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Abstracts, Volume 31

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Volume 31 / Issue 1

Have the Devices Changed the Learner? - Editor's Page

Libby V. Morris

Academic Freedom in Higher Education Within a Conservative Sociopolitical Culture

Robert L. Williams

Abstract: This paper examines the potential threat that a conservative sociopolitical culture poses to academic freedom in state colleges and universities. Already a number of states are considering legislation that would restrict professors’ rights to discuss political issues within their classes, especially political issues having religious or moral implications. The proposed legislation would permit professors to discuss political issues substantively linked to the official subject matter of courses, but would limit professors’ role in such discussion to one of political neutrality. The paper addresses the possibility of discussing controversial sociopolitical issues in college and university classes without alienating an institution’s external support base.

The Effect of Data Analysis Modules in the Introductory Sociology Course: Lessons for the Social Sciences

Tracy L. Dietz

Abstract: This article offers an evaluation of the implementation of the American Sociological Association's Integrating Data Analysis Project in a large introductory sociology course. This project was designed following an examination of the curricula of 13 disciplines that revealed that sociology failed to integrate empirical, quantitative literacy components throughout the undergraduate curriculum. Thus, efforts to introduce students to data analysis early and often were established as a best practice in the discipline. Results revealed that the students found the modules helped them understand the empirical nature of sociology. The students expressed an interest in participating in future research projects in sociology and/or other disciplines. They were not overly anxious about the quantitative literacy components of the course. Including on-line data analysis strategies using publicly available data and complimentary software represent cost and time-effective methods of introducing quantitative literacy into the social science classroom. Many social and behavioral sciences other than sociology have also discovered that their students lack a clear understanding of the relationship between empirical research and substantive topics within the discipline. Consequently, the lessons learned from the efforts of the ASA could be applied across many disciplines to form a more cohesive curriculum for many disciplines.

Demystifying Accreditation: Action Plans for a National or Regional Accreditation

Ann L. Wood

Abstract: As part of educational reform, many institutions of higher education are undergoing accreditation processes. Based on interviews, observations, and the author's experiences in accreditation reviews, this discussion delineates three stages of planning for an accreditation process. Recommendations are organized by each stage of preparation into long- and short-term action plans with specific tasks. Analyzing the process of accreditation across institutions and programs led to the identification of common elements that can make planning an accreditation effective and efficient. This article maps the roles and responsibilities of accreditation stakeholders and the need for communication and collaboration throughout the process.

Mentoring of Women Faculty: The Role of Organizational Politics and Culture

Sharon K. Gibson

Abstract: This article reports on a key finding of a phenomenological study on the mentoring experiences of women faculty. The study revealed the political climate of the organization as an essential attribute of this experience. Women faculty identified organizational culture and gender issues that affected the mentoring they received. This study suggests the need for human resource and organization development initiatives to facilitate the provision of academic mentoring for women faculty—individually, departmentally, and culturally—as a means to foster transformation and change in academic institutions.

Volume 31 / Issue 2

Integrating New Ideas in Course Design, Implementation, and Evaluation - Editor Page

Libby V. Morris

Oral Communication Skills in Higher Education: Using a Performance-Based Evaluation Rubric to Assess Communication Skills

Norah E. Dunbar, Catherine F. Brooks, and Tara Kubicka-Miller

Abstract: This study used The Competent Speaker, a rubric developed by the National Communication Association (S. P. Morreale, M. R. Moore, K. P. Taylor, D. Surges-Tatum, & R. Hulbert-Johnson, 1993), to evaluate student performance in general education public speaking courses as a case study of student skills and programmatic assessment. Results indicate that students taking the general education public speaking course are below satisfactory standards on five of the eight competencies defined by the National Communication Association and are above satisfactory standards on two of the eight competencies. Implications for this particular program, other communication departments, and communication across the curriculum in general education are discussed. We also offer suggestions for those in other disciplines or educational settings in the use of performance evaluation rubrics for assessing other student skills/knowledge and for training new teachers.

Implementing Effective Online Teaching Practices: Voices of Exemplary Faculty

Cassandra C. Lewis and Husein Abdul Hamid

Abstract: This qualitative study explores the process of implementing effective online teaching practices through interviews with thirty exemplary instructors. Emergent themes include providing students with constructive feedback, fostering interaction and involvement, facilitating student learning, and maintaining instructor presence and organization. Analyses of the findings and implications for online instruction are presented.

