Researching Team-Based Learning

Since 2017 was my first experience teaching in the Active Learning Classroom, I wanted to investigate students’ experiences in the class, so that I could make evidence-informed decisions about future versions of the course. I partnered with an Honours Thesis student, Nadia Bachar, to conduct a SoTL project on students’ experiences. Our research project was approved by the McMaster Research Ethics Board and I had no access to the identities of students who participated in the research.

At the beginning of the semester we conducted an anonymous survey to gather accounts of students’ experiences of teamwork in other courses. We learned that students enjoyed collaborating with each other, but resented it when team members didn’t pull their weight, and often struggled with the logistics of arranging team meetings around everyone’s course, work, and commuting schedules.

Late in the semester, Nadia conducted two focus groups to pursue her questions of interest. At the end of the semester, we administered a second anonymous survey to supplement the data from the standard course evaluations. Nadia used qualitative data analysis software to code and interpret the data from the two surveys, her focus group, and the course evaluations.

Nadia presented her findings in a poster at the department’s Student Research Day. Overall, she found that the ALC created the conditions for team activities, and that these team activities supported students’ learning. Students reported that they learned from each other in the team assignments and projects, and that they forged new friendships and learning communities that they carried over to other courses as well.


Collaborative Writing

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).

Students love checklists!

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


Collaborating with Student Partners on IQAP

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.