The SoTL Advocate

Supporting efforts to make public the reflection and study of teaching and learning at Illinois State University and beyond…


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Two Instructional Approaches for Pre-Service Special Education Teachers: A SoTL Mini-Grant Report

Written by Dr. Virginia L. Walker (Assistant Professor of Special Education, Illinois State University) and Dr. Kristin Lyon (University of Kansas, formerly faculty at ISU). Corresponding author: Virginia Walker (vlwalk2@ilstu.edu).

STATE_YourLearningDuring Spring 2017, my colleague, Dr. Kristin Lyon, and I conducted a study to investigate the effectiveness of two instructional approaches on the performance of undergraduate students enrolled in four sections of SED 362: Systematic Instruction for Leaners with Severe Disabilities. SED 362 is a required course for undergraduate students in the Special Education – Specialist in Learning and Behavior program (https://illinoisstate.edu/academics/specialist-learning-behavior/) and focuses on preparing pre-service special education teachers to develop and implement systematic instruction, an evidence-based practice (EBP) for students with severe disabilities (Browder, Wood, Thompson, & Ribuffo, 2014; Collins, 2012). Systematic instruction involves teaching skills through defined methods of prompting and feedback based on the principles and science of applied behavior analysis. Systematic instruction is effective in teaching a wide variety of skills to students with severe disabilities including academic, functional, communication, and social skills (Collins, 2012; Spooner, McKissick, & Knight, 2017). It is critical that pre-service special education teachers are competent in implementing systematic instruction procedures given the reliance on systematic instruction as an EBP for students with severe disabilities (Spooner et al., 2017). After teaching this particular course over multiple semesters, Dr. Lyon and I observed similar performance patterns across our students – a large number of students failed to implement the range of systematic instruction prompting systems with high levels of fidelity by the end of the semester. As a result, we designed and implemented a SoTL study to explore two instructional methods for improving our pre-service special education teachers’ implementation fidelity of systematic instruction: video performance feedback and self-monitoring checklists.

Within the SoTL literature on special education teacher preparation, performance feedback has been identified as an effective instructional practice for pre-service special education teachers, resulting in improved implementation of various EBPs (Cornelius & Nagro, 2014). Furthermore, coaching with video performance feedback also contributes to improved pre- and in-service teacher implementation of EBPs (Kretlow & Bartholomew, 2010).  Emerging evidence suggests that self-monitoring, specifically video self-monitoring, can improve pre-service teachers’ behavior (Alexander, Williams, & Nelson, 2012).  However, less is known about which of these two instructional methods leads to more pronounced outcomes among pre-service special education teachers.

To assess the effects of video performance feedback and self-monitoring checklists on our students’ implementation of various systematic instruction prompting systems, we utilized a quasi-experimental two-group pretest-posttest design to measure and analyze student performance before and after intervention. Prior to intervention, students received standard instructional procedures for teaching the range of prompting systems, including a lecture with a list of procedures, a video model, and group practice opportunities. Each student was required to submit videos demonstrating the prompting systems to document their baseline performance. During intervention, students were assigned to one of two instructional conditions: (a) video performance feedback or (b) self-monitoring checklist. Video performance feedback involved the course instructors embedding feedback related to implementation fidelity within students’ submitted videos using LiveText software, a program available to all students enrolled in the Special Education – Specialist in Learning and Behavior program. The self-monitoring checklist strategy required students to review submitted videos and complete a self-monitoring checklist to self-evaluate implementation fidelity. Using feedback from either the instructor or the self-monitoring checklist, students submitted new videos demonstrating the prompting system for the same tasks.

Over the course of Summer and Spring 2017, funding from the SoTL mini grant competition supported coding student performance videos and analyzing data within and across instructional conditions. Our preliminary analyses suggest that, overall, both instructional approaches contributed to improved student performance. In fact, there were statistically significant improvements across both instructional conditions in student implementation of prompting systems when students utilized systematic instruction to teach more complex skills. We also found that, within the self-monitoring group, there were significant improvements in implementation of one specific prompting system (constant time delay) when teaching less complex skills. However, when comparing the effectiveness of the video performance feedback and self-monitoring checklist approaches, we found no significant differences, suggesting that both approaches may be useful in teaching pre-service special education teachers to implement various systematic instruction prompting systems. There are several limitations to the current study that we hope to address during the Spring 2018 semester, as we continue to utilize SoTL research to answer an important question – “What are the most effective and efficient ways to prepare future special education teachers to implement EBPs for learners with severe disabilities?”

