Investigating the Perceived Impact of Undergraduate Participation in SoTL Initiatives as ISTLD Grant Project Research Assistants

Grant recipient: Alexander Stewart, Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines

Project team: Tanya Tan, research assistant

Timeframe: September 2016 to October 2017

Funding: $5,000

Final Report: View Alexander Stewart's final report (PDF)

Description: I want to investigate to what extent former undergraduate Research Assistants (RAs), working in the framework of the Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines’ (ISTLD) Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG) program, perceive their professional development and resultant educational/career trajectory to be affected by said work/participation.

There has been much interest, in the fields of higher education, regarding the effect (if any) of undergraduate participation in research projects, and in particular how this participation informs their future development, both academically and professionally. Given the enormous variance in TLDG projects, undergraduate RAs operating under the aegis of the ISTLD will have been exposed to research projects studying a wide variety of pedagogical innovations and practices. The tasks they undertake as part of a TLDG project vary (e.g., data collection, instrument development, instructional material development). As well, how a faculty PI conducts the work of a TLDG project will vary in the degree to which those working on the project work together as a team or more separately.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that students have varying perspectives on their TLDG project experience and differing views on the influence of this experience regarding teaching and learning research in higher education, and regarding their own future. Depending on the period in which they were employed as an RA, their experiences as an undergrad RA may have been of value in their admission to a graduate program or in their employment in industry or elsewhere.

Questions addressed:

  • Perception of value of RA experiences for professional development and academic/career trajectory:
  • Perceived value of gained research experiences
  • Influence of TLDG work on decisions for future academic/employment applications
  • Ease of leveraging TLDG work (towards publications, etc) for personal development and resume building
  • Value of TLDG work past initial employment and applicability in current program or position.

Knowledge sharing: The project will be showcased to ISTLD colleagues as appropriate if related to their projects. It will also be communicated when possible at any ISTLD-related symposia. Finally, it is the ultimate intention for this project to be disseminated in peer-reviewed literature.