Past Research Projects

The Impact of the Instructional Skills Workshop on Faculty Approaches to Teaching

Researchers: Debra Dawson, Paola Borin, Ken N. Meadows, Judy Britnell, Karyn Olsen, and Gayle McIntyre

The Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) is a peer-based educational development program involving 24 hours of structured intensive instruction designed to shift instructors towards more student-focused, reflective approaches to teaching. Although ISW has been offered at more than 100 post-secondary institutions throughout the world in its 35 years of existence, very little research has been conducted to demonstrate its impact. Faculty members from Western University, Ryerson University, Waterloo University, and Georgian College who participated in the ISW were invited to complete an online survey immediately before and four months after the workshop. Faculty who did not participate in the workshop were also invited to complete the survey. The survey was designed to assess faculty members’ approaches to, and perspectives on, teaching. A number of the ISW participants were also invited to attend focus groups and individual interviews five to 12 months after the workshop to discuss the impact that it had on their teaching. Overall, the quantitative and qualitative findings suggest that ISW participants shifted away from a teacher-focused approach to teaching and increasingly engaged in teaching behaviours consistent with a student-centred approach to teaching. The research is an important initial examination of the impact of educational development programs such as ISW on faculty member’s approaches to teaching. For more information on the project, the full project report is available at http://www.heqco.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/Formatted_UWO_Ryerson.pdf

The project was funded in part by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Dawson, D. L, Borin, P., Meadows, K. N., Britnell, J., Olsen, K., & McIntyre, G. (2014). The impact of the Instructional Skill Workshop on faculty approaches to teaching. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Bridging the Gap: The Impact of the ‘Teaching in the Canadian Classroom’ Program on the Teaching Effectiveness of International Teaching Assistants.

Researchers: Debra Dawson, Nanda Dimitrov, Ken N. Meadows, and Karyn Olsen

In this research we sought to determine if a Teaching Assistant (TA) training program with significant intercultural content (i.e., Teaching in the Canadian Classroom; TCC) better supports the transition of international graduate students to Canadian academia and their role as TAs than a traditional TA program without the intercultural components (i.e., the TA Training Program; TATP). Participants in TCC (international TAs only) and TATP (both international and Canadian TAs) programs were invited to complete pre- and post-program surveys assessing their TA self-efficacy and communication apprehension. Also, for those who consented, participants’ videotaped microteaching segments from their respective programs were analyzed for effective teaching behaviours. Finally, program participants were invited to attend focus groups four to eight months after the completion of the programs to examine the programs’ long-term impact. Interestingly, the two programs demonstrated similar effects in a number of areas. Specifically, regardless of the program, participants demonstrated an increase in TA self-efficacy, a decrease in communication apprehension, and an increase in a number of effective teaching behaviors. That said there were also substantive differences in the impact of the two programs. The international TAs in TCC demonstrated larger increases in their overall teaching effectiveness than their international and Canadian counterparts in TATP. Also, in the focus groups, the international TAs in TCC demonstrated deeper reflection on their teaching and increased intercultural competence relative to their international counterparts in TATP. This study contributes to the growing body of evidence on the positive impact that TA training has for Canadian and international graduate students as well as demonstrating the unique and important influence that TA training with substantial intercultural content can have for international graduate students. For more information on the project, the full project report is available at http://www.heqco.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ITAs_ENG.pdf

The project was funded in part by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Dimitrov, N., Dawson, D. L., Olsen, K. C., & Meadows, K. N. (2014). Developing the intercultural competence of graduate students. Canadian Journal of Higher Education 44(3), 86-103.

Meadows, K. N., Olsen, K. C., Dimitrov, N., & Dawson, D. L. (2015). Evaluating the differential impact of teaching assistant training programs on international graduate student teaching. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 45(3), 34-55.

Dawson, D. L., Dimitrov, N., Meadows, K. N., & Olsen, K. (2013). Bridging the gap: The impact of the ‘Teaching in the Canadian Classroom’ program on the teaching effectiveness of international teaching assistants. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

The Effect of Performance Feedback on Student Help-Seeking and Learning Strategy Use: Do Clickers Make a Difference?

Researchers: Debra L. Dawson, Ken N. Meadows, & Tom Haffie

Two studies were performed to investigate the impact of students’ clicker performance feedback on their help-seeking behaviour and use of other learning strategies. In study 1, we investigated the relationship between students’ clicker performance, self-efficacy, help-seeking behavior, and academic achievement. We found that there was a significant positive correlation between their clicker performance and their course grades, and help-seeking behavior was negatively and significantly related to clicker and course performance but only for participants with high self-efficacy. In study 2, we expanded our focus to determine if participants modified a number of learning strategies as a result of receiving clicker performance feedback as well as attempting to replicate the clicker-course performance relationship found in study 1. Although participants reported an increase in their use of various learning strategies as a result of using the clickers, changes in learning strategy use was not significantly related to clicker or term test performance. The relationship between clicker and course performance was replicated. The results suggest that clicker-based feedback alone may not be sufficient to lead to a successful change in learning strategy use and that students may need more specific instruction on self-regulation and effective learning strategy use in order to improve their learning.

