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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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.

 


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Connecting Employer Demands with Student Perceptions

Written by: Michael Barrowclough and Michelle Kibler, Assistant Professors of Agribusiness in the Department of Agriculture at Illinois State University (mlkible@ilstu.edu)

We as researchers are challenged with facilitating learning of our discipline to students while preparing them to enter the workforce. The two are not mutually exclusive. We are interested in the demands employers place on new hires (often college graduates) within the agricultural industry and how students’ perceptions of those demands correlate. While gaining knowledge in a particular field of study is of high importance, what can be overlooked is the significance of the development of soft skills such as time management, dependability, and communication to name a few. Knowing the soft skills sought by employers is only half the battle as proficiency in those skills must often be learned through practice and repetition. At times, educators have struggled to bridge the gap between academia and industry (Neuman and Banghart, 2001; Thacker, 2002; Wright, 2002; Cox and King, 2006).

To help us bridge this gap, we developed a survey aimed at determining the skill(s) most preferred by employers, as well as the skill(s) employers find most lacking in new hires in the agricultural industry. The survey was distributed to professionals in the agricultural industry attending the 2017 Agricultural Career Fair at Illinois State University. A total of 71 surveys were completed, with 50 of the 52 companies attending the career fair participating. Survey questions focused on the respondent’s opinion regarding the importance of six skills in new hires:

  1. Applying knowledge/skills to the work environment,
  2. Being innovative/creative,
  3. Computer applications/Staying current on technology,
  4. Locating, analyzing, and evaluating information to solve complex problems,
  5. Oral/Written Communication, and
  6. Working with others in teams

These six skills were chosen following an extensive literature review in conjunction with results of previous research conducted by the authors (Barnett, 1997; Fallows and Steven, 2000; Lowden et al., 2011; Finch et al., 2013; Kibler and Barrowclough, 2016).

The survey used a choice-based method known as “Best-Worst Scaling” (Finn and Louviere, 1992; Louviere and Islam, 2008; Louviere et al., 2015). Participants were shown 10 different scenarios, with each scenario containing a list of three of the above mentioned skills. In each scenario, participants were asked to select which skill (of the three listed) they felt was “most important” and which skill (of the three listed) they felt was “least important”. This choice-based method has significant advantages over other survey formats (e.g., ratings scales) in that it allows for an individual’s strength of preference for multiple objects to be calculated over a defined measurement range (Louviere et al. 2013).

The skill employers found to be most important was Oral/Written Communication, followed by Applying knowledge/skills to the work environment, Working with others in teams, and Locating, analyzing, and evaluating information to solve complex problems. Being innovative/creative and Computer applications/Staying current on technology were found to be least important to employers attending the career fair.

With these results, instructors may choose to tailor existing course activities (assignments, group projects, presentations, etc.) or create new opportunities to enhance student abilities in these areas. By linking the skills that employers find “most important” to how developed employers find those skills in their new hires, we as educators may provide a classroom experience which better prepares Illinois State University agriculture students for employment in the highly competitive agricultural industry.

Using the information gained from the employer questionnaire, we plan to administer a similar questionnaire to undergraduate students in the Department of Agriculture, focusing on the following objectives:

(1) examine agricultural students’ perceptions concerning skills, knowledge, and abilities they believe employers find important in recent college graduates;

(2) elicit student reflections and comments on course activities that provided experience or practice regarding specific skills and abilities throughout the semester

We anticipate that by surveying both groups (employers and students) we may identify any potential gaps that exist between student perceptions and employer demands. Students may benefit by having a clearer understanding of the skills and abilities valued by employers. Through reflections on what course activities relate to or provide experience with various employer sought skills, students may be encouraged to consider the benefits these activities provide in addition to gaining subject knowledge.

Blog References:

Cox, S. and D. King (2006), ‘Skill Sets: An Approach to Embed Employability in Course Design’, Education and Training, 48(4): 262-274.

Finch, D., L. Hamilton, R. Baldwin, and M. Zehner (2013), ‘An Exploratory Study of Factors Affecting Undergraduate Employability’, Education and Training, 55(7): 681-704.

