MRU Institute for SoTL

new project studying Concept Maps and Flipped Classrooms supported through the TransCanada Collaborative SoTL grants program

We are particularly excited about the potential of this project not only because it is an attempt to redesign a course to address high ‘DFW rates’, but also because of the preliminary groundwork already completed for this research such as piloting the pedagogy and assessment strategies, the initial impact that has already been demonstrated through preliminary data collection, and the planned implementation and collaboration across multiple years of the nursing program.

To see descriptions and updates for this and other projects funded through the TransCanada Learning Innovation and Collaborative Inquiry Research Program, see here.

Impact of Concept Maps and a Flipped Classroom Model in Biology and Nursing
Collaborative Research Team: Michelle Yeo, Academic Development Centre; Sarah Hewitt, Department of Biology; Joanne Bouma, Department of Nursing and Midwifery

Anatomy and Physiology is a year-long, first year course taught in two parts – BIOL 1220 and 1221. This is a service course taught by the Biology Department and is a required course for first year nursing students. This first year anatomy and physiology course has traditionally had one of the highest failure and withdrawal rates at the university. It is an extremely content heavy course, historically taught with a lecture/exam-based model. Students take the course in their first year of the nursing program as a required course. Faculty in the Nursing Program, including co-investigator Joanne Bouma, have repeatedly observed that students who barely pass this course struggle in subsequent courses, especially pathophysiology which they take in their second year. Consequently, there is a lot of impetus to try to improve their understanding of the basic material in the first year.

Based on prior interviews with students, and the observations of faculty teaching the course, the students struggle to find the best approach to learning so much content. Their retention of material beyond the exams is very poor, and for this reason, they are unable to make connections between later concepts that are based on, or identical to, earlier concepts. In an effort to help the students develop a more structured approach to learning, retaining information, and making connections between concepts, Sarah Hewitt decided to radically alter the course delivery in the sections she was teaching. In consultation with Michelle Yeo, Hewitt re-configured the course by amalgamating shortened lectures and in-class group work, with some typical components of a flipped classroom – more work outside of class time that allows for more student engagement activities in class. The biggest change involved the development of skeleton concept maps. Von Der Heidt (2015) argues that concept mapping can powerfully contribute to deep learning for students. Furthermore, a series of video lectures were created that students watched outside the class and could view them repeatedly as needed.

Calls have been made in the literature for research to help build an evidence base to justify the implementation of flipped approaches, and to increase their effectiveness through a better understanding of what does and does not work (Vickrey et al. 2015). Our SoTL work intends to discover how well these new approaches in BIOL 1220&21 are working and why. Furthermore, a recent study (Van Vliet, Winnips, & Brouwer, 2015) suggests that the benefits of a flipped model are not maintained if the pedagogy is not continued. Thus the GOALS of this project are as follows:

1. To assess the success of the partially flipped classroom as a teaching tool in first year,
2. To see whether this method can be used in the follow-up pathophysiology course in second year, and finally,
3. To find out whether the combination of this teaching method on both first and second year courses is an effective way for the students to more thoroughly learn the material, increase their long term retention of concepts and/or their ability to apply the concepts in a clinical setting.

We are proposing a two-year project to accomplish these goals. The project represents a partnership between three faculty members from Biology, Nursing, and the Academic Development Centre.


Call for Proposals: Banff Symposium on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Nov 10-12 2016

Call for proposals: Banff Symposium on SoTL
Proposals due: May 8 2016
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The Institute for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) at Mount Royal University invites you to submit proposals to our 7th annual Symposium on SoTL, Nov 10-12, 2016.  The Symposium is a practitioners’ conference dedicated to developing teaching and learning research, sharing initial findings, going public with results of completed projects, and building an extended scholarly community.  Proposals are encouraged from students, faculty, administrators, or community members committed to the systematic scholarly inquiry into aspects of teaching and learning in a higher education setting.
Conference theme: Learning in and Across Disciplines
Participants at previous Symposia have told us how much they value the connections they make across roles, disciplines, and institutions. We encourage presentations that demonstrate collaborations with students, with other instructors, and among multiple disciplines and contexts.
Conference tracks:
  • Research on teaching and learning – presentations on active or completed SoTL projects
  • Involving undergraduate students in SoTL – presentations on best practices or example projects where undergraduate students are acting as co-researchers
  • Teaching and learning with technology – presentations on the utility and impact of technology for teaching and learning
  • Collaborating beyond the single classroom – presentations on multi-class, interdisciplinary, or cross-institutional projects
  • Methodologies and innovative approaches to data gathering and analysis – presentations providing a ‘how to’ introduction to specific research methods and theoretical frameworks
  • Calls for collaboration, triangulation, and development (poster session only) – poster presentations that share early-stage research questions with the objective of establishing connections with like-minded researchers
Full conference details here:
twitter: #ssotl16

Using and Interpreting Undergraduate Research Posters in the Literature Classroom

What if we paid more attention to inquiry as the creation of knowledge through scholarly conversation, with each other and with our primary and secondary sources, rather than focusing almost exclusively on how to record the “results” of inquiry in the research paper?

