The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A Research Assistant's Perspective

January 17, 2022

Pauline Tiong is a Research Assistant for two of the ISTLD's Teaching and Learning Development Grant projects. She is currently working on her PhD in Mathematics Education. 

Pauline Tiong

"I've taught Mathematics to both primary and secondary students for more than ten years and also have had many opportunities to work with teachers in the designing of learning experiences for their students as part of teacher professional development." Pauline explains. "My research interests include the role of language in mathematics education and teacher education. My goal to help teachers becoming more proficient in their practice."

We asked her to write a guest post for us about her work with the ISTLD and the importance of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in improving the learning experiences of students at SFU. 

Tell us about yourself and about your experiences as a Research Assistant with the ISTLD

I am currently a PhD candidate in SFU’s Mathematics Education PhD program. Prior to starting graduate school, I had conducted some research as a teacher, but being an RA has provided me with a formal opportunity to put theory into practice as I am able to apply what I have learned in my masters and graduate courses.

Working on two different TLDG (Teaching and Learning Development Grant) projects with two different Principal Investigators (PI’s), Dr. Claudia Wong and Dr Jia Fei, whose respective disciplines - Linguistics and World Languages - differ from my professional area of study has given me a chance to explore new grounds in terms of pedagogical approaches and research literature.

Most importantly, I realise how teachers and instructors, regardless of the levels they teach, can be (and should be) engaged in varying aspects of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) so long as they care about enhancing their own teaching practice to make the students’ learning experiences better.

What have you learned from the projects?

Having previously worked as a teacher, I have had to continually reflect on and review how I teach in order to enhance my students’ learning experiences. Now, as a research assistant for two TLDG projects, I often find it interesting how my work with the PIs mirrors what I did as a teacher. In particular, I often work alongside my PIs to reflect on and review how the teaching and learning experiences for their respective courses can be enhanced.

One key difference is probably that I can take a more objective stance in this reflection and review process, as I am not playing the role of the teacher, but more of an observer and critical friend who supports the process. In addition, this process has become more systematic and evidence-based since I now need to support my ideas and observations with theories from the relevant literature and evidence from the project data collected.

I have also learned that while I may not be well-versed in their individual disciplinary areas, I am able to support the PIs in the domains of pedagogy and research as we collaboratively work on the projects.

Tell us how this experience has helped you to develop professionally

My learning experience as an RA has certainly helped me to develop and hone my own research techniques and skills, which is crucial for any young researcher in my field of study. I have gained more practical knowledge and experience (e.g. in creating research tools, conducting interviews and focus group discussions) in research methods from both projects, which can be adapted and transferred to future projects and applied to my own dissertation research.

One thing is for sure – after being the RA for two TLDG projects I have gradually become more confident and adept in conducting semi-structured interviews with participants.