Finn, A. and J. Louviere, 1992, “Determining the appropriate response to evidence of public concern: The case of food safety”, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 11(1): 259-267.

Kibler, M. and M. Barrowclough (2016), ‘Career Fair Questionnaire’, Submitted to industry participants at the 2016 Agricultural Career Fair at Illinois State University.

Louviere, J., T. Flynn, and A. Marley, 2015, “Best-worst scaling: Theory, methods and applications”, Cambridge University Press.

Louviere, J. and T. Islam, 2008, “A comparison of importance weights and willingness-to-pay measures derived from choice-based conjoint, constant sum scales and best-worst scaling”, Journal of Business Research, 61(9): 903-911.

Louviere, J., I. Lings, T. islam, S. Gudergan, and T. Flynn, 2013, “An introduction to the application of (case 1) best-worst scaling in marketing research”, International Journal of Research in Marketing, 30(3): 292-303.

Neumann, B. and S. Banghart (2001), ‘Industry-University ‘Consulternships’: An Implementation Guide’, International Journal of Educational Management, 15(1): 7-11.

Thacker, R. (2002), ‘Revising the HR Curriculum: An Academic/Practitioner Partnership’, Education and Training, 44(1): 31-39.

Wright, J., L. Cushman, and A. Nicholson (2002), ‘Reconciling Industry and Academia: Perspectives on the Apparel Curriculum’, Education and Training, 44(3): 122-128.


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Pedagogical Content Knowledge, Language Awareness, and edTPA: ISU Language Teacher Candidates’ Feedback Practices

Written by: Susan Hildebrandt, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Illinois State University

feedbackWhat makes feedback effective for students and encourages their later learning? Few would argue that timely feedback is desirable, and that it should provide students with a path forward. In the language classroom, the language in which the feedback is expressed also matters. My study, supported by a 2017 SoTL Summer Mini Grant, focused on ISU Spanish student teachers’ linguistic choices as they provided feedback to their K-12 Spanish learners during student teaching. Using the world language edTPA assessment task, I compared high-scoring edTPA portfolios to low-scoring portfolios. With an eye to similarities and differences in demonstrations of language awareness, the study investigated whether participants used English and/or Spanish in their feedback, along with the quantity and characteristics of that feedback.

edTPA became consequential in Illinois in September 2015, and all teacher candidates in Illinois who wish to earn a teaching license must pass that high-stakes, standardized assessment. edTPA evaluates teacher candidates’ ability to plan, instruct, and assess K-12 student learning through an extensive portfolio submitted to Pearson for external scoring at a cost of $300. It is a graduation requirement in ISU teacher education programs and is used in a number of states to evaluate effectiveness of teacher education programs.

Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK, Shulman, 1987) develops over the course of a career, beginning during preservice coursework and continuing throughout later in-service teaching and learning experiences (Henze & Van Driel, 2015; Lortie, 1975). It is domain- and discipline-specific (Hashweh, 2013; Shulman, 1987), comprised of content knowledge, or the what of teaching, and pedagogical knowledge, or the how of teaching (Shulman, 1987). Language awareness, as defined by Thornbury (1997), is “the knowledge that teachers have of the underlying systems of the language that enables them to teach effectively” (p. x). Language awareness, a subset of teacher candidates’ PCK, proves critical in language teacher education courses.

Much time is spent in postsecondary world language pedagogy classes to teach future language teachers how to teach in the target language, or the language that is being taught (i.e., Spanish) (Hildebrandt & Swanson, 2016). That training prompts teacher candidates to use the target language in a way that promotes student uptake and develops their language proficiency. It also seeks to avoid teacher candidates reverting back to teaching the way that they were taught (Cruickshank, Metcalf, & Bainer Jenkins, 2009); that is, it seeks to help teacher candidates avoid teaching about languages instead teach in the language itself. Methods classes can help teacher candidates internalize constructivist teaching practices and apply them to their feedback practices (Sigler & Saam, 2006), but previously held dispositions can prevent that application of best practices (Cummins & Asempapa, 2013). The language chosen for student feedback is critical in second language teaching, and scaffolding teacher candidate feedback to students can provide a valuable aid in long-term changes in teaching practices (Hunzicker & Lukowiak, 2015).

