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2016 Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Symposium


Building Communities: Beyond the Classroom

Sydney Norton

Incorporating the Culture of Local German-American Communities into the Foreign Language Classroom through the Publication of a German-Language Newspaper

This presentation is a synthesis and analysis of The German Press, a course in which upper-level students of German collaborate as an editorial team and explore their cultural surroundings to create a German-language newspaper. It explores the various components of the course-increased knowledge of current events through familiarization with German-language newspapers, magazines, and news programs; expansion of vocabulary and better grasp of grammatical constructions through close examination of journalistic writing; and optimization of team efforts in researching, interviewing, writing about, and filming members of the German-American community in and around St. Louis.

My discussion takes participants through a step-by-step process of course development, demonstrating how the activities of each course component help students integrate culture, both European and local, into their learning experience. I show how the skill sets developed in the course-interviewing in the target language, filming, and editorial collaboration-remain with the language student long after the course has ended. The final project, a print and online newspaper (with video) that focuses on the culture and history of German-American communities in the area, attests to the successful collaboration, increased communicative skills, and integration of both European and local culture into the learning process. All of these components push this course beyond the constraints of the traditional classroom by helping students make connections with community members who live outside of the university setting.

My presentation incorporates scholarship on the positive impact of community-based learning on foreign language students, I focus specifically on Anne O'Connor's ""Beyond the Four Walls: Community-Based Learning and Language."" In her work O'Connor shows that linking community and language in courses notably improves students' motivation and enhances transferable skills by giving them the opportunity to engage in practical work. Such courses often address needs in the community while at the same time bringing more visibility to and fostering positive attitudes toward language learning.

My presentation also includes aspects of the course that have proven difficult. I believe that some of these difficulties can be solved through constructive dialog with other instructors in other fields.

How Faculty Addressed the Civil Unrest in Ferguson, Missouri

Whitney Linsenmeyer and Tommy Lucas

Crisis events are historic in the lives of higher education institutions, and may elevate the role of faculty to leaders, counselors, and supporters of their students. The civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri during the 2014-2015 school year impacted Saint Louis University students as the Occupy SLU movement witnessed demonstrations surrounding the university's central clock tower. In this phenomenological study, 19 Saint Louis University students were interviewed regarding their perceptions of how faculty addressed the events in the classroom. Six themes emerged: Active faculty participation, passive faculty participation, course relevance, altered academic experience, business as usual, and deference for faculty position. These findings serve to capture student perceptions during a historic period of time and may inform and support faculty facing crisis events in the future. This study concludes with considerations for faculty regarding their role in the classroom, the relevance of their course content to the crisis event, and the potential impact on student life.

This manuscript is under review by the International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. The editors have suggested a follow-up study to capture the faculty's perspective of their response in the classroom.

Leveraging Standardized Rubrics in Assessment of Course-Level and Program-Level Student Learning Outcomes

Katie Devany, Srikanth Mudigonda, and John Ragsdale

Research question: We will study the efficacy of using rubrics for assessing student learning. Typically, rubrics have been used in courses at the level of an individual evaluative component (e.g., an assignment or a test). Learning management systems such as Blackboard facilitate the use of rubrics, allowing more than one rubric to be associated with each evaluative component. Leveraging this functionality, we propose to use a secondary, non-grading-related rubric (or a set of rubrics) that are designed to assess how well a program or higher-level learning outcome is met by students across several courses on to which the particular learning outcome is mapped. Implementing this approach requires identifying and addressing issues related to data collection, both technology-related and process-related, involving multiple actors (instructors, program administrators, and other individuals) who are tasked with student learning and its assessment).

Methods: Our proposed approach is that of action research. We will, investigate the efficacy of a method of assessment, as active participants in the project, playing multiple roles: (1) we are instructors teaching courses where the multi-rubric based approach to assessment will be used; (2) we (two of us) are program administrators overseeing programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and are interested in assessing how well the learning outcomes of our programs are being met; (3) we are part of a sub-committee in our school which has been tasked with creating and assessing an approach for implementing assessment within various degree and certificate programs offered in our school. Through a combination of carefully-sequenced actions and observations of results of those actions, we will determine the efficacy of our proposed method of assessment.

