University of Colorado System
President’s Teaching and Learning Collaborative: Scholarship of Teaching & Learning
PTLC FACULTY RESEARCH PORTRAITS
Mary Ann Shea, Director
John Basey, Cohort 2007
Convinced that different lab designs impact students’ learning in different ways, John Basey, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, attempted to measure the difference in student learning between six different characteristics of lab design, beginning in 2007. Interested in finding the “optimal lab design,” Professor Basey varied the combination of characteristics throughout two semesters in three classes. The classes selected included both science majors and non-science majors, giving any results an added element of confirmation since the feedback would indicate students’ learning, not just science majors’ learning. Focusing on the students’ attitude toward learning, a previously untapped area of concern for lab design, Professor Basey hoped to show that a generally positive student response aids a lab’s effectiveness in teaching. While this might sound straightforward – students do better in labs they like – Professor Basey’s lab designs and end-of-semester surveys demonstrated convincingly which characteristics of lab design students most appreciate in a concrete analysis, a factor that can be combined with other lab design research and used to create more optimal labs each and every time. Professor Basey has published on this issue in both International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning and Research in Science and Technological Education.
Deborah Haynes, Cohort 2009
Professor Deborah Haynes, University of Boulder at Colorado, was inspired by her course, “The Dialogue of Art and Religion,” to research the effects of explicitly incorporating concentrative practices into her general courses on art and art history. Anecdotal evidence from her aforementioned course led Professor Haynes to believe that students could receive both an individual and communal in-class advantage by employing these concentrative techniques. Concentrative practices, while ritualistic and derived from various world religions, are by no means religion posing as pedagogy. Rather, Professor Haynes made it clear that the most direct benefit of concentrative practices could roughly be termed “mindfulness,” and could help students develop a moment-by-moment awareness of theirs and others’ activities. If nothing else, these practices engendered intentionality for disciplines, Art and Art History, in which careful, patient examination is vital for any analytic or creative success. Indeed, the most immediate effect, Professor Haynes noted, was the improved classroom atmosphere. Students reported feeling less anxious about not only their interaction with Professor Haynes, but also about the obligation to interact and engage in classroom discussions or activities. A respect for others, which Professor Haynes believes (and the students averred) was the result of their bolstered mindfulness, created an atmosphere of sincere collaboration both between student and teacher and between student and student. Even though much of Professor Haynes’s data is based on student feedback, that feedback has been overwhelmingly consistent in its positive assessment. Professor Haynes published on the results of incorporating concentrative practices in the Fall 2009 issue of ARTS Journal.
Clayton Lewis, Cohort 2006
Clayton Lewis, Professor of Computer Science, sought to understand the attitudes and beliefs about computer science among students and faculty. Professor Lewis’s wanted to learn about attitudes and beliefs because previous research has shown that they shape the way students approach a discipline, and he hoped his findings could guide curricular improvements. Data was collected via a survey instrument that Professor Lewis created specifically for this research project. The results demonstrated areas in which students’ attitudes and beliefs aligned with those of faculty and areas where they did not align. In addition, there were some areas of attitudes and beliefs wherein faculty and senior students agreed though faculty and introductory students did not. Professor Lewis has published his research results in Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education Bulletin and in Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery. Since participating in the PTLC as a Faculty Researcher in 2006, Professor Lewis has served the PTLC as a Coach and as a Campus Faculty Coordinator.
Stefanie Mollborn, Cohort 2008
Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder, Stefanie Mollborn was a researcher in the President’s Teaching and Learning Collaborative from 2008 to 2009. Frustrated by the difficulty in getting material to “stick” with students, especially in large classrooms, Professor Mollborn was the first teacher to fully integrate a student response system, or “clickers,” into sociology lectures at CU-Boulder. Not content with the typical usage of clickers, however, Professor Mollborn expanded the types of questions she employed. In addition to questions regarding application of theory she included what came to be known as critical thinking questions and past experience questions. Her project with the President’s Teaching and Learning Collaborative was to study her students’ perceptions of these questions, and to gather information as to how effective her expanded approach was. Her research both corroborated her belief that the clickers aided willing student involvement and confirmed that technology previously relegated to the natural sciences could be effective in sociology as well. In 2008, she presented her findings at the Society for the Study of Social Problems’ annual meeting in Boston.