In an excellent example of a SoTL project which is also “scholarship of integration” (in that it integrates knowledge and pedagogy from various academic fields), Karen Manarin describes how she used research posters (typical of science and social science) to inspire a new approach to teaching literary research and to

  • make visible different moments in the process of literary research – to both students and instructor
  • allow students to create their own interpretations through creative and aesthetic choices
  • allow students to distill their main points and receive feedback before writing the traditional research paper
  • give students the opportunity and confidence to create something that would interest their peers as scholars

Manarin, K. (2016). Interpreting Undergraduate Research Posters in the Literature Classroom. Teaching and Learning Inquiry, the ISSOTL Journal, 4(1). Available at


Asking Bigger Questions in SoTL

“If SoTL is to engage faculty across the disciplinary spectrum, it must embrace all kinds of research, including focused, controlled studies that yield statistical analyses and projects that tell significant stories about student learning and that emphasize interpretation, process, creativity, and theory.”
Bloch-Schulman, S., Wharton Comkling, S., Linkon, S., Manarin, K., & Perkins, K. (2016). Asking Bigger Questions: An Invitation to Further Conversation. Teaching and Learning Inquiry, the ISSOTL Journal, 4(1).

Find this article and more in the latest issue of Teaching and Learning Inquiry:


3 SoTL sessions at the upcoming CACSL conference, May 25-27 at MRU

This year, the TransCanada International Forum on SoTL, sponsored through the Institute for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, will be hosted in partnership with the 2016 Canadian Association of Community Service Learning conference, May 25-27 at Mount Royal University.  The Forum features 3 sessions with leading scholar Patti Clayton:

Session I (Wed, 9:00 – 12:00): Integrating Critical Reflection and Assessment to Generate, Deepen, and Document Learning
In this first of three opportunities to collaboratively explore Community Service-Learning and Community Engagement (CSL/CE) as the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) with practitioner-scholar Patti Clayton, we will focus our attention on designing critical reflection so as to both generate student learning and provide a basis for inquiry into the processes that support such learning. For over 15 years Patti and colleagues around the world have been refining a research grounded model for integrating critical reflection and assessment. This highly interactive session will invite participants to build on their work, co-create critical reflection assignments and rubrics that are well-aligned with shared learning goals, and begin to co-design SoTL questions and methods that tap critical reflection products and processes.

Throughout the session participants will be invited to identify colleagues in the room with similar interests and to explore possible collaboration during the lunch break.

Session II (Wed, 1:30 – 4:00): Revisioning SoTL for Service-Learning and Community Engagement
Who conducts SoTL? And whose learning is in question in SoTL? In this second in a series of three opportunities to collaboratively explore CSL/CE as the scholarship of teaching and learning, Patti Clayton and Janice Miller-Young will invite participants into an international conversation about broadening and deepening the meanings and the practices of SoTL, within and beyond CSL. Patti, Janice, and their colleague Peter Felten are advancing efforts to conceptualize and implement engaged pedagogies as spaces of co-teaching, co-learning, and co-generating knowledge and practice; and they are seeing in trends in this direction indications that it is time to revisit and revise Hutchings and Shulman’s seminal work defining SoTL. SoTL can be a powerful means of developing practitioner-scholars; improving teaching and learning; nurturing communities of inquiry and practice around shared commitments to learners and learning; and building bodies of knowledge, practice, and policy in support of same. To fulfill this potential in the context of engaged pedagogies and to retain its cutting edge orientation as scholarship, they suggest that SoTL can no longer be understood and enacted primarily by faculty as a vehicle to improve student learning and to produce scholarship by and for faculty. This highly interactive session will engage participants in revisioning SoTL in ways that honor CSL/CE’s foundational commitment that everyone involved teaches and learns and that leverage the questions, experiences, and learning of CSL/CE practitioner-scholars to help define the future of SoTL in CSL/CE.

At the end of the day participants will be invited to form pairs or small groups of potential collaborators and to engage in the rest of the conference accordingly (e.g., having meals together, meeting between sessions to share questions and insights).

Session III (Fri, 9:00 – 11:45): Continuing our own SoTL Journeys: Questions, Collaborators, and Next Steps
In this third opportunity to explore CSL/CE as SoTL with Patti and colleagues, we will reflect on related work we have encountered during the conference, examine Canadian examples, and further develop our own questions, collaborations, and inquiry methods. Participants will be invited to skim an article/chapter related to the SoTL interests shared by the pair/small group they formed on Wednesday (examples will be provided) and to bring a worksheet completed during the conference to the session as aids to focusing our time productively. The intended outcome of this concluding gathering in the series of 3 sessions is for participants to leave with specific ideas, collaborators, and next steps in their own journeys with CSL/CE as SoTL.


