Faculty Present Expertise at International Conference


Having conducted studies on their teaching and the learning of their students, nine Maryville University faculty members will present their research at the 27th international Lilly conference on college teaching from Nov 15-18 at Miami (Ohio) University. “Being a researcher in teaching means studying your own teaching and your students’ learning,” explained Mary Ellen Finch, Ph.D., Maryville’s associate vice president for academic affairs.

“Traditionally, in many colleges and universities, the primary type of scholarship that is acceptable is the scholarship of discovery,” said Finch. ” At Maryville, most of the faculty are not ‘bench researchers’ although some of that is going on, mainly in the School of Health Professions, where faculty members are working in laboratories and often with others in their fields.” Recent trends to expand this definition of research culminated in the work of Ernest Boyer, former president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. According to Boyer, Finch says, the traditional definition is a “very narrow focus that didn’t define the type of scholarly activity that goes on at many colleges and universities, including places like Maryville.”

Boyer categorized scholarship into four types: discovery, integration, application, and teaching and learning. Maryville’s faculty members going to Ohio have been involved with the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning, an organization where faculty can discuss and address issues pertaining to the teaching-learning dynamic. Members attend seminars where they compare teaching ideas and experiences. They examine issues like maximizing their students’ retention and evaluating the frequency and efficiency of homework assignments. “It gives them a picture of what they’re doing, and encourages them to explore problems which typically they might not wish to share with others. Indeed, says Finch, having a “problem” in the research of discovery is a good thing; however, having a “problem” in teaching is typically not something faculty members which to share. “We are trying to break that mold,” Finch said. ” We do it to improve the learning of our students; that’s what we’re here for.”

The faculty members engage in “action research,” or a qualitative study of their own teaching though some combine both qualitative and quantitative methods. They use such tools as questionnaires, journals and videos of their classes to examine all aspects of their teaching practices. “It’s rigorous, you have to set goals, you have to write about it, and your work must be peer reviewed,” said Finch. There are 30 Maryville faculty members who have been, or are currently involved, in action research, some of them back for a second time.

In 2005, nine faculty members chose to participate in action research, and six of them presented their findings at the 2006 Lilly conference. “I didn’t know what to expect,” said Finch, speaking of the conference. “I thought there’d be a lot of people from teacher education.” She was pleasantly surprised to learn attendees hailed from diverse academic fields. “There were all sorts of people, from English, biologists, engineers.”

This year, 13 Maryville faculty members are attending the conference with nine of them presenting. Two additional faculty members, both engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning, are attending to find out more about the process and plan for their 2008 proposal. They will attend sessions and have both the opportunity to present their research, as well as to discuss it amongst themselves, because “seldom do university professors talk with people outside their field,” says Finch. “Everybody presenting has studied some aspect of their teaching and student learning and has written about it.”

The presenting faculty members and their topics are:

• John P. Baltrushunas, associate professor of art; Cherie Fister, associate professor of art; and Jon Fahnestock, assistant professor of communication and graphic design — Moving Toward Programmatic Research in Design Education

• Kristen B. Bruzzini, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology — Exploration of Interactive Teaching Strategies to Enhance Student Motivation and Information Retention

• Mary Ellen Finch, Ph.D., associate vice president of academic affairs, LaDonna Whitten, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing, Geralyn Frandsen, Ed.D., associate professor of nursing, and Marilyn M. Cohn, retired education professor from Washington University and distinguished visiting professor of education at Maryville who serves as the seminar’s facilitator — The Evolution of a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Seminar: Progress and Possibilities

• Geralyn Frandsen, Ed.D., associate professor of nursing — The Effect Team Teaching Has on Understanding Measurement and Evaluation.

• Alice Jensen, associate professor of nursing — Integrating Art, Music, Literature, and Film Into a Psychosocial Nursing Class to Increase Empathy

• Michael S. Kiener, Ph.D., assistant professor of rehabilitation counseling — The Use of Action Research to Increase Reflective Practice for Students and Instructors

• Mark Roman, associate professor of accounting and management, and Karen Fletcher, lecturer of information systems — Increasing Students’ Capacity to Retain Knowledge and Understand Key Concepts: Two Case Studies That Provide a Blueprint for Student Success.

Maryville University is a private institution offering approximately 50 undergraduate, seven master’s and two doctoral degree programs to 3,422 students. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges, Maryville University prepares its students for successful and meaningful careers. Among Maryville’s most recent graduates, 94 percent are employed or attending graduate school. Approximately 15,000 alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.

– by May Ashour, student writer, Marketing and Public Relations