Mary Nelson, Cohort 2010
As a member of the 2010 Cohort, Mary Nelson researched the effectiveness of oral reviews for math students. A senior instructor in the Applied Mathematics Department at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Dr. Nelson wanted to verify the testimonial success of oral reviews, or orals, by offering them in a course where such reviews previously did not exist. Based on the strong showing of math students in Calculus I and II who participated in orals, Dr. Nelson hoped to extend that learning benefit to Calculus III students. Part of the motivation for this research was to see if a format could be developed whereby orals might be integrated into Calculus III in a permanent manner, much as they have always been offered for Calculus I or II. Unfortunately, there were not enough faculty members to facilitate orals in the same way they are practiced in the beginning two sequences. Orals, as they are realized in Calculus I and II, consist of voluntary, ungraded meetings the two days before the final exam. In these meetings, students split into small groups and answer conceptual questions put to them by a group facilitator, who is often a teaching assistant (they have some resemblance to think-aloud exercises). The goal, of course, is to understand the ideas behind the math, helping students move away from simple “pattern matching.” The answer to Dr. Nelson’s practical dilemma in Calculus III, she hoped, was to design the questions usually handled by an orals facilitator and allow the students to conduct the orals themselves. Class space and specific meeting times would still be in place, but the students themselves would be responsible for this exercise, and would be able to carry it through, Dr. Nelson reasoned, because most of them would have experience with the previous year’s orals. Though her hard data is still coming together, in some respects, student feedback for Dr. Nelson has been very positive.
Colorado Springs Campus
Radu Cascaval, Cohorts 2007 and 2011
Teaming with Dr. Gene Abrams in 2007, Dr. Radu Cascaval, professor of mathematics at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, attempted to evaluate the benefits of providing archived online lectures to students throughout the course of their semester in math. At the heart of Professor Cascaval’s investigation was the desire to understand how much a pointed, relevant use of online learning systems could be in a traditional classroom. Online classes make use of videos and archived material on a regular basis, and Professor Cascaval, with his partner and mentor Professor Abrams, hoped to show that online learning modules were useful in traditional mediums as well. They conducted focus groups to obtain qualitative data and a comprehensive web survey to collect quantitative data. Their information indicated a high rate of student satisfaction as well as improved student learning, especially in courses typically considered to be more difficult than average. Professor Cascaval was able to publish the research in Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. Back with the President’s Learning and Teaching Collaborative, Professor Cascaval is currently investigating a more specific use of computational tools, hoping to show the relevance of incorporating such tools throughout the math program for the benefit of math majors’ career prospects.
Elaine Cheesman, Cohort 2007-08
Assistant Professor of Special Education Elaine Cheesman wanted to understand more about improving the reading-related skills of teacher candidates in a special education (SPED) teacher preparation program. Many teacher candidates in SPED teacher preparation programs were themselves special education students and thus have low skill levels in the areas of phonemic awareness and phonics. Having low skill levels in these areas, however, can create difficulties when these teacher candidates must teach reading to their own classroom students, so studied an intervention aimed at improving phonemic awareness and phonics skills. Professor Cheesman created a survey instrument and then used a pre-test/post-test design to measure changes in her participants’ levels of reading-related skills. Professor Cheesman found that specific, direct practice improved skill levels of her participants, though some skills (i.e., identifying irregular words, counting syllables) were not were not improved. Her results were published in the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, and she presented her work at the Annual Conference of the International Dyslexia Association. Locally, Professor Cheesman gave a presentation about her PTLC research project to the UCCS Special Education Department. Since participating in the PTLC as a Faculty Researcher in 2008, Professor Cheesman has served the PTLC as a Coach and as a Campus Faculty Coordinator.
Suzanne MacAulay, Cohort 2007-08
The pressing concern for Suzanne MacAulay, Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, in her PTLC research was to determine the effectiveness of the Classroom Assessment Technique known as Annotated Portfolios in fostering students’ critical awareness of artistic and intellectual processes. She also sought to determine whether Annotated Portfolios affected student engagement or investment in interdisciplinary learning. At the end of the semester, the portfolios of her art history students were assessed for the quality of synthesis apparent in the annotations. Professor MacAulay found that most students successfully integrated course material and creative action in innovative ways. She believes annotated portfolio projects to be ideal vehicles for assessment not only in the arts but also in academic, critical and theoretical subjects, which interpret and analyze the arts. Professor MacAulay has published her work in the peer-review journal Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy. She has also presented her work at the peer-review MUSE (Measuring Unique Studies Effectively) Conference. In addition, Professor MacAulay has discussed her work at numerous local meetings and forums and served as a mentor to PTLC Faculty Researchers.
