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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University-School Partnerships and Pre-Service Teacher Preparation: A Travel Grant Report

Written by Sherry Sanden, Assistant Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 10.18.48 PMWith support from a SoTL Travel Grant awarded by the Office of the Cross Chair in SoTL at ISU, I attended the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida in February, 2017 to present a paper titled Examining the Impact of Multi-Year School-University Partnerships on Pre-service Teacher Learning. In this presentation, my research colleagues and I explained our planning, implementation, and outcomes of the exploration of a university-school partnership that enabled us to prioritize and study three significant components of ISU pre-service teachers’ learning: their classroom field experiences, the in-service teachers with whom they worked, and the university structures that supported them in the field.

In our presentation, we explained how we supported the preparation of ISU pre-service teachers through a collaborative partnership between our early childhood teacher preparation program and a local public elementary school. Important components of the partnership included 1) two-day per week pre-student teaching clinical experiences in the kindergarten through Grade 3 classrooms of the partner school for a full year; 2) weekly collaborative sessions between the pre-service teachers, in-service teachers, and clinical supervisors; 3) a content course for the pre- service teachers, co-taught in the school setting by an early childhood faculty member and in-service teachers from the partner school; and 4) professional learning opportunities in the form of book studies conducted by early childhood faculty members and attended by pre-service and in-service teachers.

Relying on focus groups and interviews with pre-service teachers, in-service teachers, school administration, and university faculty; as well as on observations of pre-service teacher instruction, interactions, and reflections occurring across the school year, we evaluated the ability of the partnership to support the growth of pre-service teachers while maintaining the mission of the school in educating its student population. Utilizing the perceptions of all stakeholders and participants, we determined some aspects of the partnership that appeared to be most beneficial in supporting growth in the pre-service teacher participants, including strong and frequent faculty presence in the school setting, a university course embedded on site, support and mentoring for the pre-service and in-service teachers, and a consistent year-long location for teacher candidates. Demonstrated gains included a) increased pre-service teacher confidence in their practice, (b) improved teaching skills and abilities among pre-service teachers, and (c) stronger relationships and greater collaboration among pre-service and in-service teachers, school administrators, and university faculty.

Implications from this study include more clarity regarding the critical aspects involved with university-school partnerships, a better understanding of how pre- and in-service teachers can be mutually supported, and ultimately, identification of ways that clinical experiences can be maximized through a partnership model. Our interactive presentation provided an opportunity to discuss structures of university/school partnerships in the varied contexts of our presentation attendees. As we explained the results and implications of our ISU partnership practices, we provided opportunities for our audience to share questions or suggestions that further expanded our ideas. I believe this collaborative sharing inspired all of us to delve more deeply into the possibilities for partnerships that move beyond the traditional methods of placing pre-service teachers in schools and toward mutually beneficial collaborative relationships.

Our research work and subsequent presentation at ATE were consistent with the conference theme of Teacher Educators: Inspiring the Future, Honoring the Past in its goal of exploring innovative ways to improve on established methods of teacher education. Having the opportunity to share with teacher educators outside ISU the ways we have studied the learning of our ISU teacher candidates allowed all of us to grow in our understanding of options for building even stronger supports for university/school relationships in support of pre-service teacher growth as well as of methods of studying that important work.

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New Funding Opportunities for ISU SoTLists!

The Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University is accepting applications for two grant programs: FY18 University Research Grants and FY17 Summer Mini Grants. Information related to each of these funding programs can be accessed via the Cross Chair website. An overview is provided for each program below. Contact Jennifer Friberg ( with questions.

FY18 University Research Grants:

The Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning requests proposals for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning URG Grant Program. The program provides scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) small grants to study the developmental and learning outcomes of ISU students. For 2017-2018, funded projects can focus on the systematic study/reflection of any teaching-learning issue(s) explicitly related ISU students.