Outcomes: There are two expected outcomes: (1) using a standardized rubric across programs will facilitate greater conversation about assessment of student learning among programs that are quite different from one another; (2) identification of challenges in implementing our approach to assessment and efficacy of approaches we have used addressing these challenges. Our proposed work will have several phases, where in each phase we identify a subset of courses from a select set of programs and assess accordingly.

Next steps: Full time and adjunct faculty will be trained in how to use the secondary rubric as well as the anticipated implications of the tool. The rubric will be infused into applicable courses to simplify the number of steps and reduce any error associated with uploading and completing the incorrect rubric. The proposed assessment model will be scaled from the individual course-level to program and eventually school-level. In this way, valid quantitative data will be available to assist in making decisions for future programming and evaluating teaching pedagogy. Additionally, overall student learning will be tracked and evaluated in perpetuity with the ability to realize trends and factors contributing to overall success or decline on a longitudinal timeline.

Realigning the Spanish SLU placement exam: A methodology

Kelly Lovejoy and Sheri Anderson-Gutiérrez

This project will detail the realignment procedure and outcomes of the Saint Louis University Placement Exam (SLUPE) with course objectives in the Spanish undergraduate core (SPAN 1010, 1020, and 2010). This presentation will focus on the project overview and methodology as well as share our expected outcomes for the next year. Over the past year we collected SLUPE results across the core and noted several trends in Spanish course placement that point toward a need for realignment. These include: a high number of students who need to switch course levels, students taking the exam multiple times and receiving different scores, and a low proportion of students testing at the expected placement level after successfully completing a course. Further, this academic year we have introduced a new curriculum that is designed to be in concert with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages' standards for foreign language learning (ACTFL, 2012). We believe that realigning the SLUPE with the new curricular objectives will increase the internal validity of the placement instrument and support the course- and program- alignment with national standards.

Our realignment project is guided by the following research questions:
1. Which individual SLUPE test items are connected to course levels?
2. Which individual SLUPE test items should be realigned to the current course level objectives?
3. Once the items have been aligned to the new curriculum, will the SLUPE be able to be used as a predictive tool for student level placement?

The SLUPE is an online, self-adaptive placement test of the receptive language skills (i.e. reading comprehension, morphosyntactic structures, and listening comprehension). The exam takes 30 to 40 minutes to complete and consists of 50-54 multiple choice items per session. The population studied in the Spanish core represents the breadth of the undergraduate population at SLU. Each semester the courses enroll 300 to 400 students, many of whom are taking Spanish to fulfill a language requirement, and most of whom have declared majors in popular disciplines such as biology, psychology, and health sciences-related areas. All students enrolled during the research project will be required to take both a pre and post SLUPE test as part of their enrolled course.

In order to respond to the research questions, we will collect pre- and post- semester placement data, then analyze the results per level, and per individual pre to post. We will undertake a multi-step quantitative process to meet our goal of realignment. First we will determine how the course levels are defined within the exam, then we will examine placement accuracy at the aggregate (course) level, and finally, we will analyze the accuracy rate of each test item within each course level. The final step towards the end of the larger project will be to pilot new test items and conduct a statistical validation study for the predictive value of the new instrument.

Reflecting on Qualitative Coursework

Dannielle Joy Davis et al.

This auto-ethnographic work centers upon graduate students of the School of Education's Qualitative Research course, who will reflect upon their prior experiences at work and school in terms of how these experiences have or have not prepared them for understanding and conducting qualitative research. Students will reflect upon the topic via journaling after class sessions. These journal entries will be gathered and analyzed for themes using the constant comparative method. This work promises to contribute to the field by illustrating the role of prior experiences in the graduate learning and doctoral training processes.

Reflecting Upon Summary Circles in Graduate Level Teaching and Learning

Dannielle Joy Davis et al.

Using an auto-ethnographic approach, this work features the reflective writing of a faculty member and graduate students enrolled in the course "The History of American Higher Education." The professor and graduate students will use journaling to reflect upon a key teaching method within the course, Summary Circles. An area of reflection includes the utility of Summary Circles for training the students as future faculty and staff in higher education. The constant comparative method will be employed to assist in identifying themes.