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SoTL Corner

TEP bases its philosophy and recommendations on the evidence-based research that comes out of the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). We feel it is important for the university community to be aware of the important contributions to SoTL, so we have compiled this list of resources. Some of the entries contain direct links to the original research papers, and others are resources from the secondary literature that draw on and refer to the primary literature.  We will continue to add to the list, so check back periodically to see what’s new.

  1. Students who participate actively in their classes retain material better than those who passively listen to lectures. This definitive 2014 meta-analysis by researchers at the University of Washington shows that students in active learning classes do on average 6 percentage points better on exams than their counterparts in lecture-based classes, and that students in classes with traditional lecturing are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes with active learning.Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(23), 8410-8415. http://www.pnas.org/content/111/23/8410.short
  2. Memory research has identified a wide variety of techniques for improving retention of information. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, is an extremely accessible and interesting book that reviews techniques for effective long-term learning. It includes descriptions of the research as well as advice for faculty and students wanting to implement the techniques.Brown, P. C., Roediger, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make it stick: The science of successful learning. Harvard University Press.
  3. Studies show that students who take notes on laptops do worse on conceptual questions than those who take notes longhand, and not just because they are distracted by multitasking. For an overview of the research, try reading:May, C. (2014). A learning secret: Don’t take notes with a laptop. Scientific American, 3. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-learning-secret-don-t-take-notes-with-a-laptop/If you prefer to read a research paper, see:Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological science, 0956797614524581.  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0956797614524581
  4. Looking for a comprehensive overview of the research on learning with straightforward advice on how to incorporate it into your teaching? Check out How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. This book is a must-read for every instructor.Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. John Wiley & Sons.
  5. Students who practice retrieval – recall information from memory to answer questions or do activities – learn the retrieved material more effectively than ones who simply reread text or do activities with open notes. This short article by memory researcher Jeffrey Karpicke discusses the research and has references to original research papers:A powerful way to improve learning and memory: Practicing retrieval enhances long-term, meaningful learning. http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2016/06/learning-memory.aspx.
  6. Assessment in the College Science Classroom is a great book that provides an introduction to the goals of classroom assessment, assessment techniques and the research supporting them, and advice on how to implement them in your course. This book is useful far beyond the science faculty for whom it was nominally written.Dirks, C., Wenderoth, M. P., & Withers, M. (2014). Assessment in the college science classroom. W.H. Freeman Scientific Publishers.
  7. Did you know that research shows students do not learn more effectively when taught using their preferred learning style? For more information, read this summary article by the American Psychological Association, which has links to the original research papers: http://www.apa.org/pubs/highlights/spotlight/issue-22.aspx.
  8. Teaching and Learning STEM: A Practical Guide is a comprehensive teaching resource for STEM faculty. It has sections on designing courses, teaching courses, and facilitating skill development. Every STEM faculty member should use this resource!Felder, R. M., & Brent, R. (2016). Teaching and learning STEM: A practical guide. John Wiley & Sons.
  9. Students who improve their awareness of themselves as learners – their metacognition – generally learn better as a result. For tips on ways to build student metacognition in your classes, see:Tanner, K. D. (2012). Promoting student metacognition. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 11(2), 113-120.  http://www.lifescied.org/content/11/2/113.short
  10. What techniques do the best one-on-one tutors use with their tutees, and what makes then so effective? How can you introduce some of those techniques into your large classroom? This paper has some great suggestions:Wood, W. B., & Tanner, K. D. (2012). The role of the lecturer as tutor: doing what effective tutors do in a large lecture class. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 11(1), 3-9. http://www.lifescied.org/content/11/1/3.full
  11. Students who participate actively in their classes retain material better than those who passively listen to lectures. See the evidence for yourself in this paper from the education research group of Nobel prizewinner Carl Wieman. It has become a classic of the active learning literature.Deslauriers, L., Schelew, E., & Wieman, C. (2011). Improved learning in a large-enrollment physics class. Science, 332(6031), 862-864. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/332/6031/862
  12. Do you want to know how well your teaching practices mesh with techniques proven to enhance student learning? It could be a step toward improving your teaching. Try taking the Teaching Practices Inventory (TPI), a tool designed for science faculty but applicable to a much wider range of disciplines, then make an appointment to talk about it with a TEP representative! For a discussion of the TPI with links to the inventory and the original research paper, go to http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/teaching-practices-inventory-provides-tool-help-examine-teaching/.
  13. What techniques do you use to ensure that all the students in your class feel included and engaged? If you could use come evidence-based pointers, check out this paper by Kimberly Tanner. It was written for biologists, but the strategies she suggests are applicable in just about every classroom.Tanner, K. D. (2013). Structure matters: twenty-one teaching strategies to promote student engagement and cultivate classroom equity. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 12(3), 322-331. http://www.lifescied.org/content/12/3/322.short.
