What type of evidence are we using in evidence-based teaching?

From college-to-career readiness discussions to  professional networks to publications on teaching, higher education stakeholders are witnessing steadily increasing calls for evidence-based teaching. Yet what do policy makers, administrators, and faculty/academic staff mean by “evidence-based”? Lee Shulman suggests that our understanding of …


Classroom Ecology, the New Voc-Ed, and Academic Writing at the Edge

What happens when you ask three scholars to explore learning spaces from their unique individual and institutional perspectives? Audience members are challenged to reconsider their understandings of physical, program-level, and online learning spaces, along with their expectations for conference plenaries. The Friday, October 4, 2013, Plenary at ISSOTL 2013 featured TED-style talks by Thomas Horejes (Gallaudet University), anthony lising antonio (Stanford University), and Siân Bayne (University of Edinburgh). More information about the speakers and their talks is provided below the video.


The Power of Community Learning: Meshing Rural/Underserved Experiences with a Research Requirement in a Regional Medical Education Program

Atul Gawande, in his recent New Yorker article titled “Slow Ideas,” describes how changes in health care can be difficult to implement quickly, even if the research is credible and the change could lead to profound improvements. Gawande reminds us that social process is critical to the acceptance of new ideas, and he encourages health and medical educators to help their students learn social and community awareness.

The University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSOM) serves as a medical school for five states – Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho (WWAMI). Begun in the early 1970s, the WWAMI medical education program strives to continually improve the environment for student learning even as it has expanded to serve more students in response to regional needs. One of WWAMI’s many innovations was to join with Area Health Education Centers across the five states to offer students transitioning from the first to the second year of medical school a four-week immersion experience with practicing physicians who were providing care for rural and/or underserved populations. The Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program (R/UOP) proved very popular, and each summer 30-50% of rising second year medical students chose to participate. Other students, however, chose to spend the summer between first and second year working on an eight-credit research requirement, the Independent Investigative Inquiry (III). To allow more students to participate in R/UOP, an approach was designed that integrated the research requirement into the R/UOP experience. The result is the R/UOP III.


Using Standardized Patients in Healthcare Education

When you visit a healthcare practitioner, you put your well-being, and sometimes even your life, in their hands, and you rely on them to be both skilled and compassionate. The education process that brings healthcare professionals to this level of ability relies on effective opportunities for students to practice their skills along the way.

A particularly valuable means of engaging students in these interactions is through the use of standardized patients (SPs). Standardized patients are members of the community who are educated to portray real patients within a staged health setting. In Elon University’s School of Health Sciences, SPs work with students in both physical therapy (PT) and physician assistant (PA) studies to bring their education to life.


Mentoring Undergraduate Research: Student and Faculty Participation in Communities of Practice

George Kuh (2008) identified undergraduate research (UR) as a high-impact educational practice, one that has the potential to deepen students’ learning, strengthen self-awareness and broaden perspective-taking abilities, among many other benefits. Working closely with a faculty mentor is one of the defining characteristics of an undergraduate research experience (Lopatto, 2003), and faculty mentors are expected to guide students through the research process and be invested in the results or products (Osborne & Karukstis, 2009). Mentors often fulfill a psychosocial function as well (Johnson, 2006). Although mentoring is assumed to be a crucial component of successful student outcomes, surprisingly little empirical research has focused on mentoring in the context of UR.

Here are highlights of what we do know…


Welcome to the Center for Engaged Learning!

Welcome to the web site for the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University! The new Center will bring together international leaders in higher education to develop and to synthesize rigorous research on central questions about student learning, filling an important gap in higher education.

Researchers have identified what the “high-impact” educational practices are – study abroad, undergraduate research, internships, service-learning, writing-intensive courses, living-learning communities, and so on. However, while we know what these practices are, we could know much more about three essential issues: (1) how to do these practices well, (2) how to scale these practices to many students, and (3), how students integrate their learning across multiple high impact experiences.

We know, for example, that undergraduate research has powerful outcomes, but it’s very labor intensive – usually one faculty member mentoring one student over an extended period of time. If we understood more about how students learn and develop during an undergraduate research experience, and if we better understood effective faculty mentoring practices, then we could design scaled research experiences that simultaneously would be more effective while reaching far more students – at Elon and elsewhere.

The Center for Engaged Learning also will allow us to tackle a third important issue – studying how students integrate their learning across multiple high impact practices. Most colleges and universities treat student experiences as distinct – with separate offices and sets of evidence-based practices for study abroad, internships, undergraduate research, and so forth. At universities where students study abroad and then later complete an internship, or participate in service-learning and then conduct undergraduate research, how can we best help our students integrate across these experiences so that they reinforce each other? The Center will lead precisely that kind of research so that we can support students in integrating across their many engaged experiences.

By collaborating with local, national, and international leaders in high-impact practices, the Center will focus energy and creativity on these important questions. By conducting multi-institutional research and programs on what precisely makes certain experiences “high impact,” how to scale-up those experiences for all students, and how to help students integrate their learning, the Center will not only advance engaged learning in higher education, but it also will support the deepest learning for students.

We invite you join the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University in this work to transform engaged learning.

Peter Felten, Executive Director

Jessie L. Moore, Interim Associate Director