Carmen Stavrositu, Cohort 2012
Carmen Stavrositu, Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, wants to know if Facebook, Wikipedia, and other social media can be turned into effective tools for online learning. Professor Stavrositu believes that, due to the surge in online learning, the virtual classroom and its pros and cons must be investigated as critically and thoroughly as the physical classroom. With students so invested in social media sites already, her research seeks to understand if such an investment can be drawn on for the sake of online learning. Online learning is perhaps particularly suited to take of advantage of social media, she proposes, because social media is the most adept online format for creating and maintaining communities. In effect, social media potentially offers the most reliable source for creating online learning communities that most accurately parallel traditional learning communities, an important part of almost any pedagogical environment. Currently underway, Professor Stavrositu’s research will focus on the same online course, taught by herself for three semesters. Each semester she will use a different combination of social media and collect student feedback in an attempt to verify the efficacy of any given combination. Professor Stavrositu hopes not only to present and disseminate her findings throughout her own campus, but nationally as well.
David Weiss, Cohort 2010
A veteran of large science classes, Professor David Weiss, a chemistry teacher at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, investigated the efficacy of cooperative group learning as part of PTLC’s 2010 cohort. The limitations of a large, introductory science course typically stem from the lack of interaction not only with the professor, but between the students themselves. In addition to this lack of interaction is the fact that many introductory science courses are required for a variety of majors. Professor Weiss hoped to mitigate some of these limitations by implementing techniques often used in recitations in the lecture itself. This strategy would include short introductory lectures, with the students subsequently splitting into an established group of four to five peers to solve problems related to the day’s material. It can safely be said that this was a radical departure from the typical, hour-long (or more) lectures that even now dominate introductory science courses. Professor’s Weiss’s findings indicated, when compared with previous samples of student grades and feedback, that 96% percent of students felt that the cooperative group approach improved their learning. Perhaps as importantly, 97% preferred the cooperative group approach to a traditional lecture, while 85% felt more confident in their overall problem-solving ability. Even more surprisingly, given the mix of science and non-science students, 40% indicated that they were more likely to pursue a chemistry major after having completed the course. Although grade trends remained somewhat parallel to Professor Weiss’s previous traditionally taught courses, the students’ engagement was found to be both richer and more personally rewarding. If nothing else, Professor Weiss’s research demonstrates how invested his students became in the class, a goal worth pursuing for any educator. Professor Weiss presented his findings to the American Chemical Society in August of 2011.
Anschutz Medical Campus
Lynne Bemis, Cohort 2011
Having previously investigated the teaching of health disparities to medical students, Lynne Bemis, Associate Professor of Medicine at Anschutz Medical Campus, worked and is working on introducing a learning module for medical students prior to their arrival on campus. Concluding from previous projects that the rigors of medical school leave little room for meaningful student learning regarding this curriculum, Professor Bemis investigated the possibility of offering training to accepted students before they arrive on campus. By engaging students at a time before studies began, Professor Bemis hoped to use one of the only windows of time students have to focus on this introductory, though essential, sort of learning. Working with the Office of Diversity, Professor Bemis developed an online format that would walk students through a condensed version of the learning module. The introductory module is wholly original in its purpose and design, and will be used for at least the next year, continuing to collect data via the module’s evaluative component. Professor Bemis believes that this module will not only be a starting place for other programs, such as nursing, but could very well be transferred to other institutions hoping to integrate the same type of curriculum as effectively as possible. The results of Professor Bemis’s work will be presented at three national conferences in the next year.
Kristen Brown, Cohort 2010
Dedicated to the value of experiential learning in medicine, Kristen Brown, professor for Department of Pharmacy at Anschutz Medical Campus, wanted to improve pharmacy students’ knowledge of actual hospital practice. Although the pharmacy curriculum included various modes of experiential learning, Professor Brown hoped to create a more balanced curriculum that better reflected the realities of pharmaceutical practice. Until recently, the 300 hours of required introductory pharmacy experience was most heavily weighted toward service learning activities (52 hours) and community pharmacy practice (84 hours). Students only spent 18 hours practicing hospital (or institutional) pharmaceutics. Rather than simply change the curriculum requirements, however, Professor Brown wished to measure the effects of changing the curriculum. The new model for experiential learning would see second-year pharmacy students undertake 17, three-hour visits with a solely hospital-based mentor, nearly tripling the amount of hospital practice students would receive. To measure any differences in learning, Professor Brown compared student feedback under the previous system with student feedback under the revised model. Data was also drawn from concurrent feedback taken from the mentors themselves. Ultimately, both students and mentors praised the change in curriculum, suggesting that the number of visits increased student awareness and understanding of institutional idiosyncrasies. Overall rating of the experiential sequence was higher among students under the new model than previous feedback had typically been, with the increased hospital visits almost always given as the reason why. Professor Brown presented her data and the benefits of the curriculum change at the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy in June, 2010.