Both qualitative and quantitative methodology were used in this study. The initial data set was composed of World Language edTPA scores from a ISU’s seven Spanish teacher education program completers during the 2015-2016 academic year. Analysis of participants’ assessment artifacts (e.g., rubrics, evaluation criteria, etc.) allowed easier comparison of the level of class, type of rubric used, rubric criteria, feedback type, language of the rubric and feedback, among other features. Using qualitative analysis, I also explored ways that the portfolios with high average assessment task subscores manifested language awareness, as compared to the portfolios with low average subscores. Three general categories, based on the portfolios, formed the initial structure for analysis: language awareness, knowledge of L2, and knowledge of learners. Results showed that most participants’ feedback was in English, rather than Spanish. In general, those participants who provided more feedback to students, no matter the language, scored better on the edTPA assessment task.

This project sought to explore ways of preparing ISU teacher candidates of Spanish to complete an edTPA portfolio to align with communicative language teaching practices, including using the target language nearly exclusively. Those practices are explored and put into practice during coursework, but do not seem to generalize to the edTPA portfolio constructed during the student teaching semester (Swanson & Hildebrandt, 2017), as was found in the present study. I will use the information gained to create more opportunities for ISU teacher educators to create effective, Spanish-language feedback to their K-12 students (Hunzicker & Lukowiak, 2015).

The full study can be found in a chapter called “Pedagogical Content Knowledge, Language Awareness, and edTPA” that will appear early next year an edited volume. Researching edTPA Promises and Problems: Perspectives from English to Speakers of Other Languages, English Language Arts, and World Language Teacher Education will be released in early 2018 by Information Age Publishing.

Blog References:

Cruickshank, D. R., Metcalf, K. K., & Bainer Jenkins, D. (2009). The act of teaching (5th ed.).New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Cummins, L., & Asempapa, B. (2013). Fostering teacher candidate dispositions in teacher education programs. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(3), 99-119.

Hashweh, M. (2013). Pedagogical content knowledge: Twenty-five years later. In C. J. Craig, P. C. Meijer, & J. Broeckmans (Eds.), From teacher thinking to teachers and teaching: The evolution of a research community (pp. 115-140). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.

Henze, I., & Van Driel, J. H. (2015). Toward a more comprehensive way to capture PCK in its complexity. In A. Berry, P. Friedrichsen, & J. Loughran (Eds.), Re-examining pedagogical content knowledge in science education (pp. 120-134). New York: Routledge.

Hildebrandt, S. A., & Swanson, P. (2016). Understanding the world language edTPA: Research-based policy and practice. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Hunzicker, J., & Lukowiak, T. (2015). Engaging pre-service teachers –and their professor – in learning: A comparison of two literacy methods courses. Journal of Transformative Learning, 3(2), 52-83.

Lortie, D. (1975). Schoolteacher: A sociological study. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-22.

Sigler, E. A., & Saam, J. (2006). Teacher candidates’ conceptual understanding of conceptual learning: From theory to practice. Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and learning, 6(1), 118-126.

Swanson, P. & Hildebrandt, S. A. (2017). Communicative learning outcomes and world language edTPA:  Characteristics of high-scoring portfolios. Hispania, 100, 331-347.

Thornbury, S. (1997). About language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

 

 


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Photo Documentation: SoTL Methods Series #4

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

Over the last five years, students from my academic department have traveled to six countries on two continents as part of our program’s study abroad experience. Offered for independent study credit, these study abroad experiences have transpired as “short term” opportunities (e.g., spring break or two weeks in the summer session) and have focused on cultural immersion, rather than disciplinary content knowledge. I led our most recent trip to Spain during spring break 2017 and was joined by two faculty colleagues and 32 students. Prior to this year’s trip, students self-reported gains in what Miller-Perrin and Thompson (2014) would consider internal learning (e.g., emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth) as well as external learning (e.g., second language acquisition, intercultural learning, globalization, disciplinary knowledge). While this was lovely to hear, these impressions were anecdotal, as we had never systematically studied student learning that occurred as a result of engagement as a study abroad participant.