Integrating Learning communities and Distance Education: Possibility or Pipedream

David DiRamio and Mimi Wolverton

Abstract: As demands for accountability continue and increase, higher education administrators require tools for evaluating campus programs. Learning communities, as a course design strategy, have proven successful in confronting challenges associated with attrition and retention. Because high attrition is associated with online distance education, learning community principles might be applicable to online courses. The authors surveyed attendees at a learning communities conference to determine the applicability of learning community principles to Internet learning and assessment. On the basis of their findings, they developed a rudimentary diagnostic tool for ascertaining whether online course design takes learning community principles into account.

Faculty/Staff Perceptions of a Standards-Based Exit Portfolio System for Graduate Students

Tena L. McNamara and Rita L. Bailey

Abstract: New standards for certification were recently developed for speech–language pathology graduate training programs by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The new standards are outcomes-based rather than process-based. Using a collective case study approach, this article highlights the perceptions of faculty and staff regarding use of a standards-based exit portfolio system for students in a Speech–Language Pathology graduate program at a medium-sized, public university after two semesters of use.

Volume 31 / Issue 3

Technology: Revolutionizing or Transforming College? - Editor's Page

Catherine L. Finnegan

When Topics are Controversial: Is it Better to Discuss Them Face-to-Face or Online

Katrina A. Meyer

Abstract: Ten students in a graduate-level course on Historical and Policy Perspectives in Higher Education held face-to-face and online discussions on five controversial topics: diversity, academic freedom, political tolerance, affirmative action, and gender. Upon completion of each discussion, they assessed their comfort, honesty, concern for others’ feelings, similarity of feelings to others, and willingness to disagree and then compared the face-to-face and online discussions on these measures. Students’ assessments are complex and indicate that some topics did elicit feelings of discomfort, concern for others’ feelings, and willingness to disagree in the face-to-face discussions. However, despite these feelings, the majority of students continued to prefer the face-to-face discussions. Online discussions were valued to a lesser extent, but a consistent minority of students were more comfortable in that setting. The age and race of the student also created differences in responses.

Power Point Presentation Technology and the Dynamics of Teaching

Russell J. Craig and Joel H. Amernic

Abstract: This article presents a wide-ranging analysis of the use of PowerPoint technology in higher education. It addresses four overlapping issues. Has PowerPoint led to more effective learning? What impact has PowerPoint had on the dynamics of classrooms? What are some important aspects of the culture that accompanies PowerPoint? How has PowerPoint affected orality, visuality and literacy? The purpose of our article is to stimulate beneficial conversations about a prevalent educational software technology.

Convenience is not Enough

Lonnie D. Harvel

Abstract: A recent survey of studies [Tenopir, Hitchcock, & Pillow (2003). Use and users of electronic library resources: An overview and analysis of recent research studies. Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources.] concluded “both faculty and students use and like electronic resources and most readily adopt them if the sources are perceived as convenient, relevant, and time saving to their natural workflow” (p. iv). However, the results of access studies show that actual use of online content is relatively low. This is because navigation to the online content in these various collections is not convenient, requires multiple steps in order to reach relevant content, and is not integrated into a student's natural workflow. In our research, we have designed, implemented, deployed, and evaluated a method for making content available to students that targets the content to their current need.

Flexible Learning Environments: Leveraging the Affordances of Flexible Delivery and Flexible Learning

Janette R. Hill

Abstract: The purpose of this article is to explore the key features of flexible learning environments (FLEs). Key principles associated with FLEs are explained. Underlying tenets and support mechanisms necessary for the implementation of FLEs are described. Similarities and differences in traditional learning and FLEs are explored. Finally, strategies and techniques for becoming a successful learner and facilitator in FLEs are presented.

Volume 31 / Issue 4

Learning from Diverse Scholarship - Editor's Page

Libby V. Morris

Inquiry in Higher Education: Reflections and Directions on Course Design and Teaching Methods

Christopher Justice, James Rice, Wayne Warry, Sue Inglis, Stefania Miller, Sheila Sammon

Abstract: Our 5-year experiment with teaching and evaluating an inquiry course has led us to conclude that inquiry is a potent pedagogical tool in higher education, encouraging students to become self-directed and engaged learners. This article offers key ingredients and procedures for designing an inquiry-based course. It provides a pragmatic model of inquiry that describes the structure and function of such a course and the goals and learning objectives for students. This model of inquiry is widely applicable and will help faculty members from a variety of disciplines develop an innovative way of engaging and teaching students.

