The Best of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in 2014: Calls for Canadian Content

By: Erin Aspenlieder

Whether for the reader numbers, the concise and incisive commentary or the prodigious output, the blog I secretly want to author (the blog we all secretly want to author?) is Faculty Focus. I am not a blogger for Faculty Focus; I am guest blogging for SoTL Canada. You’re thinking, “don’t let the dream die, Aspenlieder! You can still get close to Maryellen Weimer!” Untrue.

What I can do, however, to get closer to my dream, is to mirror a Faculty Focus post and make it as relevant to the SoTL Canada audience as I can. Like if I started a garage production of The Colbert Report for Canadians (and then waited by the phone for Steven to call me).

And so I want to elaborate on the very recent (January 7th) post “A ‘Best of’ List that Celebrates the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning” because what do we all have time for? More articles to read! Again: untrue. My elaboration, then, will be to offer you summaries of the first half of the ‘best of’ list, and then to ask you to submit your own ideas for the ‘best’ articles you read (or had planned to read and are still pretty confident are amazing) in 2014.

The suggestions can be proud (you can submit your own article, for instance), generous (that of a colleague), selfish (something you want to hear opinions about) or polemical. The one condition for submitting your suggestion is that it has some Canadian-content (think Canadian content rules for television: a loose connection to Canada). Deal? You get some summaries and in exchange you offer up a ‘best-of’ in the scholarship of teaching and learning with Canadian content.

So here we go:

Boud, D., Lawson, R., and Thompson, D. G. (2013). Does student engagement in self-assessment calibrate their judgment over time? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38 (8), 941-956.

This article grabbed me because it started with a claim about the core purpose of education (admission: I am fascinated by how radically the view on the ‘purpose’ of higher education changes depending on who you ask). For these authors, the purpose is to develop self-evaluation because you need to self-evaluate to be good at your job once you graduate (If were getting feisty here I’d be tempted to point out that this being the case, the article actually claims that the core purpose of education is preparation for employment; however, I’m not here to get feisty). Their study asked whether given more opportunities to self-evaluate, students improve in their ability to self-evaluate. Answer? Yes, with more opportunities to self-evaluate students get better at it, both within a single subject area and across subject areas. The catch? Give student a brand new subject area (say, they’ve just started a new job) and their ability to self-evaluate goes down until they’ve had sufficient time to practice and get feedback.

Burgess-Proctor, A., Cassano, G., Condron, D. J., Lyons, H. A., and Sanders, G. (2014). A collective effort to improve sociology students’ writing skills. Teaching Sociology, 42 (2), 130-139.

Ever wondered what comes out of a curriculum mapping or curriculum visioning process? Wonder no more: research like this! Five faculty members from a Sociology department recognized through a curriculum conversation that their students were not developing writing skills to a satisfactory level. So the faculty members collaboratively developed some strategies and then scaffolded the skills based outcome across the curriculum by doing some curriculum planning. The faculty members surveyed the students and found out their impressions of the writing exercises and the integration of writing skills across several courses. The outcome? The authors found a need to clarify – for themselves and their students – the difference between repetition and redundancy in the curriculum: an idea we all might bear in mind as we consider ‘introduce,’ ‘reinforce’ and ‘master’ progression of learning across the curriculum.

Burkholder, P., (2014). A content means to a critical thinking end: Group quizzing in history survey. The History Teacher, 47 (4), 551-578.

Another article beginning with the purpose of higher education! What luck! In this case the purpose is to develop critical thinking skills. The article sets up a purposefully false binary between historical thinking (or ‘higher order’ cognitive skills) and historical content (or content ‘coverage’) in order to unpack pedagogical assumptions that content must necessarily precede historical thinking or vice versa. Burkholder makes the case that we ought to move beyond asking whether content ‘matters’ to instead think about how we can use content for cognitive development; that is to say, he argues against the opposition of these two pedagogical approaches and for their integration. Burkholder devotes the rest of the article to explaining the learning approach of group quizzes as a way to simultaneously foster content acquisition and critical thinking skills.

Carmichael, A. M. and Krueger, L. E. (2014). An examination of factors and attitudes that influence reporting fraudulent claims in an academic environment. Active Learning in Higher Education, 15 (2), 173-185.

On the outcomes of higher education, deception as a form of academic dishonesty is described in this article as an unintentional outcome of the higher education system, with 70% of students reported as offering ‘fraudulent’ excuses for not completing work or needing academic accommodations. The article looks at the impact of communication medium (email) and academic consequences (how important is the assignment) on these fraudulent claims.

Now it’s your turn. What did you read in 2014 (with some Canadian content) that inspired you? Challenged you? Excited you? Made you fist pump? Made you shake your head in dismay? Share with us and we can grow our awareness of the best of Canadian based scholarship of teaching and learning.

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6 Responses to The Best of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in 2014: Calls for Canadian Content

  1. Oh, this is such a great idea!!! I look forward to reading these articles. Kudos!
    Nancy Chick

  2. Nice article Erin, my suggestion, with Canadian content is:
    Gilley, B.H. and Clarkston, B. (2014) . Collaborative Testing: Evidence of Learning in a Controlled In-Class Study of Undergraduate Students. Journal of College Science Teaching, 43(3), 83-91. I attended both a presentation and poster session by these colleagues from UBC, have tried their formula for collaborative testing, and am sold on the idea!

  3. Yes, great idea Erin, thanks for writing this! I would like to nominate two articles:

    McGrath, A. (2014) Just Checking In: The Effect of an Office Hour Meeting and Learning Reflection in an Introductory Statistics Course. Teaching of Psychology, 41(1), 83-87.
    I like this article first because it is a great example of a well-designed (and ethical!) experimental SoTL study, which can be difficult to do in SoTL, and also because it demonstrates how a “simple” intervention such as requiring students to come to office hours (and do some facilitated reflection) can make a difference to their success in a course!!

    MacMillan, M. (2014) Student Connection with Academic Texts: A Phenomenographic Study of Reading. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(8), 943-954.
    This article takes a systematic look at how students read scholarly articles and makes suggestions for deepening their engagement with such texts. I particularly like the “zoom lens” metaphor for ‘surface’ or ‘deep’ connections, where she describes how sometimes students focused on words but lost the meaning of the text, and in other instances the text was blurry but the meaning was clear. I also like the explicit mention of a constructivist perspective and description of the methodology of phenomenography, which could be useful for many SoTL studies.

  4. Erin says:

    Thanks Terry and Janice! Great start getting us to read more can-con. Challenge to other readers: what have you read? what do you *want* to read?

  5. Neil Haave says:

    Here is my Canadian favourite for 2014:
    Hvenegaard, Glen; Link, Anne-Marie L.; Moore, Sean E.; and Wesselius, Janet C. (2013) “Exploring the Dynamics of Directed Studies Courses: Student, Instructor, and Administrator Perspectives,” The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Vol. 4: Iss. 2, Article 5. DOI:

    It considers the different perspectives of students, instructors and administrators regarding the place and purpose of independent studies courses. Some overlap but not always. Helpful to me in terms of bridging the gulf between what students are looking to get out of a directed studies course vs what the teacher thinks they are providing for the student.

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