Regional SoTL Projects
Regional projects are supported by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Religion and the University of Notre Dame. The following projects were selected from proposals received from faculty at universities within approximately 100 miles of Notre Dame.
An Examination into the Transformational Efficacy of a Liberal Arts Approach to Biblical Studies in the Adult Education Undergraduate Setting
Principal Investigator: Kyle Roberts, Faculty Coordinator and Christian Ministry Cluster Coordinator, REACH Program, Trinity International University
Contact: Kyle Roberts, Kroberts@tiu.edu
Trinity International University’s REACH (Relevant Education for Adults) Program provides a Christian education that tries to promote the integration of faith and learning. Its mission statement defines a liberal arts approach to learning as 1) giving systematic exposure to the heritage of human experience, 2) sharpening the ability to form questions and sound judgments, 3) teaching consistency and comprehensiveness in thought, clarity, and coherence in expression, 4) cultivating appreciation for the beautiful, the imaginative, the delightful, and empathy for the unlovely, the commonplace, and the tragic; and 5) developing the human capacity to create, which reflects the creative power of God.
This Carnegie project addresses the question of whether or not student learning in biblical studies is changed significantly by taking foundational courses in the Christian Ministry major that take a liberal arts emphasis. To answer this question, the principal investigator is creating a narrative-form questionnaire that will examine students’ attitudes towards a liberal arts approach. This instrument will be given to students before and after they take the courses. Applied learning papers, the major focus of student work in the foundational courses, will also be assessed to see whether or not students are meeting course objectives. Finally, the investigator will interview students to see if they are conscious of changes in their attitudes and approach toward biblical studies.
Integrating Writing and Research Skills to Strengthen Student Marketability and Job Performance
Project Director: Barbara Peat, Ph.D.
School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Indiana University-South Bend
Rebecca Brittenham, Ph.D., IUSB Writing Center
Joanne Detlef, IUSB Writing Center
Contact: Barbara Peat, firstname.lastname@example.org
A recent internal assessment of the Criminal Justice Program of IUSB’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) found, among other things, that employers who have hired graduates of the Criminal Justice Program have concerns with the writing skills of incoming employees (i.e., most all new employees, not just SPEA graduates). Employers specified a range of problems, from poor grammar, punctuation, and spelling, to the inability to structure complete sentences and paragraphs, as well as the inability to summarize material and write clear and concise reports. This feedback led to the development of a plan to provide a “links” course between the English Department and SPEA that would promote common course goals of critical thinking, writing skills, and research abilities. It was decided that the best choices of courses to link were Criminal Justice Data, Methods, and Research (J202) and Professional Writing Skills (W231). Through the consistent use of common course objectives for both courses and combined assignments, as well as coordinated faculty evaluation of student work, the links course is intended to assist in improving students’ writing skills and, as a result, their marketability for employment and enhancement of job performance once placed.
In the first phase of this Carnegie study, the Project Director and Investigative Team will evaluate completed assignments from the J202 course to determine how portions of these assignments might be integrated into assignments for W231. The Project Director and Investigative Team will then develop the links course to be offered in the Spring 2002 semester. Two forms of evaluation of the links course will be used: Outcome Evaluation based on grades given for completed work and Impact Evaluation based on employer feedback.
A Modular (Inquiry-Based) Learning Approach to Introductory Psychology
Preston Bost, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Wabash College
Brenda Bankart, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Wabash College
Contact: Preston Bost, email@example.com
Students in Wabash College’s Introductory Psychology course consistently express a desire to supplement traditional lecture classes with more interactive formats, such as discussions, demonstrations, and group work. Faculty as well would like to implement more active-learning formats. Through colleagues in the chemistry department at Hope College, faculty in Wabash’s psychology department have recently become familiar with a course format organized around “modules.” Each module is a two- to five-week segment in which groups of students try to answer an important question. Students learn important methodological and content concepts in the service of answering the overarching question. Along the way, they engage in discussions, demonstrations, laboratory investigations, and research activities that answer important sub-questions. The module culminates in a final group project, presentation, or activity that requires each group to synthesize its previous work into a proposed answer to the module question.
The principal investigators of this Carnegie project are examining whether or not modules will enhance student learning in Introductory Psychology. Beyond supplementing lectures with interactive class formats, the investigators believe each module would cut across multiple content areas, presenting a more integrated field. In addition, students investigating a module question would develop a greater appreciation for the process of conducting psychological research in order to answer important questions. The preliminary plan for this study is to develop a single pilot module to insert at the end of the first-year section of Introductory Psychology in the Spring 2001 semester. Investigators will compare students’ achievement and course evaluations for the modular and traditional approaches in this course. In addition, investigators will solicit more detailed student feedback on specific elements of the module format. If student feedback and/or performance is positive, investigators will develop additional modules to pilot in subsequent first-year sections beginning in Fall 2001.
Assessing Biblical Literacy
Principal Investigator: Paul Keim, Department of Bible, Religion and Philosophy, Goshen College, firstname.lastname@example.org
Goshen College students enter the required General Education course called Biblical Literature (BIBL 100) with widely varying levels of knowledge about the Bible, facility with literary interpretation, and theological orientations. Students with prior preparation in biblical studies who wish to waive the BIBL 100 requirement and take an upper-level course in Bible may take a placement test. Few students sit for this exam, however, and even fewer "pass" it. A formal assessment needs to be undertaken to reliably measure biblical literacy of students coming in to the class and then to assess the level and degree of student learning at the end of the course. I want to develop an assessment instrument that will be able to measure not only awareness of isolated facts (names, dates, geographical locations, etc.) and narrative reconstructions (The Exodus, The Exile, The Passion of Christ), but also literary comprehension (reading skills) and moral development (ability to interact with opposing views). The instrument must be comprehensive enough to measure a range of knowledge and skills, but also focused enough to maintain student interest.
The assessment tool developed through this Carnegie project will help to determine how to section students in groups of those with similar incoming biblical literacy scores, as well as suggest which learning strategies might be most appropriate and effective to achieve course goals and enhance student learning. Teaching strategies might also be developed to address particular and consistent problems. Finally, the challenge of developing an effective assessment tool will compel the department to more clearly define the essential components of biblical literacy and the contribution biblical literacy makes toward general education of students in a liberal arts context.
Assessing and Improving Student Writing Throughout the University Curriculum
Nancy Hill, Ph.D., Director, Office of Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, DePaul University
Jodi Cressman, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Office of Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, DePaul University
Contact: Nancy Hill, email@example.com
This Carnegie project responds to what the principal investigators perceive as university-wide faculty concern that the quality of student writing across the university has declined and/or otherwise failed to meet the standard of “articulate communication” expressed in the learning goal. The principal investigators have thus set out to discover how well DePaul University students are writing, and how the teaching and learning of writing throughout the curricula of DePaul’s eight schools and colleges might be improved.
The investigators have identified three distinct methods for this research. The first method involves a writing inventory that will assess how much and what kind of writing DePaul students are currently asked to do. This inventory will also track longitudinal changes in faculty attitudes toward the teaching of writing, as well as changes in the practices of writing instruction. The second method, a holistic assessment of senior papers, will measure how well graduating students are actually writing. Finally, the third method will measure the degree of improvement in student writing and determine the most important factors for that improvement. Investigators will assess a sample of essays written by incoming DePaul students for placement in the writing program. Scores for these essays will be compared with corresponding scores (based on the same rubric) that this cohort of students receive on their senior essays four or five years later. A second writing inventory will also be conducted to determine if a difference in scores is linked to the number or nature of writing assignments given to students across the university.