In March 2018 I learned that I had won the OUSA Award at McMaster. OUSA is the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance; it represents eight Ontario universities, each of which makes an award to one instructor per year. In 2017-18, OUSA focused its awards on professors who worked to make course materials affordable and accessible, highlighting the burden that textbook costs place on students with the hashtag #textbookbroke. The award recognized my work in creating the OER Essentials of Linguistics for my Intro Linguistics classes.
I received the award at a ceremony organized by the MSU on March 21. There was also an OUSA ceremony in Toronto on April 4, which I was unable to attend because I had to teach a class. At the MSU ceremony, I was reminded that students genuinely value the work that professors do. I’m grateful that my students trust me as a partner in their learning, and grateful to receive this award recognizing one element of the work I do that supports their learning.
When I changed the format of Intro Linguistics (Ling 1A03 and 1AA3) from a lecture + tutorial course to a blended format, I relied more heavily on the textbook than I had in previous years. The blended format relies on students preparing for class ahead of time, so that they’re prepared to work actively on exercises and data analysis in class. And, of course, one of the components of this before-class preparation is to read sections of the textbook.
The commercial textbook that I had assigned for several years reached the price of $147 in 2017, representing a real financial burden for many students. I discovered that fewer and fewer students even purchased the textbook, which had consequences for their learning. So when eCampusOntario offered a grant in to adapt existing materials into an OER (Open Educational Resource), I applied for the grant, with the support of the MacPherson Institute. We were awarded $15,000 in September 2017, with a due date for the final product of March 2018.
The grant paid for two staff from the MacPherson Institute, a Digital Media Specialist and an Instructional Designer, to provide technical and logistical support as I updated the materials from my blended class (and created some new ones!). We packaged these materials into an eBook, Essentials of Linguistics, which we published on McMaster’s Pressbooks site on March 16. We’re told that it will appear on eCampusOntario’s site some time in April.
Starting in May 2018, I’ll assign Essentials of Linguistics as the textbook for my Intro Linguistics courses, saving hundreds of students hundreds of dollars each year. This OER is not just free to my students — it is free for any instructor anywhere in Ontario or the world to adopt. And because it is an entirely open resource, its content is licensed under a Creative Common Attribution 4.0. International License; therefore, anyone is free to redistribute, revise, remix, and retain any of the parts of the OER.
A former student invited me to contribute to the FlexForward resource that the MacPherson Institute developed in collaboration with the Equity and Inclusion Office and the McMaster Accessibility Council. The authors interviewed me about the accessibility practices I use in my large blended class. I’m featured in several places in the eBook, but I’ve also pulled out my appearances here to make them easy to view:
The Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) includes a Special Interest Group for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). In 2016, the SoTL Canada SIG offered the opportunity for members to take part in a set of collaborative writing groups on a set of selected SoTL topics. I was selected to be a member of the writing group on the topic of leadership in SoTL.
The writing group had a couple of meetings over Skype during the weeks leading up to the STLHE Annual meeting in June, to discuss members’ interests and refine our topic. We then spent the weekend after the STLHE meeting together, reading, writing, and discussing our paper. We left the weekend with a set of assigned tasks that each of us would contribute to the paper.
This was my first experience collaborating with scholars whom I hadn’t know before. It was challenging in many ways, as we worked to discover each other’s strengths and negotiated our several responsibilities. In the final weeks before the paper was due, I spent a good deal of time weaving my colleagues’ various contributions into a coherent whole, which the team recognized by designating me co-first author with our group’s facilitator, Janice Miller-Young.
Miller-Young, J. E., Anderson, C., Kiceniuk, D., Mooney, J., Riddell, J., Schmidt Hanbidge, A., Ward, V., Wideman, M. A., & Chick, N. (2017). Leading Up in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 8 (2). https://doi.org/10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2017.2.4
When I started converting my large Intro courses (Ling 1A03 and 1AA3) to a hybrid format, partly in-person and partly on-line, I realized that the courses had become quite complex. I used the Checklist tool within Avenue to help the students keep track of all the learning activities for each week. The checklists turned out to be one of the most popular elements of the new hybrid course, so I wrote a “Quick Fix” paper about the tool:
[external link] Checklists: A simple tool to help students stay organized and motivated]
[McMaster-internal link] Checklists: A simple tool to help students stay organized and motivated
The Department of Linguistics & Languages is going through the IQAP process in 2017-18. I agreed to take on the undergraduate component of the self-study and set out to tackle the self-study as a SoTL project. When a colleague at the MacPherson Institute suggested recruiting student partners who would collaborate on the project, I jumped at the idea. The two student partners, Julia and Paige, ran focus groups with our in-course undergrads and conducted interviews with all our faculty members. They also analyzed all the data supplied by IRA.
In August 2017 we presented our findings to the department, so that the faculty can begin deliberating about enhancements and potential changes to the program in response. We identified some misalignments between the stated Program Learning Outcomes and the current course offerings, and offered suggestions for potential enhancements to courses that would address some student needs.
In November 2017, Paige and I gave a workshop about completing IQAP in partnership at the Research on Teaching and Learning (RTL) conference. In Winter 2018, the department finished its self-study report, to which Paige and Julia had made substantial contributions. Paige and I are now working on a paper for submission to the International Journal for Students as Partners, which will document our experience working on the program review process in partnership.
My paper, “Learning to think like linguists” was published in the Teaching Linguistics section of Language in 2016.
Language is the flagship journal of the Linguistic Society of America. In 2013, the journal launched a special section on Teaching Linguistics. My paper, “Learning to think like linguists: A think-aloud study of novice phonology students” was published in 2016.
Anderson, C. (2016). Learning to think like linguists: A think-aloud study of novice phonology students. Language, 92(4), e274–e291.
[external link] Learning to Think Like Linguists
[McMaster-internal link] Learning to Think Like Linguists
A key learning outcome for undergraduate linguistics courses is for students to learn to reason scientifically about language. This article presents the findings from a think-aloud study of undergraduates in an introductory linguistics course who were in the process of learning linguistic reasoning about phonology. I describe the students’ developing concepts and make recommendations for instructors to help students develop fully formed linguistics concepts and the ability to think scientifically about language.