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Prospective Students and Parents: An Opportunity for Macro-level SoTL Advocacy?

Written by: Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Illinois State University

considerRecently, I have started to wonder if we, proponents of and for SoTL, might be missing an opportunity to connect with an important group of stakeholders as part of our “typical” SoTL advocacy. We regularly and routinely share the value and importance of SoTL with faculty and campus administrators. We advocate within our disciplines and across our institutions. Conversations at SoTL conferences have focused – rightly so – on the lack of student voices in our SoTL work. So many SoTL folks now strongly advocate for students to be partners in our SoTL endeavors. These are important, impactful efforts to continue building SoTL and likely always will be! That said, I think many of us are leaving an important group — prospective students and parents — out of our campus-level (macro) SoTL advocacy.

I will admit to having a unique perspective on this topic: my son is currently a high school junior. We have looked at numerous college websites and have visited half a dozen colleges. It was during one of these visits that my son asked a faculty member he met, “do you have the chance to do SoTL research here?” I was surprised by his question. I had been wondering the same thing, but figured that was simply because SoTL is my professional passion. I hadn’t stopped to consider that my son might care about this, too. Prospective students might really benefit from knowing that a university supports the study of student learning to improve teaching. For prospective parents, this might be equally important to inform discussions and priorities related to college choice.

At a time when the general societal attitudes are not always kind to higher education, it may be truly valuable that we demonstrate to prospective students and parents that there is meaningful research being conducted on student learning that is meaningful in the context of our individual institutions. Sharing how this research can improve the student experience at a university might help these stakeholders make important choices based not on “brand,” but rather on substance.

What mechanisms could be utilized to support the sharing of SoTL work with prospective students and parents at your university? I offer several suggestions below, though this is hardly an exhaustive list!

  • Provide information (perhaps linked on your institution’s admissions website) about SoTL on your campus. Highlight the work of faculty and students. EXPLAIN why SoTL matters!
  • Record and report testimonials on the impact of SoTL for students on your campus website. Specifically describe how course instructors use or apply SoTL to improve student learning. SHOW how SoTL makes an impact.
  • It might be even more important to include information about SoTL accomplishments on specific department/unit websites. Reports have shown that the most common web searches engaged in by prospective students and parents are specific to majors/minors/academic programs than any other. CONTEXTUALIZE discipline-specific SoTL work.
  • Think about how social media is used on your campus. I follow the Instagram and Twitter feeds from my son’s “top five” universities. It’s remarkable how much you can learn about what a university values just by doing this! Sadly, I’ve very rarely seen posts about student learning or SoTL from these accounts, though such posts would be very appropriate, and helpful. Think about how you can work with your institution’s social media managers to reach prospective students and parents through accounts such as these to advocate for the SoTL being done on your campus. INTEGRATE SoTL into your institution’s public image.
  • Encourage admissions officers and other campus social media managers to share information relative to SoTL news and accomplishments on your campus. ADVOCATE for SoTL work to be shared.
  • Social media/websites aren’t the only way to reach prospective parents and students, though they are likely the most common. Identify mechanisms at your institution that could be useful in sharing information about SoTL to this group of stakeholders. Perhaps an alumni magazine, community publication, or other outlet exists where information about SoTL can be shared. CONSIDER the possibilities for sharing SoTL in print and via other media.

 


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Mikulec Recognized as 2017-18 Chizmar-Ostrosky SoTL Award Winner

The Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University is pleased to announce that Erin Mikulec (Ph.D., Purdue University), Associate Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning, is the recipient of the 2018 Dr. John Chizmar & Dr. Anthony Ostrosky Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award. Mikulec has been recognized for her excellence in research in the area of teaching and learning as well as her regular and enthusiastic mentorship of her ISU colleagues in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).