Dawson, D., Meadows, K., & Haffie, T. (2010). The effect of performance feedback on student help-seeking and learning strategy use: Do clickers make a difference? The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching of Teaching and Learning, 1(1). Available at http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cjsotl_rcacea/vol1/iss1/6/

Assessing Graduate Teaching Development Programs for Impact on Future Faculty

Researchers: Nanda Dimitrov, Ken N. Meadows, Erika Kustra, Theiman Ackerson, Laura Prada, Nick Baker, Pierre Boulos, Gayle McIntrye, and Michael K. Potter

In Canada universities offer a range programs to support the development of their graduate students as teaching assistants (TA) and, ultimately, as instructors. Although there is a growing literature demonstrating the positive impact of such programs on TA development, there is little known about the relative impact of different forms of TA training. In this research we examined the impact of select TA training programs of varying duration and content, offered by Western University and the University of Windsor. Specifically, we explored the impact of shorter (one day orientations to teaching) and longer (20-40 hour) programs on TA’s approaches to teaching, their TA self-efficacy, and their subsequent teaching practices. Graduate students who participated in these various TA training programs were invited to complete a survey immediately before and after the programs and were also invited to attend focus groups four months later. Participation in both the shorter and longer programs was related to increased TA self-efficacy and a more student-focused approach to teaching. In focus groups, participants in the shorter programs emphasized the increased knowledge of concrete teaching techniques that they acquired from those programs (e.g., facilitating discussions, marking, providing feedback) whereas participants in the longer programs demonstrated greater depth of understanding about areas such as course design and learning outcomes as well as being more reflective about and engaged in their teaching practice. For more information on the project, the full project report is available at http://www.heqco.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/Formatted%20Windsor-Western.pdf

The project was funded in part by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Dimitrov, N., Meadows, K. N., Kustra, E., Ackerson, T., Prada, L., Baker, N., Boulos, P., McIntyre, G., & Potter, M. K. (2013). Assessing graduate teaching development programs for impact on future faculty. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Engaging Students through the First Year Biology Literacy Initiative: Integrating Information Literacy and Writing to Learn into Introductory Biology

Researchers: Tom Haffie, Ken N. Meadows, Linda Dunn, and Johnston Miller.

The First Year Biological Literacy Initiative (BLI) was designed to introduce substantive and integrated Writing to Learn and information literacy components to the bi-weekly tutorials of two large introductory Biology courses at The University of Western Ontario. To assess the impact of the BLI, students enrolled in Introductory Biology the year before the introduction of the BLI, the pre-BLI cohort, and those who received the new curriculum, the BLI cohort, were invited to complete an in-class assessment of student engagement, their perceptions of the Biology tutorials, and their writing and information literacy skills. First year Science students in the courses were also invited to complete an authentic assessment of their writing ability, information literacy skills, and conceptual understanding of key biological concepts. Both cohorts were surveyed in their second year to determine how well their Introductory Biology course prepared them for a required second year Biology course overall and in terms of their information literacy and writing skills. The participants in the BLI cohort rated their information literacy skills higher, felt better prepared for their second year Biology course overall and in terms of their information literacy skills, and performed better on authentic assessments of information literacy than the pre-BLI cohort. No differences between the two cohorts were evident on measures of engagement and writing ability. The project is addressed in a report for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario available at http://www.heqco.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/NSSE%20ENG.pdf.

The project was funded in part by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

A shifting tide: Recommendations for incorporating science communication into graduate training

Researchers: Beth Hundey, Jennifer H. Olker, Cátia Carreira, Rémi Daigle, Ashley K. Elgin, Michael Finniguerra, Natasha J. Gownaris, Nicole Hayes, Leanna Heffner, N. Roxanne Razavi, Patrick D. Shirey, Bradley B. Tolar, and Elisha M. Wood-Charlson

Graduate students in the sciences are keenly aware that the skills necessary to excel in today's job market are broad and ever-changing.  We surveyed a group of early-career scientists in order to determine their perceptions of the value, experiences with, and recommendations for science communication training.  Our research culminates in a set of recommendations urging departments to increase support for science communication training, both for the benefit of graduate students and for the departments themselves.  Central to this research are recurring themes surrounding recognizing individuality in graduate student strengths and goals, and of the need for a cultural shift within departments that includes more diverse ways of recognizing student (and ultimately academic) achievement. Curriculum improvement and design approaches are adopted as one way to incorporate strategies that meet the need for each individual department.

Hundey, E. J., Olker, J. H., Carreira, C., Daigle, R. M., Elgin, A. K., Finiguerra, M., Wood-Charlson, E.M. (in press). A shifting tide: Recommendations for incorporating science communication into graduate training. Limnology and Oceanography Bulletin.