I decided to study this year’s students to measure the impact of short term study abroad for this cohort. Initially, I thought I would restrict my study design to traditional methods of reflection and content analysis. In the weeks prior to travel, I asked students to set three goals for themselves based on self-perceived areas of weakness or interest. Students were asked to keep track of their growth in these goal areas via reflective journals, which were analyzed carefully for evidence of progress or growth in their goal areas. Eighty-one of these goals fit into one of the following categories: taking chances, engagement, flexibility, gaining independence, archiving, budgeting, social interaction, or understanding culture.

Around the time that I was developing the plan for collecting data from travelers, I read about photo documentation, a method derived from visual sociology wherein researchers seek out patterns in photographic data collected using something called a shooting script. I was intrigued as to how I might introduce this new method into my study abroad project. I tried, and I was able to extend what I learned about my students in doing so. The remainder of this post is a description of my “rookie experience” with photo documentation. I am certainly not an expert, but I did enjoy exploring this visual methodology!

Photo documentation is a research method developed by Charles Suchar (1997). Specifically, “photo documentation is a method that assumes photographs are accurate records of what was in front of the camera when its shutter snapped – ‘a precise record of material reality’ — and takes photographs in a systematic way in order to provide data which the researcher then analyzes” (Rose, 2016, p. 310). The key to photo documentation is a shooting script which consists of “lists of sub-questions” (derived as topical to overarching research questions) which act as a guide for taking pictures connected to the topic of the research being conducted (Rose, 2016, p. 311). Photos are taken in accordance with a shooting script, then analyzed for categories and patterns via a systematic coding process.

In the case of the study I described above, I wanted to understand changes that occurred in students in self-identified areas of need/interest. Thus, in addition to reflective (written) journaling, I asked that students use the following shooting script to document learning visually before and during travel:

  1. What was I doing/seeing when I recognized that I had made progress toward meeting one of my goals?
  2. What things/people/experiences influenced this progress?

spain food 2In applying this shooting script, students were directed to take pictures to answer these questions as they were going about their study abroad experiences. After travel, they submitted three photos per goal to me, along with their written journals. I printed out all photos that students submitted and searched for patterns across goals and photos. I was able to find many! As an example, many students set goals to improve their understanding of different cultures. Looking at the photos submitted along with written reflection for this goal, I could see that students represented “increases in cultural understanding”  via photos of food (see right), religious symbols, architecture, or Spanish citizens they interacted with during their travels. Students who set goals to “take chances” maggierepresented growth in this area with photos of new foods they tried or photos of experiences where they conquered personal fears (e.g., communing with the macaques in Gibraltar after a prior bad experience — see left).

Overall, what I found interesting is the different stories these data told. While written reflections told me WHAT changes students had realized as a result of study abroad, the photographs told me HOW how these changes occurred. The combination of these different data types were powerful to tell the story of my students’ experiences in Spain and made a powerful case for the possibility of significant learning in a short amount of time.

I have always been intrigued with what the visual representation of learning might look like for different students. Using photo documentation helped me to see the possibilities of visually-based data in a way that I appreciate and hope to use again in the future!

Blog References:

Miller-Perrin, C. & Thompson, D. (2014). Outcomes of global education: External and internal change   associated with study abroad. New Directions for Student Services, 146, p. 77-89.

Rose, G. (2016). Visual methodologies: An introduction to researching with visual methods (4th ed.). Sage: Los Angeles.

Suchar, C. S. (1997). Grounding visual sociology research in shooting scripts. Qualitative Sociology, 20(1), 33-55.