  14. For a follow-up to José Antonio Bowen’s June 2017 visit to UO, read his fascinating book. Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning urges faculty to re-center the classroom experience around the human dimensions of learning and offers practical advice for how to use technology outside the classroom to boost student readiness for interaction with faculty. The book is available online through the UO library.
  15. Are you interested in going to a conference about evidence-based teaching and learning so you can learn more and perhaps share your own work? The Lilly Conference Series on College and University Teaching and Learning hosts several events each year in locations around the country, drawing attendees from a broad range of disciplines. People who go always come back excited and bursting with ideas. For more information, visit http://lillyconferences.com/.
  16. How do your students actually study? What can you do to help them move away from ineffective strategies like cramming and rereading and start using research-proven tactics instead? To get some ideas, have a look at this paper by Matt Hora and Amanda Oleson.Hora, M.T. & Oleson, A.K. (2017). Examining study habits in undergraduate STEM courses from a situative perspective. International Journal of STEM Education, 4 (1), 1-19.  https://stemeducationjournal.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40594-017-0055-6
  17. You probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that there is a positive correlation between final grades and the number of times a student attends office hours. So why don’t more students come to office hours? And what can you do to make them come more often? For some ideas (and a graph showing the correlation that you might want to show your students) check out this paper by Mario Guerrero and Alisa Beth Rod: Guerrero, M., & Rod, A. B. (2013). Engaging in Office Hours: A Study of Student-Faculty Interaction and Academic Performance. Journal of Political Science Education, 9(4), 403-416. http://marioguerrero.info/205/Assignments/GuerreroRod.pdf
  18. Which journals do you turn to when you want to get some fresh ideas about teaching and learning within your discipline, or more generally? Jennifer Friberg of Illinois State University has compiled an extensive annotated, discipline-specific list of many of the journals on Teaching and Learning.Multidisciplinary Publications
    Arts and Humanities
    Health Related Disciplines
    Business Related Disciplines
    Math and Science-Related DisciplinesThe American Library Association also has a list that includes journals in some fields Friberg’s does not. Check them out to see what you might be missing!http://acrl.ala.org/IS/instruction-tools-resources-2/pedagogy/a-selected-list-of-journals-on-teaching-learning/
  19. By now you’ve probably heard a colleague or student talk about the Reacting to the Past historical role-playing games they’ve been playing in class. If you’d like to learn more about how they work and how incredibly engaging and effective they can be, try reading:Carnes, M. C. (2014). Minds on fire: How role-immersion games transform college. Harvard University Press.
  20. Are you looking for ways to help students of all stripes feel they belong in your course and increase the chances they will persist in your field? Highlighting the diversity of people who work in your field can help students envision themselves similar roles. For a great assignment idea that meets this goal while also serving the faculty need for content coverage, see:Schinske, J. N., Perkins, H., Snyder, A., & Wyer, M. (2016). Scientist Spotlight Homework Assignments Shift Students’ Stereotypes of Scientists and Enhance Science Identity in a Diverse Introductory Science Class. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 15(3), ar47. http://www.lifescied.org/content/15/3/ar47.full.pdf+html
  21. How do you structure your class sessions? You may have multiple parts to a given class period, and the order in which students encounter those parts can affect how well they learn the material.  The 5E Model provides a framework for aligning the components of a class with the way people learn.  For details, see:Tanner, K. D. (2010). Order matters: using the 5E model to align teaching with how people learn. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 9(3), 159-164. http://www.lifescied.org/content/9/3/159.short
  22. Each year the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) sponsors a variety of meetings, workshops, and summer institutes on a very broad range of topics. Attendees come from a wide range of disciplines and institutions, contribute to dynamic meetings, and return home bubbling with ideas. Visit https://www.aacu.org/events to see what’s on tap for this year.
  23. If you are reading this, you probably know that evidence shows lecturing is not the most effective technique for helping students learn, yet many courses are still lecture-centered. What changes can you make in your own classes, and what can you do to help improve the teaching culture on campus?  For ideas, have a look at the recently released 5-year status report on the AAU’s STEM education initiative.  The report is full of engaging vignettes about evidence-based reforms made at eight project sites.  It also identifies key factors necessary to achieve systemic improvements in STEM instruction.  “We cannot condone poor teaching of introductory STEM courses because we are trying to weed out the weaker students in the class or simply because a professor, department and/or institution fails to recognize and accept that there are, in fact, more effective ways to teach.”–Mary Sue Coleman, president of AAU
  24. Have you heard about the Dunning-Kruger effect? Dunning and Kruger showed that the lowest achieving students tend to significantly overpredict their performance on exams, while higher-achieving students tend to underpredict.  To learn more, check out the classic paper: Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121-1134.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.77.6.1121
  25. Low-achieving students tend to overestimate their abilities- a phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.  Overconfidence leads these students to study less than they should, resulting in continued low grades.  However, a recent paper shows that increasing students’ metacognition helps them get a better sense of their understanding, leading to more effective studying and improved exam performances.  To learn more, read Casselman, B. L., & Atwood, C. H. (2017). Improving General Chemistry Course Performance through Online Homework-Based Metacognitive Training. Journal of Chemical Educationhttp://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jchemed.7b00298.