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Jan Murphy (Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost), Erin Mikulec (Chizmar-Ostrosky Awardee), and Jennifer Friberg (Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL) at the 2018 University-Wide Teaching & Learning Symposium in Normal, Illinois

At ISU, SoTL is defined as “the systematic study and/or reflection of our ISU students made public.” Throughout her tenure at ISU, Mikulec has used this definition to guide a great deal of her scholarly work. In doing so, she has studied the impact of new and unique clinical experiences on her students’ learning, refining her teaching in response to her findings. As Mikulec’s SoTL work has consistently focused on historically under-studied topics in the field of SoTL (e.g., out-of-class learning, study abroad), her efforts have helped to build an emerging evidence-base for other academics to apply to their own teaching and learning practice or research. Her recent SoTL projects have included:

  • Pre-Service Teachers Negotiating Professionalism in Social Media
  • Registered Student Organizations: ISU Equestrians
  • ISU and Purdue North Central in a Clinical Experience at the Alliance School
  • ISU Students at the Alliance School
  • Honors Pre-Service Teachers and YouthBuild of McLean County
  • Professional Development and Perceived Readiness in Pre-Service Teachers in Finland
  • Connecting ISU Students to International Peers
  • Study Abroad in Brighton, England
  • Out-of-Class Learning
  • Study Abroad at ISU: A Campus-Wide Study

Mikulec’s scholarship on teaching and learning has been disseminated across a variety of venues: peer-reviewed journal articles (Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Multicultural Education, Teacher Education and Practice), a book chapter, weblogs, and presentations at numerous local, regional, and international venues.

Mikulec’s contributions as a SoTL mentor and advocate at ISU are notable. In 2016, Mikulec served as a SoTL Scholar-Mentor in the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL. In this capacity, Mikulec served as a co-editor for Gauisus (ISU’s internal SoTL publication), regularly contributed to the SoTL Advocate blog, and assisted in the development of ISU’s first “Go Global with SoTL” mini-grant program. In the last three years, Mikulec has also co-created and co-facilitated a variety of SoTL faculty development workshops and has served as a regular Gauisus reviewer. Recently, she co-developed a project to study the campus-wide impact of study abroad at ISU and will mentor two “new-to-SoTL” faculty colleagues as part of this SoTL grant-funded endeavor.

Mikulec was recognized for her receipt of this award at the 2018 University-Wide Teaching and Learning Symposium hosted by the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology at ISU last week. She will be formally recognized at the upcoming Founder’s Day convocation ceremony in February, as well.

 


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Changes in Student Attitudes Regarding Breastfeeding in a Pediatric Feeding & Swallowing Course

Recently a SoTL project allowed me to meet a longstanding research goal. I keep a list of things I’d like to accomplish someday, and one of them was “publish in the Journal of Human Lactation.” JHL seemed like a reach for me: I’m not running studies with thousands of participants; I’m not supervising humanitarian efforts in the developing world. But when they issued a notice about an upcoming special issue, I decided to write up some SoTL data.

attitudeThis seeds for particular project were planted in my first year at ISU. I was assigned to teach pediatric dysphagia — a class focused on the assessment and treatment of children’s feeding and swallowing problems — to graduate students in speech-language pathology. The first time I taught by the class, I was taken aback by the intensity of some students’ reactions to breastfeeding. Even in their post-class reflections, some of them were still uncomfortable with the idea of working with a mother who hoped to breastfeed her baby.

The next two times I taught the class, I collected data on student attitudes. On the first day of the term, I asked them to write about their own perceptions of “normal” with regard to infant feeding. I asked them about some hypothetical scenarios, and about what was typical in their own families. They repeated the exercise at the end of the class. In between, they came to class to learn more about infant feeding practices. They participated in discussions about feeding controversies. They read scholarly articles and talked to feeding therapists. Most important of all, they heard from parents who had struggled to feed their infants.

When I analyzed their responses, the importance of parents’ stories came up over and over again. “I didn’t realize how hard it was for them,” my students told me. In addition to the qualitative elements, I had Likert-type scale data that allowed me to quantify changes in student attitudes. Across both the 2014 and 2016 cohorts, there were highly significant changes in students’ acceptance of breastfeeding.

Reviewing this data was valuable for me as an instructor, because it allowed me to see that meaningful change in prior attitudes can be accompanied by lingering hesitation about the unfamiliar. One student described the change in this way: Revisiting this question three weeks later has made me realize I may have been a little harsh in Part 1. I still am not completely on board with the idea of breastfeeding … but I now have more knowledge of breastfeeding [after] taking this class, and feel a bit more comfortable than before.

My primary hope is that our students will be able to provide evidence-based services to the families they encounter in the workplace, assisted by evidence-based classroom practices. This project also allowed me to meet a long-term research goal: the paper describing my students’ experiences will appear in the February 2018 issue of the Journal of Human Lactation.