Better Allocating University Resources to Create On-line Learning Environments for Non-Traditional Students in Underserved Rural Areas

Erinn D. Lake and Andrew J. Pushchak

Abstract: This article details one university’s efforts to develop graduate courses and programs to better serve the needs of the increasing non-traditional student population in underserved rural areas. A detailed overview is presented, along with the strategic planning outcomes achieved. We hope this article will initiate dialogue among higher education professionals on ways to better meet the academic needs of non-traditional students in underserved rural areas.

Assessing Assessment: The Effects of Two Exam Formats on Course Achievement and Evaluation

Carrie B. Myers and Scott M. Myers

Abstract: This research examines the effect of two testing strategies on academic achievement and summative evaluations in an introductory statistics course. In 2001, 63 students underwent an hourly midterm format; and in 2002, 68 students underwent a bi-weekly exam format. Other than the exam format, the class lectures and labs were identical in terms of content, structure, pace, and the cumulative final exam. Findings from the regression analyses show that students in the bi-weekly format performed better than the students in the hourly midterm format. On average, students who took the bi-weekly exams performed about 10 percentage points higher (one letter grade) on the exams during the semester and about 15 percentage points higher on the cumulative final exam compared to their peers who took hourly midterms. The benefits of the bi-weekly format were significantly greater among female students than male students. Finally, students in the bi-weekly format were less likely to drop the class and evaluated the class far more favorably.

Idea Generation and Exploration: Benefits and Limitations of the Policy Delphi Research Method

Kathy K. Franklin and Jan Hart

Abstract: Researchers use the policy Delphi method to explore a complex topic with little historical context that requires expert opinion to fully understand underlying issues. The benefit of this research technique is the use of experts who have more timely information than can be gleamed from extant literature. Additionally, those experts place researchers in a specific moment, thus increasing the possibility of capturing change over time. One limitation of the policy Delphi is the difficulty in developing an accurate initial questionnaire to start the process. The purpose of this article is to identify benefits and limitations of this research method.

Volume 31 / Issue 5

Faculty Power and Responsibility - Editor's Page

Libby V. Morris

Border Crossings: Engaging Students in Diversity Work and Intergroup Relations

Susan Rose and Joyce Bylander

Abstract: As an innovative model for diversity education, Dickinson College designed the Crossing Borders program to encourage culturally diverse students to live, work, and study together in multiple contexts both within the United States and abroad. Envisioning a series of crossings, the program brings together up to 20 students from Dickinson College, a predominantly White Institution, and Xavier University, Dillard College, and Spelman College, three Historically Black Colleges/Universities, to spend 4 weeks studying together in Cameroon. West Africa. Students then study at Dickinson for one semester and at one of the Historically Black Colleges/Universities for one semester.

A Model for Creating Engaged Land-Grant Universities: Penn State's Engagement Ladder Model

Keith R. Aronson and Nicole Webster

Abstract: The original mission of the state and land-grant university was to engage with communities to solve problems and improve the quality of life for the citizenry. Today most state and land-grant universities have moved far away from their original mission and are struggling to become engaged with the communities they serve. In this case study, we highlight some of the steady progress toward engagement that has recently occurred at The Pennsylvania State University. We catalogue how strong vision and leadership; infrastructure reorganization; and the active involvement of faculty, students, and community partners have revitalized the land-grant mission at Penn State.

Translating Comments on Student Evaluations into the Language of Learning

Linda C. Hodges, Katherine Stanton

Abstract: Written comments on student evaluations often seem idiosyncratic, lacking the power of numerical statistical data. These statements, however, may sometimes reveal intellectual challenges common to novice learners in our disciplines. Instructors can use these insights as part of a scholarly approach to teaching, making meaningful adjustments to future classes and informing curricular choices in productive ways. In this article we examine common student complaints in three particular situations: quantitative classes, writing-intensive courses, and classes taught using student-active formats. We discuss implications of these comments for faculty as they seek to promote students’ intellectual development.

The Dispositions and Skills of a Ph.D. in Education: Perspectives of Faculty and Graduate Students in One College of Education

Susan K. Gardner, Michael T. Hayes, and Xyanthe N. Neider

Abstract: Twenty-two faculty and graduate students were interviewed in one college of education in order to understand what the college and its constituents view as the skills, habits of mind, and dispositions needed to obtain a Ph.D. in Education. Analysis of the data was conducted using professional socialization as a theoretical framework, allowing for an understanding of the different perspectives of this topic as viewed through a developmental lens. Implications for theory and practice are included.

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