August 30, 2011
Using the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) to improve courses and student learning
Many faculty rely on an informal process in which they reflect on the success of teaching strategies or assignments throughout the term and think about how these might be improved. These reflections inform decisions the instructor makes when revising assignments and structuring the course in future terms. This strategy of ongoing reflection on teaching and learning can be an effective way to improve one’s teaching and improve the quality of student learning in a course.
An instructor who gathers documentation about how courses and assignments evolve over time will develop good materials to include in an annual evaluation or tenure portfolio to document the quality of teaching. A more systematic approach that includes formal assessments of student learning demonstrated in course assignments might produce high-quality evidence that revised teaching strategies are effective. An instructor could submit this scholarly work on teaching and learning for publication in a peer reviewed journal on teaching. These peer-reviewed SoTL publications could be included as documentation of research and scholarship in annual evaluations and tenure portfolios.
Finding the time and resources to implement a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning project in a course can be a challenge. The Assessment Grants offered by the Academic Programs Assessment Council include a category to support faculty SoTL projects. The faculty grants will fund up to $1,000 for projects in which faculty use assessment evidence to evaluate the impact of a change in teaching strategy or new activity on student learning related to program-level student learning outcomes in a required course in the degree program. For more information on Faculty SoTL Project grants, review the Request for Proposals and rubric used by APAC reviewers housed on the Provost Office web page (http://uwf.edu/academic/apac/). The CUTLA web site provides resources on how to develop a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning project (http://uwf.edu/cutla/sotl.cfm). Contact Claudia Stanny at CUTLA for a consultation on how to develop a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning project.
NOTE: Deadline for submitting an APAC Assessment Grant proposal is September 16, 2011.
April 14, 2009
Use Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) to reflect on your teaching and improve student learning in future courses
The final weeks of the term are one of the best times to reflect on student learning and consider changes you might want to implement the next time you offer the course. Identify activities and assignments that worked well and make notes to yourself about modifications to assignments, rubrics, and other aspects of the course that might create improvements. Use the course evaluation activity to administer a questionnaire of your own design to elicit comments and suggestions from students. Formal course evaluations currently focus on “student satisfaction.” Rather than asking students if they liked aspects of the course, create your own Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) questions to evaluate the effectiveness of a specific assignment, class activity, project, or teaching strategy.
SALG questions ask students to rate the class in general or to rate specific assignments, projects, class activities, and other teaching strategies.
Examples of SALG questions
Target activities may include a class activity, lab assignments, particular learning methods, guest lectures, class readings, and other resources.
Provide a list of specific learning outcomes or concepts that you consider important for the class.
Target skill may include making quantitative estimates, finding trends in data, designing a research study, writing technical material, creating a web page, piece of art, etc.
Attitude Change SALG
For example: enthusiasm for the course or subject area
Although these are self-report measures, SALG measures can provide diagnostic evidence about teaching effectiveness that can be useful for scholarly projects on teaching and learning or inclusion in documentation of teaching effectiveness for annual evaluations, tenure and promotion, and teaching awards.
A discussion of the development of SALG measures and information about the validity and reliability of this approach to measuring student learning can be found in:
Seymour, E., Wiese, D., Hunter, A., & Daffinrud, S. M. (2000, March). Creating a better mousetrap: On-line student assessment of their learning gains. Paper presentation at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, San Francisco, CA.
Information about Student Assessment of Learning Gains and a free download of the Seymor et al. paper can be found at the SALG web site: http://salgsite.org/about
June 17, 2008
Mid-course evaluations are useful tools for getting information about what is and is not working well in your course. Instructors can make use of this formative feedback to make adjustments to the course to improve student engagement and learning. Give students a framework for this evaluation to encourage thoughtful, constructive feedback and discourage irrelevant comments about your hair style or wardrobe. Typical questions include:
What activities or course materials have helped you learn in this course?
Is there anything that is currently hindering your learning?
What changes (if any) would improve your ability to learn in this course?
These should be completed anonymously. Sort the responses into “things that are going well,” “things that might be changed to improve the course this term,” and “things that can’t be changed” and share these with your students. Although students might not be interested in the first category, sharing a few successes will direct student attention to positive aspects of the class. Identify one or two realistic adjustments based on comments from the second category. Students will appreciate your flexibility and willingness to make reasonable adjustments. Finally, explain why some items necessarily fall in the “can’t be changed” category. The course fulfills a particular role in the curriculum and yes, students are expected to be able to use statistical analyses to evaluate data. Students must use correct grammar in their writing. Courses must include tests or other evaluations of student learning. Include a humorous off-base suggestion or comment as a tacit example of the difference between constructive and unhelpful feedback.
Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Updated 06/14/12 cdw
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