MRU Institute for SoTL

Fourth meeting of the SoTL journal club

We had another great discussion on Friday. Thanks to Sally Haney for presenting last week’s article.

Melanie Rathburn will be presenting our next paper on Feb 15th at 11am in Faculty Centre Rm 1
McLean, A.J., Bond, C.H., and Nicholson, H.D. 2015. An anatomy of feedback: a phenomenographic investigation of undergraduate students’ conceptions of feedback. Studies In Higher Education 40(5): 921-932.

Here’s a finely-crafted link (that will even work off-campus) to the paper


Full SoTL Reading Group W17 Schedule:
Jan 9th, 3:30pm (Presenter: Jon Mee)
Jan 20th, 12:00pm (Presenter: Margy MacMillan)
Feb 3rd, 12:00pm (Presenter: Sally Haney)
Feb 15th, 11:00am (Presenter: Melanie Rathburn)
March 10th, 9:00am (Presenter: Ana Colina)
March 23rd, 11:00am (Co-presenters: Margot Underwood and Stephanie Zettel)
April 4th, 11:30am (Presenter: Michelle Yeo)


Third meeting of the SoTL journal club..

Sally Haney will be presenting our next paper:
Knudsen, S. (2014). Students are doing it for themselves – ‘the problem-oriented problem’ in academic writing in the humanities. Studies in Higher Education, 39(10), 1838-1859. doi:10.1080/03075079.2013.806455

Here’s a finely-crafted link to the paper:

From Sally:
“I invite the group to reading this article about the problem with problems. In it, the author makes an interesting argument about the lack of scaffolding many educators provide when asking students to contemplate a problem in the problem-based learning paradigm. For discussion, I would ask participants to come to the table with some thoughts about how problems are discussed/framed/scaffolded in their disciplines, and what, if anything, they might do differently as a result of this particular reading.”

Fri Feb 3, 2017 12pm – 1pm Mountain Time – Edmonton



Second meeting of the SoTL Journal group

Sorry I missed last Monday’s stimulating discussion.
I’ll be presenting the next paper on January 20th at noon in Faculty Centre room 1. (full schedule is below).
Here’s the reading and some background – looking forward to our meeting,

Marton, F. (1975). On non‐verbatim learning: 1. Level of processing and level of outcome. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 16(1), 273-279.

The article I’d like to discuss is, as far as I know, the first one describing phenomenography as a method. The tricky part about selecting this reading is that MRU doesn’t own it. So I’ve arranged for permission for 15 copies. If you want to come to the article discussion, email me (margy – and I’ll send you one.(alternatively, if you have access to library privileges elsewhere, UofC has it).

Phenomenography is at its simplest the study of variations in experience of a phenomenon, and it’s used a fair bit in studies that cross the boundaries between SoTL and my field, information literacy.

The early work with this method was done by Ferenc Marton and the Gothenburg school in the 1970’s who started with the questions why do some students succeed and others not – classic SoTL. It laid the foundation for understanding surface and deep approaches to learning taken up by Biggs and others.

If you want to read up on phenomenography, a great place to start are the intro and first 3 chapters of a book that IS accessible

Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N., (eds.). (2005). The experience of learning: Implications for teaching and studying in higher education. 3rd (Internet) edition. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

And there’s solid background in an article by Louise B. Limberg here
note – Click on Sage Knowledge

SoTL Reading Group Schedule:
Jan 9th, 3:30pm (Presenter: Jon Mee)
Jan 20th, 12:00pm (Presenter: Margy MacMillan)
Feb 3rd, 12:00pm (Presenter: Sally Haney)
Feb 15th, 11:00am (Presenter: Melanie Rathburn)
March 10th, 9:00am (Presenter: Ana Colina)
March 23rd, 11:00am (Co-presenters: Margot Underwood and Stephanie Zettel)
April 4th, 11:30am (Presenter: Michelle Yeo)


Preliminary meeting – SoTL Reading Group

In an effort to further strengthen our community of SoTL at MRU, I invite you to participate in a SoTL reading group.

The (vaguely defined – subject to your input) vision for these scholarly meetings is to bring together people engaged in SoTL to talk about recent and/or important contributions to the field.

Our first organizational meeting will take place on December 6th 2016 at 12:30pm in EA3003 (the “Knuckle”). We will discuss the format and schedule of future discussions (to be held in 2017).
Margy has offered to bring dessert-y treats!

Please feel free to circulate this email and invite others. The present email list was compiled from the list of past and present Nexen and TransCanada scholars, supplemented with other people we knew to be engaged in SoTL. Please let me know if you never want to hear about this again!


Update – 2017 TransCanada Collaborative SoTL Inquiry Grants

Applications for the 2017 TransCanada Collaborative SoTL Inquiry Grants are due January 16, 2017. To apply, Principal Investigators must use the Office of Research Services web-based application through ROMEO (see ). The information required for the grant application is listed in the ROMEO system.

The Institute for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at MRU is pleased to sponsor a call for applications for the 2017 TransCanada Collaborative SoTL Inquiry Grants. These grants are designated for collaborative teaching and learning inquiry projects which go beyond an inquiry about teaching and learning in a single class. Note that while the Nexen Scholars Program is designed to support scholars in developing a project, the TransCanada grants require a complete research proposal including literature review, research question, methodology, data collection, and dissemination plans. (If your proposed work does not align well with this structure, please include a clear statement of theory and methods that are aligned with the proposed project.)

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning is inclusive and unified by its potential to have impact in the classroom and to deepen our understanding of student learning, but diverse in discipline, theory, methodology, and method. Eligible projects must propose systematic, evidence-based study of teaching and learning and meet principles of good practice in SoTL (Felten, 2013):

  • focused on student learning in higher education,
  • situated in the existing literature and grounded in a teaching-learning context,
  • methodologically sound,
  • conducted in partnership with students, and
  • appropriately public.

Collaborative SoTL projects are expected to be in the range of $5,000-$10,000 for a single year (bigger than what an internal research grant would reasonably support) and may be conducted over one or two years. Multi-year projects are subject to annual reporting and adequate progress in order to carry forward funds. For multi-institutional projects, a fulltime MRU faculty member must be the principal investigator on the project and paid research assistants must be MRU students (unless the project is co-funded). Note that support for smaller SoTL inquiry projects is available through the Internal Research Grant Fund.

For additional information please contact the Institute for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning through Anne Johnston at These grants are funded in their entirety by the TransCanada Research Program for Learning Innovation and Collaborative Inquiry.

For more information on criteria and eligible expenses, please click Continue reading

Continue reading


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