 


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Think Alouds: SoTL Methods Series #3

Written by Sarah M. Ginsberg, Ed.D., Professor of Speech-Language Pathology at Eastern Michigan University (sginsberg@emich.edu)

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally posted on the SoTL Advocate on October 12. 2015 and is reprinted in its entirety now for its excellent fit in the current methods series which features methods for SoTL that are “new and different” to many.  — JCF

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 8.25.05 PMA common thread that runs through various cross-disciplinary SOTL research is the concerted effort made to understand what the accomplished professional is thinking when she solves a work problem so that we can use that knowledge as teachers to better prepare future professionals. That problem might be how a mathematician completes a technical calculation, or in clinical fields, it might be how the clinician arrives at a diagnosis. The value for all of us in understanding what our accomplished colleagues do in their heads when faced with a technical problem is that in identifying how the pros do it, we can uncover insights into how we should be teaching our students to think and to problem solve. This type of understanding relies on a process of collecting data while the person is actively engaged in solving a problem out loud. This type of study is often referred to as a think aloud (TA) and can yield important information to inform evidence-based educational practices

The TA method is a validated method of learning about cognitive processes by having participants verbalize their thinking in a metacognitive manner (Ericcson & Simon, 1993; Wineberg, 1991). TAs were popularized by Wineberg (1991) in his ground-breaking study that examined the differences between how academic historians processed information while reading historical texts and how students processed information regarding historical texts.  Since then, TAs have been used to study how novice thinking compares to experienced thinking in a wide variety of disciplines, including the health sciences, mathematics, and political science (Banning, 2008; Bernstein, 2010; Forsberg, Ziegert, Hult, & Fors, 2013; Wainwright & McGinnis, 2009). These types of studies are often referred to as “expert-novice” studies (Bernstein, 2010).

The process of data collection using a TA approach is quite simple and requires minimal technology and cost. Typically:

  1. Study participants are presented with the problem to be solved by the researcher and asked to solve it aloud.
  2. Specific directions are provided to participants. Prompts (e.g., “tell me how you would solve this” or “describe how you would approach this problem”) are used to elicit responses and gather additional information if a participant falls silent or struggles with the process.
  3. Participant responses are recorded for subsequent transcription and analysis.
  4. Once the TA is transcribed, the most challenging part of the process becomes the subsequent data analysis. Consistent with qualitative methodology, verbalizations may be read as a whole to determine initial emerging codes and impressions about the thought process (Creswell, 2002; Denzin & Lincoln, 2012). Using an inductive approach to identifying specific thought processes or strategies allows the researcher to move forward to developing secondary, axial coding. Themes emerge as the iterative process expands to include all participants and commonalities and differences can be appreciated.

Having recently completed a study comparing the diagnostic problem-solving of experienced speech-language pathology (SLP) clinicians compared to the problem-solving of SLP graduate students, I found that the most challenging aspect of analyzing the data was determining the level of thinking to focus on. I used studies in comparable clinical professions, such as nursing, physicians, and physical therapists to identify frameworks that might be useful to me. In determining the focus of my study, I chose to concentrate on the heuristics (thinking strategies) of my participants, to understand differences in approaches to problem solving and to create a framework that fostered comparisons to previous literature, potentially increasing the value of my findings.

For more details on the think aloud method and some outstanding examples of its use in a variety of fields, see the items included in the following references. It should be noted that a number of authors also advocate for the use of TA as a teaching method. For those unfamiliar with qualitative research methodology, several references are included here as well.

References for Additional Information on Think Alouds:

Banning, M. (2008b). The think aloud approach as an educational tool to develop and assess clinical reasoning in undergraduate students. Nurse Education Today, 28, (1), p. 8–14. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2007.02.001

Bernstein, J. L. (2010). Using “think-alouds” to understand variations in political thinking. Journal of Political Science Education, 6(1), p 49-69. doi:10.1080/15512160903467695

Ericcson, K. A., & Simon, H A. (1993). Protocol analysis: Verbal reports as data. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Forsberg, E., Ziegert, K., Hult, H., & Fors, U. (2013). Clinical reasoning in nursing, a think-aloud study using virtual patients-A base for innovative assessment. Nurse Education Today, http://dx.doi.org./10.1016/j.nedt.2013.07.010

Wainwright, S. F., & McGinnis, P.Q. (2009). Factors that influence the clinical decision-making of rehabilitation professionals in long-term care settings. Journal of Allied Health, 38(3), 143-51.

