January 12, 2017

How faculty members are using SFU grants to generate teaching knowledge and solutions

Lara Aknin, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, is one of many SFU faculty members leading University-funded projects to develop more effective and efficient approaches to teaching and learning.

SFU has three grant programs—the Integrated Learning Technology Development Program (ILTDP), the Open Educational Resources (OER) Grants and the Teaching and Learning Development Grants—that support faculty, and in some cases staff, members who wish to investigate, develop, implement or evaluate practices and tools related to teaching and learning, particularly within the context of a course. The individuals leading these projects often generate approaches and solutions that could be adapted for use by other instructors. Here’s a look at some current projects (links to additional project descriptions are shown at the bottom of the page):

  1. Why and how students use electronics to enhance their learning.
    Ivona Mladenovic
    , a senior lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences, is using a Teaching and Learning Development Grant to investigate a topic that generates lively discussion. In her words: “Using electronic devices (smart phones, laptops and tablets) in classes is somewhat controversial among colleagues and educational practitioners. Some consider electronics distracting, even if used for the purpose of learning; some completely ban electronic devices during their classes; some allow and even support usage of laptops and smart phones in classes. To my current knowledge, electronic devices in classrooms are usually used for learning purposes either as a note-taking tool (by students) or as a response system (by instructors). I want to find out if usage of electronics during classes can help students’ learning overall.”

  2. An anonymous peer evaluation system.
    Lara Aknin
    , an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, and Kar-On Lee, a learning technology specialist from the Teaching and Learning Centre, are using an ILTDP grant to create an anonymous peer evaluation system that is simple for both students and faculty to manage and can be fully integrated into SFU ecosystems such as Canvas. “Ideally,” they say, “this system will not require a separate login, as students will only need to log in once to access Canvas and Connect, which we think will increase the appeal of this system to students and professors.”

  3. Post-secondary instructor’s teaching efficiency.
    Robert Krider, a professor of marketing in the Beedie School of Business, has noted “a perception [within Beedie] that the participation of tenure-track faculty (TTF) in teaching initiatives and events is very low, and certainly much lower than the participation of non-tenure-track faculty.” His investigation, supported by a Teaching and Learning Development Grant, starts with the hypothesis that TTFs, who “have lower teaching loads and greater research demands than non-TTFs,” will have different priorities and will therefore allocate their “time budget” differently than non-TTFs: “Specifically, they will invest less in offered activities that are positioned as methods that only improve student learning, with no consideration of the time investment required.” He puts forth an additional hypothesis that “offering activities that promise to improve teaching efficiency—that is, lowering the ratio of time input to teaching output metrics—would be valued more than activities that only promise to improve learning outcomes.” This proposition leads him to the essence of his investigation: “I wish to establish the parameters of faculty members’ [time] resource allocation problem, as well as collect and catalogue techniques that improve teaching efficiency. If a collection of feasible and useful techniques is identified, cooperative faculty recruited, and time permits, I will try out some of the techniques and assess the impacts on faculty and students.”

  4. Canvas modules to deliver discipline-specific academic success strategies.
    Cynthia Wright
    , a coordinator in the Student Learning Commons, Surrey, has received ILTDP funding for a project that will provide undergraduate students with new means of accessing academic support and study strategies via online Canvas-based Academic Success Kits (A.S.K.s). The project will develop new standalone Canvas modules (sandboxes) that incorporate a wide selection of academic success strategies from the Student Learning Commons in discipline-specific A.S.K.s. These A.S.K.s will allow the Student Learning Commons to test new ways of providing students with information for their academic success.

  5. Understanding the needs of indigenous students.
    Sheri Fabian (senior lecturer and associate director of undergraduate programs) and Tamara O’Doherty (limited-term lecturer) of the School of Criminology are conducting a study to “better understand the needs and experiences of Indigenous students at SFU with a particular focus on learning what they experience in various classroom environments when Indigenous issues are presented.” Fabian and O’Doherty note: “Indigenous students will be involved in all aspects of the study, including the planning and creation of research instruments, and will participate in data collection, transcription, data analysis and report preparation. We have designed the project in accordance with collaborative action research principles; we propose a series of focus groups with Indigenous students to transform the students from research subjects to active and equal co-creators of knowledge …”

  6. An online instructional support platform for course materials.
    Dimitris Krallis
    , an associate professor in the Hellenic Studies Program, aims to enhance digitized instructional support for HS 100, an introductory first-year course on Greek history and culture that takes students on a sweeping tour of some 4,000 years of Greek history. This project, funded by an OER Grant, seeks to develop an online platform that will not only collect all the textual and visual resources currently being used for the course in one place, but also introduce interactive study aids and resources for use by students, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Integrated Learning Technology Development Program (ILTDP): Project descriptions
ILTDP: No upcoming funding announced

Open Educational Resources (OER) Grants: Project descriptions
OER Grants: How to apply (next deadline February 2, 2017)

Teaching and Learning Development Grants (TLDG): Project descriptions
TLDG: How to apply (next proposal development workshops: March 16 & 30, April 4 & 18)