Grants of up to $5,000 are available. Funds may be used for any appropriate budget category (e.g., printing, commodities, contractual, travel, student help, and salary in FY18). While 4-5 grants are expected to be awarded, all awards are subject to the availability of funds allocated for FY18. Proposals should be submitted by 5/22/17.

urg summer

FY 17 Summer Mini Grants:

The Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning requests proposals for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning URG Grant Program. The program provides scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) small grants to study the developmental and learning outcomes of ISU students. This funding program will award six mini-grants of $600 each to ISU faculty via a competitive application process. These funds will be awarded as a June 2017 stipend for work on a new or ongoing SoTL project at any stage of completion (e.g., writing an IRB, analyzing data, writing up findings). Proposals should be submitted by April 24, 2017.

mini summer

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Improving Writing Through Revision: Stop Complaining and Start Supporting

Written by Rebecca M. Achen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sport Management at Illinois State University

A photo by Joanna Kosinska. the spring of 2016, I embarked on a project to discover a revision strategy that would help my graduate students become more accomplished writers. After spending my first semester at ISU hearing students lament about writing and voice frustration with their scores, I decided to implement three revision strategies into one graduate course in the spring of 2016. I received a SoTL Research Mini-Award for June 2016 from the Office of the Cross-Endowed Chair to support the analysis of the data and writing of the manuscript.

Bean (2011) highlights the importance of encouraging revision for improving writing and critical thinking skills. He suggests faculty focus on strategies to help students understand the process of writing. As such, I embarked on a project to improve students’ writing through revision to determine which revision strategy is most effective. In a graduate course, I assigned four written concept papers, with identical assignment instructions and rubrics, but varying concepts. After completing the first paper, students were given the opportunity to rewrite it. Prior to writing the second paper, students were invited to send me a rough draft for feedback. For the third paper, students were required to bring a draft to class for peer review. Finally, none of these revision options were afforded for the fourth paper. After final course grades were submitted, I reviewed student consent forms and then compared scores across papers. While the average score was the highest on the assignment they were allowed to rewrite, t-tests revealed no significant differences in average scores across the written assignments.

I also asked students their perceptions of each revision strategy. Overall, students found rewrites and rough drafts to be useful for improving their writing skills. However, their comments clarified their focus was less on improving their writing skills, and more on getting feedback from the individual who would be grading their paper. Also, they did not value peer review. Most students did not feel feedback provided by peers was detailed or specific enough to be useful.

After reflecting on the results, my own experience teaching the course, and what I observed using the revision strategies, I plan to make systematic changes to my course to help students improve their writing through revision. Below are my suggestions for faculty who wish to encourage revision in their classes.

  1. Teach students to be effective peer reviewers. Being able to provide useful and critical feedback is an essential skill for students in their academic and professional careers. However, students need to be taught how to provide good feedback. First, I intend to spend class time discussing effective and targeted feedback strategies. Then, I plan to provide students with peer feedback forms to use. Finally, I will review the feedback they provide to peers, so I can provide advice to improve their peer review skills.
  1. Require students to provide a rough draft or complete a revision for at least one assignment during the semester. Overall, students were not motivated to revise their work, and less than half the class took advantage of rewrites and rough drafts. Requiring them to do so at least once will help them see writing as a process, and not as something they can complete the night before the paper is due. While I realize this might be time intensive for faculty members, doing so only once a semester provides a good balance between resources and student needs.
  1. Help students understand why improving their writing skills will help them as professionals. While students indicated they valued improving their skills, they were not interested in putting in time or effort to improve. Brandt (2006) interviewed professionals about their writing in the “knowledge economy.” Having students read this article, which includes a plethora of quotes from professionals on writing, will help them understand why technical writing and creativity are valuable skills to foster while in college. Also, this article highlights the use of peer review in the work force. The more we can connect students’ learning to their lives after college, the more likely we will get buy-in from students.

While not all courses are focused on improving writing skills, we have a duty as educators to help students continually learn and develop their communication skills. Writing should be encouraged, assessed, and fostered in each class we teach so that, at ISU, we graduate professionals who defy the stereotype of young employees with poor writing and communication skills.

Blog References

Bean, J. (2011). Engaging ideas: The professor’s guide to integrating writing, critical thinking and active learning in the classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brandt, D. (2005). Writing for a living: Literacy and the knowledge economy. Written Communication, 22, 166-197.