Wineberg, S. S. (1991) On the reading of historical texts: Notes on the breach between school and academy. American Educational Research Journal, 28(3), 495-519.


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#Collaborative Auto-ethnography: SoTL Methods Series #2

Written by: Catherine McConnell (University of Brighton), Elizabeth Marquis (McMaster University), and Lucy Mercer-Mapstone (University of Queensland) — note complete author-supplied affiliations and contact information at the end of this blog post. 

When we (Catherine, Beth, and Lucy) met at the International Summer Institute on Students as Partners in 2016 we quickly discovered that, as practitioners of student-staff partnerships, we had many shared experiences. Our discussions were fruitful in terms of giving us a sense of belonging but we felt they warranted deeper exploration. So, we embarked on a process of delving into our own experiences in the hopes of learning in the process and sharing that learning with fellow practitioners and researchers. As we worked to find a way to effectively and systematically study ourselves, we arrived at the idea of using collaborative auto-ethnography as a methodological approach.


Above: Participants at the 2016 McMaster Summer Institute on Students as Partners in Teaching and Learning, where we first developed the idea for our CAE project.


Collaborative auto-ethnography (CAE) is a research method that involves ‘a group of researchers pooling their stories to find some commonalities and differences […] to discover the meanings of the stories in relation to their sociocultural contexts’ (Chang et al, 2013, p. 17). As such, it provided a perfect, if initially somewhat unfamiliar, way to collectively explore our individual experiences in a scholarly fashion.

We have put together this blog post to explain our developing understanding of the method and process of CAE, and how we, as a group of three researchers, have used it in our recent SoTL enquiry into ‘student-staff partnership in higher education.’

CAE builds upon ‘auto-ethnography,’ which is a method that uses a researcher’s personal experience to ‘describe and critique cultural beliefs, practices, and experiences’ (Adams et al, 2015, p.1). Auto-ethnography is a deeply personal and reflective process, usually taking place in a researcher’s own context, whether that be about practice or in a certain situation. Adding the dimension of multiple ethnographies (i.e., more than one voice) presents the possibility that the method can simultaneously be collaborative, autobiographical, and ethnographic.

For our shared research, we took up the CAE method through structured reflective writing, designing a writing activity to provide a framework that would guide our individual reflections. We set ourselves a word limit of 750 words that we would write and share with each other in a private online space. This activity was modelled on a set of reflective prompts, informed by Johns’ model of structured reflection (Johns, 2000), which had been adapted by colleagues at the University of Brighton, UK (2011) and which we subsequently re-appropriated. Specifically, we:

  1. Developed a framework of prompts/questions for reflection
  2. Wrote individual reflections guided by the framework
  3. Shared and read each other’s reflections
  4. Conducted iterative thematic analysis to discover key themes

Our developed framework was a useful facilitative tool to prompt us to take an open, honest account of our personal and professional experiences, affirming Johns’ interest in ‘making explicit the knowledge we use in our practice’ (Jasper, 2013, p.86). Posing questions that follow Johns’ (ibid, p.37) format of phased cue questions (phases involve preparatory, descriptive, reflective, anticipatory, and insight questions) we focused our SoTL enquiry on identity construction, navigation and enactment in the context of student-staff partnerships.

The framework below provides an illustration of the types of questions used to prompt our personal reflections about identity in the context of student-staff partnerships. This could be easily adapted to other SoTL topics –  especially those that reflect on practice.