Jessica Campbell, Cohort 2011-12
Medical doctor and professor of medicine Jessica Campbell sought a way to engage academic hospitalists in mentoring medical students and residents in the write up of clinical vignettes. Hospital medicine is a new field within academic internal medicine and comparatively few hospitalists have attained senior levels of promotion. Professor Campbell speculated that two things hindered scholarly work by medical students: the lack of reward in the form of departmental recognition and the lack of support in the form of a mentor. She then created an intervention specifically to create reward, promote team building, emphasize the values of education and career advancement, and provide a concrete avenue for establishing mentorship relationships within the medical team. The intervention resulted in an 800% increase in trainee first-authored vignettes accepted to national conferences from Denver Health, in addition to an increase in attending participation in conferences from 10% to 80%. Professor Campbell was given two teaching awards as a result of this project: the Denver Health Outstanding Educator award and the Golden Stethoscope award. She has also presented her research at two national meetings and three regional conferences.
Yvonne Kellar-Guenther, Cohort 2008
The central question for Dr. Yvonne Kellar-Guenther’s research on the scholarship of teaching and learning investigated how a two-hour educational training impacted students’ long-term writing. As the instructor for an educational training course, Dr. Kellar-Guenther wanted to verify that her methods produced concrete results in the student’s work life. While education often has an eye to occupation, the course taught by Dr. Kellar-Guenther was intended primarily for professionals. Focusing on how to write widely read documents, such as consent forms and recruitment material, the class aimed to teach professionals how to render their language simple, but thorough. Because feedback on educational training sessions is often immediate, there is a bias toward optimism as well as a lack of data regarding the long-term viability of the techniques taught in the course. During training the techniques and philosophies often seem quite easy and even exciting; actually implementing those techniques, however, often proves harder than anticipated. By collecting both immediate and delayed student feedback, Dr. Kellar-Guenther generated a better picture of student needs, which largely trend toward integrating more practice, and feedback on said practice, within the training itself. Beyond her own course, Dr. Kellar-Guenther used her data to discuss the nuances of evaluation, regarding both the types of questions asked and the best time to ask them. More training sessions, she believes, need to have follow-up contact as a way to better gauge the efficacy of their practices. She presented her findings at the American Evaluation Association Meeting in November of 2008.
Mary Jane Rapport, Cohort 2008
Mary Jane Rapport, professor for the School of Medicine at Anschutz Medical Campus, researched the effectiveness of an important volunteer program in 2008 for the Physical Therapy program. The Community Volunteer Program allows physical therapy students to interact with a person in the community who has a physical disability. This program continues for all three years of the student’s learning, allowing for both formal and informal time between student and volunteer. Recognizing the uniqueness of the program, unimplemented at most other medical schools, Professor Rapport also recognized the program’s major weakness. Intent on bolstering this pedagogical gem, Professor decided to investigate how best to assess the impact of the program on students, using the results to tailor the program and to guide the students in their continuing interactions with the community volunteer. Until her research, there was no meaningful assessment of the program over all three years, and so no way to quantify or aid the program’s potential. Using various surveys to collect faculty, student, and volunteer perspectives, Professor Rapport could begin to quantify the impact of this specific program on the student’s overall education, particularly as the program reinforces the school’s specific patient-care philosophy. What’s more, the results of her research enabled Professor Rapport to demonstrate more tangibly the benefit of such a program, one that could be employed beyond the purview of physical therapy curricula. Professor Rapport published her findings in the Journal of Physical Therapy Education.
Christopher Turner, Cohort 2006-07
Professor Christopher Turner, Professor of Clinical Pharmacy and Director of Experiential Programs, explored the assessment of pharmacy student learning in the fourth and final year of their newly-developed experiential courses. Students in three different stages of their fourth-year experiential courses were interviewed. Professor Turner found that the new curriculum was preparing students to function at the level expected of an independent practitioner, which means the expected positive learning outcome was achieved. Additionally, it was found that the experiential courses were well received by students. Professor Turner presented his work at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy in 2008 and at the International Society of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in 20009. He hoped that by gaining insight into the high level of performance that can be achieved by of fourth-year pharmacy students he could influence other schools of pharmacy in the design of their professional programs. Since participating in the PTLC as a Faculty Researcher in 2006-07, Professor Turner has served the PTLC as a Coach.
