Kirsten Poling, Department of Biological Sciences
Retention of students can depend upon many factors, one of which is academic support and success. In order to determine the factors that influence academic success in the Department of Biological Sciences, this project aims to intensively survey and interview students to identify what they perceive to be the problematic issues during the first year of university. In addition, higher level students will be surveyed to determine how they managed to successfully transition during their first year, and to determine what they feel are the major academic issues that they still face. A final critical aspect to the proposed project will compile the information from higher level students into a searchable online database as well as into a “Survival Guide for the Biological Sciences at the University of Windsor” that will be provided to all incoming students in the Biological Sciences. The ultimate goal is to not only identify the needs of transitioning first year students, but also to provide future first year students with solutions to the common academic issues that they face.
A Strategy to Evaluate Teaching and Learning Experience by Employing Engineering Concepts
Daniela Pusca, Mechanical, Automotive, and Materials Engineering
For the purpose of this study, faculty and teaching assistants engaged in collaborative endeavors will use engineering tools and concepts as assessment strategies in order to improve the quality of the first year design course required not only by the changes in the curriculum, but also by the opportunities that will be available for the instructor and for the students in the new Centre for Engineering Innovation (CEI)- iPads. The engineering concepts and principles usually used to improve the quality and productivity in industrial settings will be employed in this case to identify the best teaching and learning methods and techniques, and to assess their effectiveness in achieving the educational objectives and learning outcomes. Collaborative reflection will play an important role in shaping and assessing teaching approaches, which will initially be investigated using the Product Design Specifications (PDS) document, morphological charts, and the decision matrix (DM). After the course design will be finalized, the quality of the proposed teaching methods will be assessed using the Quality Function Deployment (QFD). This study will provide, by making the necessary changes and assumptions, a clear methodology on how to employ specific concepts and techniques to improve the quality of the instructional program, in the context of the use of new technology.
Assessment in Clinical and Experiential Learning Contexts
Gemma Smyth & Marcia Valiante, Faculty of Law
This project is intended to support the development of clinical and experiential learning assessment mechanisms at the Faculty of Law, University of Windsor. Because of the increasing numbers of clinical offerings at the Faculty of Law, there is concomitant need to develop meaningful and pedagogically supportable assessment mechanisms that meet both program-level and professional outcomes (ie) Faculty of Law and Federation of Canadian Law Societies. Although the materials will be tested through the Environmental Law Clinic, which is beginning as a for credit course offering in September 2012, they should be widely applicable to clinical programs. Ideally, the grant will also support the development of other experiential learning assessment tools for faculty.