  26. Do your students need some help learning about effective study methods and how to implement them? Try referring them to this collection of five short videos by Sanford University cognitive psychology professor Stephen Chew: https://www.samford.edu/departments/academic-success-center/how-to-study
  27. Are you considering co-teaching a course? Before you step into the classroom, read this advice from the UO’s own Claudia Holguín Mendoza (Romance Languages) and Julie Weise (History), which appeared in Inside Higher Education: Holguín Mendoza, C. and Weise, J. (2017, September 5). How to effectively co-teach with another academic.  Inside Higher Education. https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2017/09/05/how-effectively-co-teach-another-academic-essay
  28. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that class attendance correlates with both course grades and overall GPA. In fact, attendance is a stronger predictor of college grades than any other known predictor.  So encourage your students to come to class and support your exhortations with data from this meta-analysis:  Credé, M., Roch, S. G., & Kieszczynka, U. M. (2010). Class attendance in college: A meta-analytic review of the relationship of class attendance with grades and student characteristics. Review of Educational Research, 80(2), 272-295. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3102/0034654310362998
  29. Do you touch on social justice issues in your class? For some general tips on how to help students engage fruitfully in such topics, plus links to useful resources, check out: Gonzalez, Jennifer. (2016, February 14). A collection of resources for teaching social justice. Cult of Pedagogy. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/social-justice-resources/.
  30. There are many different approaches to studying, from highlighting the textbook to taking practice tests. But which ones should you encourage your students to use?  And which ones could you build into your course design?  Check out this widely-cited meta-analysis to find out: Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4-58. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1529100612453266
  31. Learning student names can be tough in a large class, but when students feel their instructor knows their name, they often feel more valued, more invested in the course, and more comfortable communicating with and asking for help from the instructor.  The great news is that sometimes all that’s necessary is the perception that the instructor knows student names!  To learn more read: Cooper, K. M., Haney, B., Krieg, A., & Brownell, S. E. (2017). What’s in a Name? The Importance of Students Perceiving That an Instructor Knows Their Names in a High-Enrollment Biology Classroom. CBE-Life Sciences Education16(1), ar8.  http://www.lifescied.org/content/16/1/ar8.abstract
  32. When you introduce a new concept in class, students will understand it more easily if you first give them cues about the context of the material. Doing so allows them to use their prior knowledge to help process the new information.  For the details and some examples, see the classic paper that first demonstrated this fact: Bransford, J. D., & Johnson, M. K. (1972). Contextual prerequisites for understanding: Some investigations of comprehension and recall. Journal of verbal learning and verbal behavior, 11(6), 717-726. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022537172800069
  33. Need some quick background and tips about how you can use cognitive psychology in your courses to help your students learn better? This collection of short videos by Samford University’s Prof. Stephen Chew should help: https://www.samford.edu/employee/faculty/cognitive-principles-of-effective-teaching
  34. How can you provide feedback that students will use constructively and not take as a sign of bias or that they don’t belong in your class? Make it clear that you have high standards you’re confident the student can live up to, and that the feedback is designed to help them get there.   For more details, read Yeager, D. S., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Brzustoski, P., Master, A., … & Cohen, G. L. (2014). Breaking the cycle of mistrust: Wise interventions to provide critical feedback across the racial divide. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(2), 804. http://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2013-28213-001.html
  35. Should more students be coming to your office hours? Consider converting some of them into a Course Center: reserve a room (not your office) where students can come each week to study, alone or in groups, and make yourself available in the room to answer questions and discuss concepts.  Students often feel more comfortable if they’re not on the instructor’s “home turf” and if there’s no pressure to come prepared with questions.  For details, see Chung, C. and Hsu, L. (2006). Encouraging students to seek help: Supplementing office hours with a course center. College Teaching, 54(3), 253–258. http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/27559279.pdf
  36. How do you diagnose your students’ understanding of course concepts and material before the big exam? Formative assessments can help you determine what it would be useful to spend time on in class, and help students identify areas they need more work on.  One such assessment asks students to write down questions that remain after (or are sparked by) completing course readings.  This requires them to engage with the reading more deeply than they might otherwise do.  And you can note trends in the questions and use them to guide the focus of part of a class session.  For details, see Offerdahl, E. and Montplaisir, L. (2014). Student-generated reading questions: Diagnosing student thinking with diverse formative assessments. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 42 (1), 29-38. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bmb.20757/full
  37. Do you give multiple choice exams? Careful design can make those exams better measures of student understanding, and even turn them into tools that foster learning.  Find ideas and references in this short review on optimizing multiple-choice assessments: Xu, X., Kauer, S., & Tupy, S. (2016). Multiple-choice questions: Tips for optimizing assessment in-seat and online. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 2(2), 147.

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