Workshop: Looking for T&L literature in all the right places, Feb 24 at noon

Teaching and learning research is published across a spectrum of discipline-specific and interdisciplinary journals, books,conferences, and websites. Finding SoTL research can require moving out of your discipline comfort zone, and learning new tools and terms. This workshop will introduce some tips, tricks and ways of thinking about your search that can help you find more useful material more efficiently.

Presented by Margy MacMillan, Librarian

February 24, 12:00-1:00 pm, Y324


TransCanada Forum on SoTL in Conjunction with Canadian Alliance for Community Service Learning

This year’s TransCanada Forum on SoTL will be held in partnership with the Canadian Alliance for Community Service Learning (CACSL) . This is a national conference for Community Service Learning (CSL) and Community Engagement (CE). Partners include Volunteer Alberta, Volunteer Canada, the Volunteer Centre Network, and Mount Royal University’s Institutes for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, for Environmental Studies, and for Community Prosperity.

The conference runs May 25-27 at Mount Royal University and the call for proposals closes Sunday, January 31. More information can be found on the conference website.


New SoTL projects supported in Fall 2015

We are thrilled to announce the recipients of our latest round of TransCanada Grants and Nexen Scholars Program applications (more details here).  The projects cover topics from undergraduate research in science to humanities, and from developing students’ interprofessional skills to civic and global engagement. They will be conducted by faculty collaborating across disciplines and institutions.  We’re looking forward to learning from what they learn about student learning!!


TransCanada Collaborative SoTL Inquiry Grants awarded Fall 2015

(see the Institute’s main website for project descriptions)

Interprofessional Education with Nursing and Respiratory Therapy Students: A Mixed Methods Study.

  • Collaborative Research Team: Heather Russell, Margot Underwood, Marg Olfert, Liza Choi, Stephanie Zettel, Jennifer Watson, and Caroline Silen (Nursing, Mount Royal University; Meredith Patey and Jennifer Stefura (Respiratory Therapy, SAIT)

How do Students Understand Community-Service Learning?

  • Collaborative Research Team: Melanie Rathburn and Roberta Lexier (General Education)


2016 Nexen Scholars and their projects

John Chik, Chemistry & Physics: REAL (Real Experience And Learning) Labs: Designing Authentic Learning Experiences in Biochemistry

Ana Colina, Biology: What is the impact of web-based pre-laboratory preparation modules on learning in the microbiology laboratory?

Lee Easton, English:  Screening Identities: Exploring How Film Studies Students use Canadian Identities at/on the Border of Race, Nation and History

Heather MacLean, Nursing & Midwifery: How students experience learning in simulation from both active participant and observer roles

Teresa Merrells, Humanities: Studying Undergraduate Research in a Course on Language Acquisition

Semiyu Aderibigbe and Rita Yembilah, General Education: Using an Online Discussion Platform to Engage Students in General Education Courses about Communities and Societies


Sixth Annual Symposium

Thank you to all those who came to, spoke at and participated in the Symposium on SoTL. So many wonderful workshops sessions and discussions, we’ll take weeks to process them! To get a sense of how the symposium went, visit a Storify of all the tweets here . And speaking of tweets, the wonderful D’Arcy Norman at UCalgary has done a Netlytic visualization of the twitter connections

ssotl15 tweets

And I played with this new Netlytic toy that D’Arcy introduced me to and developed this




Netlytic also allows you to analyse the content of tweets – I found it interesting that after the conference hashtag, the most frequent word was STUDENTS!

netlytic_freq_words (1)


MRU at ISSoTL 2015 in Melbourne

I’ve just returned from the 12th annual conference of the International Society of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.  Despite its being in beautiful but far-away Melbourne, Mount Royal had a good showing – 7 presentations which were all well-received!  See the twitter feed #issotl15 for more conference highlights.

Boman, J., Currie, G., MacDonald, R., Miller-Young, J., Yeo, M., & Zettel, S.  Communities of Decoding: Using the Decoding the Disciplines Paradigm to create faculty learning communities on 3 continents. (panel presentation chaired by David Pace)

Manarin, K. & Abrahamson, E. SoTL: Lost in Translation?

Manarin, K. Carey, M., & McGrath, A.  Scaffolded research: Student attitudes and student achievement

Miller-Young, J., Yeo, M.,  & Manarin, K. Boundary Crossing and Troublesomeness: Experiences of Scholars in a SoTL Development Program

O’Connor, K., & Sterenberg, G. Developing a sense of place: Engagement through school and community partnerships.

Yeo, M., & Hewitt, S. Innovating pedagogy in a first year science course

  • Michelle Yeo: concept maps help structure note taking and make links in anatomy and physiology, improved retention too. #issotl15 #STEM from @whydee13

Yeo, M., Manarin, K., & Miller-Young, J. Phenomenology of Surprise in a SoTL scholars program

  • “After immersion in SOTL some feel like a stranger in their own discipline”. Whole room nodding and mmhhmming. #issotl15 from @kerryleehood
  • After doing SoTL, some faculty report feeling like a stranger in their own discipline. Fascinating research by Michelle Yeo. #issotl15 from @pfeltenNC