Framework for reflective questioning
Description of experience Phenomenon: describe in detail your partnership practice, or a specific partnership experience that seems especially noteworthy, without interpretation or judgement
Context: what were the significant background factors to this experience? Why did it take place, and what was its purpose?
Reflection What were you trying to achieve?
Why did you behave as you did?
What were the consequences of your actions for yourself and others?
How did you feel about the experience when it was happening?
To what extent did your actions realize your understanding of partnership?
What identity(s) were you consciously aware of at the time?
What identity(s) do you believe were at play during this interaction in hindsight?
If multiple, which identity was most salient? How were they interacting?
Analysis: Influencing factors

 

What factors influenced your decision-making? Some potential options to consider: Prior experiences, Societal expectations/ideologies/assumptions, Context
How was your salient identity affecting your actions?
How was the interaction between identities affecting your actions?
How was the presence of this identity(s) influencing your perceptions of those with whom you were interacting?
Analysis: Alternatives What other choices did you have?
What could be the consequences of these choices?
Learning & Action How do you feel about this experience now?
Has this experience changed your way of understanding yourself?
Did your salient identity change? If so, how and why?
In hindsight, how has is interaction/even affected your ongoing identity in partnership?
What new questions, challenges or issues has it raised?
Given the chance, what would you do differently next time?
How will you follow up on this experience in order to put your learning into practice?

Once we had written and shared our individual reflections, we found it useful to read each other’s, and write a short ‘meta-reflection’ on the writing process. This enabled us to appraise the CAE method straight after the reflective process but before we began any analysis of the transcripts. Some of our observations included:

  • The researchers felt a sense of belonging and solidarity to one another along with a communal ownership of an enquiry
  • Writing and sharing reflections caused each of us a personal realisation and provided grounds for transformation. This process was not without some discomfort, though, perhaps because there is a level of vulnerable-making involved with sharing personal reflections with colleagues
  • Sometimes the content of the reflections themselves was also unsettling or challenging, and caused discomfort in relation to an aspect of one’s own practice
  • We experienced a heightened consciousness of our own values and beliefs relating to practice, the influence these have in partnership situations, and in our expectations of others
  • We also noted a sense of excitement when reading each other’s writing inspired by the experience of sharing personal insights and aspects of our own identity that are usually implicit

While CAE proved a useful method for meaningfully exploring our research questions about our own experiences, then, it was also an exciting and sometimes uncomfortable process that supported reflective thinking and potential development of our practice as teachers and learners.

Project Information

We are three SoTL practitioners working in the area of student-staff partnership in HE across three western countries, in differing roles, and in significantly different institutional contexts. Catherine McConnell is a Senior Lecturer in a Learning and Teaching centre, focusing her work and doctoral research on student-staff partnership, at the University of Brighton in the UK. Beth Marquis is Associate Director (Research) at the central teaching and learning institute at McMaster University in Canada. Her disciplinary training is in film and cultural studies. Lucy Mercer-Mapstone is a PhD candidate and research co-fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia. She currently leads the collaborative design of a university-wide Students as Partners program that aims to embed a culture of partnership at the institution.

You can find out more about our study: Breaking Tradition Through Partnership: Navigating Identities and Dissonance in Student-Staff Partnerships in the EuroSoTL Conference Proceedings, p296.

Catherine McConnell * a, Elizabeth Marquis b, c Lucy Mercer-Mapstone

a Centre for Learning and Teaching, University of Brighton, Sussex, England. C.McConnell@brighton.ac.uk

b Arts & Science Program and MacPherson Institute, McMaster University. Hamilton, ON, Canada. beth.marquis@mcmaster.ca

c Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Brisbane, 4072, Australia, l.mercermapstone@uq.edu.au, orcid.org/0000-0001-7441-6568

*Corresponding author

 

Blog References

Adams, T. E., Linn, H. J. S. and Ellis, C. (2015). Autoethnography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chang, H., Ngunjiri, F., & Hernandez, W. (2013). Collaborative autoethnography. London: Routledge.

Jasper, M. (2013) Beginning Reflective Practice. (2nd edition) Hampshire: Cengage Learning.

Johns, C. (2000) Becoming a Reflective Practitioner. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications.

University of Brighton. (2011). Critical Incident Analyses. Brighton: University of Brighton.