SoTL Projects


On overcoming fear of research methods

Silvia Bartolic, PhD

Instructor | Faculty of Arts | Department of Sociology

Keywords:

Experiential Learning, Knowledge Tests, Program Structure, Student Engagement, Surveys.

Problem addressed:

Students find research methods courses boring or terrifying, or both. This, coupled with limited in-class time for practicing the application of concepts, hinders student enjoyment of the class as well as student learning.

Solution approach:

Using a flipped classroom approach, the instructor provided online content that will supplement lectures. This allowed students to revisit important information in their own time and created more in-class time for problem-based learning activities and hands-on time with data and data analysis software through individual research projects. 

Evaluation approach:

Using pre- and post-tests the instructors assessed student understanding of key concepts in class. The instructor also analyzed change in student affect and performance over the course of the semester, comparing results from two different sections of the course – one taught in the regular manner (lectures with some class activities) and the other in the flipped classroom approach.

Preliminary findings:

Use of flipped classroom and experiential learning provide an opportunity to increase student learning and engagement with course content in methods and statistics. By understanding student perspectives, we can develop best practices in the development and teaching of methods/statistics courses for undergraduates in the Faculty of Arts.


On Iterative Learning

Douglas Bonn, PhD

Professor | Faculty of Science | Department of Physics & Astronomy

 

Keywords:

Active Learning, Program Structure, Actions and Behaviours, Course/Content Specific Knowledge, Lifelong Learning Skills, Observations.

Problem addressed:

Traditional first year physics laboratory is known to be ineffective in helping students learn physics concepts. What can a first year lab be used for instead?


Solution approach:

Students had to complete simple experiments, designed to promote scientific reasoning. Any measurement they had was compared either to another measurement or to a model. Then, they had to reflect on what that comparison meant, come up with a plan for doing better and, of course, execute the new plan.

Evaluation approach:

Using an adaptation of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the researchers coded notes taken by students during these experiments, attributing a number between 1 and 4 to assess the level of reflection that students were doing.

Preliminary findings:

It took roughly seven weeks for students to start iterating as a matter of habit. Researchers found that students who had this iterative experience were reflecting on their data much more deeply and in a more sophisticated way than students who had not.

Publication:

Holmes, N. G., Wieman, C. E., & Bonn, D. A. (2015). Teaching critical thinking. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(36), 11199-11204. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/36/11199.short


Michael GriffinOn the role of humanities in creating global citizens

Michael Griffin, PhD

Associate Professor | Faculty of Arts| Department of Philosophy

Keywords:

Actions and Behaviours, First Year Experience, Lifelong Learning Skills, Student Engagement, Surveys.

Problem addressed:

Absence of a criteria to measure the effects of undergraduate study in the humanities on students’ critical thinking, self-esteem, and capacity to empathize with others – qualities often associated with the mission of the university to “educate global citizens.”

Solution approach:

Students in courses from a mix of disciplines (philosophy, literature, business, etc.) took tests in the first week of class and in the last week of class measuring their level of intercultural fluency or perspective taking. Argument-intensive philosophy classes were considered the experimental group and all other courses were the control group.

Evaluation approach:

The research employed an online survey that uses measure standards from social psychology, noting for any positive or negative change in intercultural fluency and perspective taking. Next researchers will look at correlations between these results and performance in class.

Preliminary findings:

There has been some positive change in the integrative complexity scores in the experimental group, compared to the control group.

 


On supporting academic English development across disciplines

Sandra Zappa-Hollman, PhD

Director of Academic English Program and Assistant Professor | Vantage College and Faculty of Education

Keywords:

First Year Experience, International Students, Lifelong Learning Skills, Instructional Team Practices, Surveys, Interviews, Student Wellbeing, Student Diversity and Inclusion.

Problem addressed:

Vantage 140 is a course offered by UBC Vantage College, a first year program for international students. One of the key course objectives is to support students’ English language development situated within the context of their disciplines of study. The research project was designed to examine student perspectives on the benefits of the course and to gather suggestions for improvement. The study also sought to find out if students enhanced their confidence as a result of their improved language proficiency and enhanced awareness of learning skills and resources.

Solution approach:

VANT 140 was designed to expedite the academic English socialization of international students in UBC Vantage College. An innovative approach is used by integrating the teaching of language and disciplinary content: the language-focused tasks are designed using class materials from linked disciplinary courses (e.g., Math, Chemistry, Geography, Psychology).

Evaluation approach:

To understand students’ needs and perspectives, surveys were carried out with students at three points in time. This was complemented with data gathered via semi-structured interviews with a small group of students. Thematic coding was used to identify the most useful tasks and topics, according to the students, as well as key suggestions relating to the course.

Preliminary findings:

Students had mixed perceptions about the course. As time progressed, students’ comments were more positive and a larger number of benefits were identified. Most students saw the value of tasks that helped them develop the organization of texts, vocabulary, and move towards a more academic register. They also appreciated practice in note-taking, library search skills, and group work. The main suggestions included reducing homework, avoiding some redundancy, increasing task diversity and a larger emphasis on speaking practice.