High Impact Educational Practices

On Wednesday October 9th and Thursday, October 10th,  the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (CIEL) convened its first Community of Scholarly Teaching Practice (CoSTP).  This group was comprised of faculty and staff at VIU interested in using a seminar-style approach to developing their knowledge of both the theory and the practice of higher education teaching and learning.  We designed and facilitated this four-part series to discuss a variety of topics, with the first session focusing on what practices and pedagogies are best for optimal student learning and engagement. Both sessions were comprised of between 10-15 participants representing a variety of disciplines and roles at the institution.  Prior to the session, we made four articles (# 1, 3 and 4 and 5 from links below) and a website (# 2 below) available for participants.  The articles are some of our favourites and great reads about what it means to teach with “high impact” or “signature” or “high engagement” practices and pedagogies. They were not long articles, but well-written by notable people in the field.  We asked participants to read what they liked, skim whatever they could, and bring their thoughts and reflections to our meeting.

1. High Impact Education Practices: What they are, Who has access to them and Why they Matter (American Association of Colleges and Universities)
http://www.neasc.org/downloads/aacu_high_impact_2008_final.pdf 
Written by George Kuh (from NSSE student engagement surveys) and looks at which institutions in the US had high ratings of student engagement.  As well, it looks at what 10 practices had the highest impact. We focused on pages 11-32, as rest are title pages and appendices).

2. 10 Ways to Promote Student Engagement by Maryellen Weimer (Faculty Focus)
http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/10-ways-to-promote-student-engagement/ Summarized by Maryellen Weimer (of Teaching Professor fame and former teaching/learning centre director) about an article explaining what are the 10 ways to promote student engagement (along with a definition of engagement). 1 page with a quick skim.

3.  Decoding the Disciplines: A Model for Helping Students Learn Disciplinary Ways of Thinking (New Directions for Teaching and Learning)
http://www.iub.edu/~tchsotl/part3/Decoding%20Middendorf.pdf
Written by the folks who are behind this website http://decodingthedisciplines.org/index.html on how to focus on teaching disciplinary ways of thinking for optimal learning. (11 pages)

4. Signature Pedagogies in the Professions (Lee Schulman, 2005)
http://diyhpl.us/~bryan/papers2/paperbot/5e74b13008997b5a78da2ad81fd07317.pdf Of Carnegie Mellon University and Centre for Advancement of Teaching fame, Lee Schulman wrote this seminal document in 2005.  It explains that the best learning happens when you consider what is unique to how learning happened in the profession (or discipline – he has other papers on history, engineering etc.) through various teaching and learning methods. (8 pages)

5. Lessons from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education (Change Magazine, March/April 2013)
http://www.changemag.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/2013/March-April%202013/wabash_full.html The author of this article (Pascellera) is known as one of the top two authors on student retention and persistence. He conducted this large study on liberal arts universities in the US and found out what happened in classrooms that allowed for improvements in student learning and persistence from year 1 to year 2. (10 pages with quotes and images)

Discussion

Although we had some guiding questions ready to frame the session, we discovered pretty quickly that they were unnecessary.  A topic relevant and meaningful to all participants (and hopefully educators everywhere), high impact practices generated easy and passionate discussion among participants.  Although various comments were made regarding student motivation, community-building in the classroom, and the challenges surrounding how to acknowledge the importance of signature pedagogies while safeguarding a silo-ing mentaility in our approach to teaching, participants were clearly weaving together the theory with their practice.  This sweet spot of praxis, coupled with the interdisciplinary collegiality of the group, resulted in a fantastic first session of rich, reflective insights–an experience we would see repeated in subsequent sessions.