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:
Developing a UWindsor Guide to Assist Department Heads Evaluate Teaching
Dave Andrews, Department of Kinesiology; Dora Cavallo-Medved, Department of Biological Sciences; and Chitra Rangan, Department of Physics
As evidenced by the Ontario Universities’ Teaching Evaluation Toolkit: Feasibility Study (Wright et a., 2014), there is a rising discourse on teaching evaluation in higher education in the province. The University of Windsor does not currently provide any formal learning support to Department Heads (DHs) with regard to how to interpret and report faculty members’ evidence of teaching effectiveness (e.g., student ratings of instruction, teaching dossiers, peer feedback). To address this shortcoming, the proposed project will use a collaborative approach to develop a guide of best practices for evaluating teaching across campus. The guide will serve as a starting point for future support of teaching evaluation practices that will benefit other groups such as hiring, and renewal, tenure and promotion (RTP) committees. Two groups of faculty will participate in this project: the research team and a consultation group. The research team will establish a learning community focused on teaching evaluation. They will then interview the consultation group comprised of current or past DHs and faculty who conduct performance reviews and RTP purposes. The interviews will document current practices regarding teaching evaluation within individual units. Through this process, gaps and inconsistencies in practice and knowledge, as well as novel approaches related to teaching evaluation, will be identified and inform the content of the guide. Feedback from the consultation group and Windsor University Faculty Association will be requested to assess the final document.
Developing a Supplementary Student Ratings of Instruction Instrument for Evaluating the Student Experience in Online, Blended, and Technology-Enabled Courses
Nick Baker, Office of Open Learning; Maureen Sterling, Odette School of Business; and Chitra Rangan, Department of Physics
This project will develop a suite of items specifically designed to collect data on the student experience of teaching in online, blended, and technology-enhanced courses across the University, that can be added to the existing SET to provide better information to facilitate enhancement and continuous improvement of courses offered in these delivery modes. We will also develop guides to SETs for both instructors and students, which aim to improve understanding and appropriate use of SET data.
There are a number of key reasons why this project is important at this time:
- The current SET contains no items that specifically address online or technology-enhanced pedagogies. This data is critical to help instructors improve course design and effective use of technology in teaching.
- UWindsor’s strategic plan and SMA both emphasise creating excellent learning experiences for students both on campus and online. Specifically measuring students’ experience of online and technology-enhanced teaching will provide evidence of achieving this goal, but no standard measure currently exists at UWindsor.
- Given the strategic direction towards technology-enabled courses by the MTCU, it is likely that faculty will be designing and delivering online courses during their careers at UWindsor. They need reliable and valid feedback on their technology-enhanced teaching practices and course design to support improvement in teaching effectiveness and student experience.
- The new provincial funding formula will most likely include provision of funding based on evidence of effective teaching which SETs can provide a measure of.
Evaluating the Potential of SET Exploration Tools for Reflective Practice
Phil Graniero, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences; Beverley Hamilton, Office of the Provost; and Charles Macdonald, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Since 2014, the researchers have been developing a suite of Excel-based tools enabling users to visualize, contextualize, and annotate SET data. Users can explore individual course results, longitudinal data (chronologically or by course), and scores in the context of a department or program, or in the context of similar courses. Instructors and academic developers experiencing the prototype tools have consistently expressed desire to explore the applications more deeply with their own data.
This project will finalize the four core SET visualization and analysis tools for distribution and independent use; develop 'recipe-style' instructional materials; and document effective user practices. Through an iterative agile design methodology, instructors will play a key role, directing and confirming the final design decisions while working with their own SET data.
These tools may significantly enhance instructors’ capacity to re-imagine the potential of SET data to inform planning, implementation, and evaluation of instructional change. This project will help instructors engage with student feedback and foster reflective practice – both through the reported SET data and through follow-up inquiry and dialogue – as they seek to improve aspects of the learning environment that are revealed by their new insights.
Teaching Assistants: Evaluating Lab Instructors to Support Development and Improvement in Teaching Skills
Julie Smit and Tanya Noel, Department of Biological Sciences
In many Science departments, including Biology, graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants (GAs and TAs respectively) with lab instructor duties are a vital component of the teaching team. At the University of Windsor, most GAs/TAs teach first and second year undergraduate students in multi-section labs of large courses. Backgrounds and skills vary among GAs/TAs. There are opportunities for GAs and TAs to learn about teaching, including optional events and groups (e.g. GATAcademy and GATA Network) however, it is not clear that there are strong incentives to encourage GAs/TAs to participate in these activities, nor are there opportunities for lab instructors to receive suitable feedback to help them target their skill development. This study will involve collecting information related to evaluating biology lab instructor GAs and TAs and then focus on providing evidence-based recommendations regarding GA/TA evaluations. A survey will be undertaken of current practises in Ontario and those described in the educational literature. Faculty, staff, students, and lab instructors at the University of Windsor will also be consulted. Using face-to-face communications and surveys, two types of information will be collected:
- methods used, if any, to evaluate lab instructor GAs and TAs in large low-level biology courses, and
- perceptions of lab instructors regarding their goals and the value of evaluations. The results of this study will be useful in developing an evidence-based, consistent framework for evaluating biology lab instructors. This work could potentially be applicable to other Science departments.
Myth Busting the SET: Student Retention & Satisfaction
Patricia Weir and James Gauld, Faculty of Graduate Studies and Office of Quality Assurance; Jess Dixon, Department of Kinesiology; and Lori Buchanan, Department of Psychology
Student ratings of instruction (SRI) are critical to student recruitment and retention, institutional reputation and instructor behaviour. However, they are often misunderstood by the professoriate and underused by the institution. We propose to analyse UWindsor Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) scores to provide data to dispel “myths” associated with SRI, to illuminate potential improved practices moving forward, and to inform the professoriate and institution as to the local SET culture. We will also investigate links between SRI and student satisfaction at the undergraduate and graduate level. Building on the work of Hativa (2014), the proposed project will examine relationships between class size, course difficulty, instructor gender etc., with a goal of making explicit the connections between student satisfaction and SRI. Ultimately, the results of this research will assist the University in enhancing the SET process, increase instructor trust, and harness the information they provide to inform current and prospective students of our teaching strengths.