Using Mid-Semester Assessment Programs (MAPs) as a Catalyst for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)

Using Mid-Semester Assessment Programs (MAPs) as a Catalyst for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)

Alisa Hutchinson (Wayne State University, USA) and Anabel Stoeckle (Wayne State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2212-7.ch010

Abstract

Mid-Semester Assessment Programs (MAPs) have been successfully utilized as a professional development tool for faculty interested in improving their teaching in the context of higher education by assessing voluntary formative student feedback that guides changes instructors make in the classroom. Faculty centers and educational developers have the unique opportunity to recruit instructors via MAPs who have participated in these programs to promote and support the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) among faculty who already display an innate interest in best teaching practices and are open to advancing their own teaching in order to improve student learning and to propel student success. This chapter provides a guide for educational developers who seek to become active partners for faculty to become interested and engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning through a unique recruitment mechanism that serves as a natural steppingstone for faculty not having engaged with SoTL yet.
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Introduction

Mid-semester assessment programs (MAPs) are a valuable tool for universities and their instructors to understand and improve teaching and learning. Originally known as small-group instructional diagnosis (Clark & Redmond, 1982), such programs share a core emphasis on gathering formative feedback from students about teaching and learning in classes while there is still time in the semester for individual instructors to make changes. Research indicates that instructors find the process more credible than end-of-the-semester evaluations and more useful for improving teaching and learning when student feedback is acted upon (Blue, Wentzell, & Evans, 2008; Sozer, Zeybekoglu, & Kaya, 2019; Veeck, O’Reilly, MacMillan, & Yu, 2016). Formative feedback collected from mid-semester evaluations also has been shown to improve student perceptions of teaching and learning as well as satisfaction and motivation (Blue et al., 2008; Sozer et al., 2019; Veeck et al., 2016).

Because MAPs are an established formative assessment process in higher education institutions (Diamond, 2004), and as their utility for improving teaching and learning has been documented in the research literature, they offer a unique opportunity to leverage an existing faculty development activity to support the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) by providing action-oriented, evidence-based techniques without the resource demands associated with implementing a brand-new initiative.

The goal of combining MAPs with SoTL is twofold. First and foremost, MAPs can improve teaching practices on campus by assessing classroom practices in the middle of the semester and by providing explicit recommendations that are rooted in student perspectives, that capture classroom dynamics, and that are tailored to individual instructor’s needs. The individual consultations and recommendations that occur in the context of MAPs encourage faculty to pause and reflect on their teaching practice and make adjustments based on the educational developers’ recommendations. They also have a wider campus impact since MAPs can reach many instructors—and therefore a multitude of students—every semester. Secondly, MAPs can be utilized as a recruiting mechanism for Center for Teaching and Learning’s (CTL) educational developers (ED) to recruit faculty to start their own SoTL projects; faculty voluntarily participating in formative assessment tend to be already invested in improving their own teaching practice, care about their students learning, and are open to suggestions and changes that stem from evidence-based teaching practices from SoTL. In short, they are very likely to already have a mindset that shares values with SoTL, even if they haven’t been exposed to it as a discipline or a possible research venue for themselves.

This chapter offers a guide for CTLs and EDs on how to position MAPs as a catalyst for structured inquiry into teaching and learning. Educational developers are uniquely positioned to use MAPs to influence both instructors and leaders at various organizational levels to engage in SoTL research around faculty development, curriculum design, and institutional decision-making. The chapter begins with overviews of SoTL and MAPs, before examining the integration of MAPs with the four core practices of SoTL—framing questions, gathering evidence, refining insights, and sharing knowledge publicly (Huber & Hutchings, 2005). This chapter will support educational developers and Centers for Teaching and Learning (CTLs) in (1) extending their role by positioning SoTL as serious and meaningful research work (Huber, 2004) and (2) recruiting and guiding faculty and institutional leaders who may be interested in engaging in SoTL.

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