Downtown Denver Campus
Judith Coe, Cohort 2008
A researcher with the President’s Teaching and Learning Collaborative for multiple years, Dr. Judith Coe, Associate Professor and Chair of Music and Entertainment Industry at the University of Colorado Denver, investigated the correlation between reflection and creation. This approach, as one might suspect, promotes a student-centered learning, wherein the student’s own reflections and the result of such reflections guide the process for vocal and written achievement. Designing her initial research around two semesters of data, Professor Coe collected pre-, mid-, and end-of-semester surveys and reflections. She also recorded weekly in-class workshop performances as well as the end-of-semester original song performance by all the students involved. With all of this work collected, she created a digital portfolio course website on which to share the progress and activity of her research in the class. While qualitative, and therefore hard to quantify, the results of the research tend to indicate a higher engagement from students as well as increased efforts at creative experiment. Having presented her work at the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Professor Coe has helped to clarify and enhance the pedagogical and practical results of reflection on creativity.
Peter Ellingson, Cohort 2010
Peter Ellingson, a senior instructor of music at the University of Colorado, Denver, has spent the last two years researching how students can best assess themselves during practice. Springing from the philosophy of learner-centered teaching, Mr. Ellingson believed that his studies would be able to expose implicit practices that most successful musicians apply naturally. By making these practices explicit, Mr. Ellingson would be able to pass on reliable strategies to students and fellow teachers. Focusing on three techniques – rubrics that set practice goals and criteria, audio recording, and journaling – Mr. Ellingson was able to apply these practices, and attempt to quantify the results, with his own students. His research included a comparison between students’ assessment of a self-recorded piece and two professional educators’ assessment. Over the course of the study, the students’ comments came to match the educator’s comments more and more. Though the study yielded results less than Mr. Ellingson wished for regarding a self-assessment to progress ratio, it nonetheless provided a base set of data to re-examine how students can learn to self-assess and which areas of that self-assessment are most helpful.
Farah Ibrahim, Cohort 2012
Professor Farah Ibrahim, of the University of Colorado, Denver, is currently studying how effectively the educational program in counseling enhances cultural competence and social justice perspectives. While the Master’s program she proposes to analyze includes a cultural competence curriculum, Professor Ibrahim hopes to introduce a systemic assessment that better quantifies a student’s growth. The assessment seeks to establish baseline attitudes of those entering the program, and ideally throughout the program, then compare said baseline with end-of-program perspective assessments. Data will be collected based on reliable tools such as the Implicit Attitude Test (Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji, 2007), which will give indications of both individual growth and class trends. This research, Professor Ibrahim believes, will not only help counseling programs tweak curricula, but will have an immediate impact on the coming generation of educators. Pointing to the statistical likelihood of a growingly diverse American demographic, Professor Ibrahim believes that education and counseling programs must begin prioritizing cultural competence in a vigorous way or risk alienating a greater percentage of primary and secondary students each year. Although her research is ongoing, Professor Ibrahim hopes to disseminate the findings of her study in forthcoming conferences.
Sean McGowan, Cohort 2008-09
An Assistant Professor of Music and Entertainment Industry Studies, Sean McGowan sought to gain deep insight into improvisation. He wanted to determine how improvisation is used in jazz studies and performance, in addition to studying how improvisational skills are developed. For two semesters, Professor McGowan’s study engaged students in a variety of performance and non-performance situations to develop different stages of improvisation ability. Students were required to keep journals assessing progress, frustrations, and triumphs. The results of the study showed that students felt improvisational skills were best developed via self-study and inquiry, dedicated practice, and assisted learning in combination. In 2010, Professor McGowan presented his PTLC research work at the College Music Society National Conference, the College Music Society Rocky Mountain Regional Conference, and the College Music Society Pacific Northwest Regional Conference.
Paul Musso, Cohort 2009
Professor Paul Musso’s research into the value of the Advanced Measures of Music Audiation (AMMA) test has implications beyond the teaching of music. Director of the Guitar Program for the Music and Entertainment Industry Studies at the University of Colorado, Denver, Professor Musso wanted to know a question basic to academic procedure: is a standardized assessment an accurate tool regarding student ability? Having developed an online version of the test, Professor Musso wished to analyze both the data he received from administering the test to his students and the validity of the test’s results. Professor Musso proposed testing his students for the first two years of their studies, tracking how the results from the AMMA assessment fluctuated. Of the 33 students involved, 19 showed marked improvement from their first score to their second. However, improvement on the test too often failed to parallel improvement in the class or as an overall musician by the students. As it stood, the results seemed to suggest that AMMA, at least on a micro, classroom-by-classroom level provided limited insight. The test, Professor Musso reasoned, was simply too narrow regarding which aptitudes and learning styles it privileged to help students on an individual basis. Even so, Professor Musso believes these results can help define the value of a standardized aptitude test, such that the implications of is macro, nationwide trends are not negated by this single classroom experience. Professor Musso presented his results at the ISSOTL conference in Indiana in 2009.