Launch of The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

I am thrilled to be able to announce the publication of the inaugural issue of The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CJSoTL)/La revue canadienne sur l’avancement des connaissances en enseignement et en apprentissage (RCACEA).  It has been a long and winding road but the journal finally went live at 1:20pm on Monday, June 21, 2010. 

In case you have not heard about the journal let me fill you in.  CJSoTL/RCACEA is the official, trans-disciplinary, peer-reviewed, electronic publication of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. It is designed to advance the scholarship of teaching and learning in Canadian post-secondary institutions. It provides an avenue for a wide range of educators, including faculty members, administrators, academic librarians, educational developers, learning resource specialists, and graduate students, to discuss ways of enhancing student learning experiences through systematic inquiry into teaching and learning in all disciplines.

We invite submissions, in either English or French, from anyone, including international colleagues, interested in discussing teaching and learning issues that are relevant to higher education in the Canadian context.  If you are doing SoTL work in Canada, this is the journal for you. 

The inaugural issue includes the following articles.

Diverse Methodological Approaches and Considerations for SoTL in Higher Education
Harry Hubball and Anthony Clarke

Exploring a New Model and Approach to the Scholarship of Teaching: The Scholarship Teaching Academy
Fay Patel

Educational Development Websites: What Do They Tell Us About How Canadian Centres Support the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning?
Ros A. Woodhouse and Kristin A. Force

The Effectiveness of Library Instruction: Do Student Response Systems (Clickers) Enhance Learning?
Diane Buhay, Lisa A. Best, and Katherine McGuire

The Effect of Performance Feedback on Student Help-Seeking and Learning Strategy Use: Do Clickers Make a Difference?
Debra L. Dawson, Ken N. Meadows, and Tom Haffie

Foundation Skills for Scientists: An Evolving Program
Teresa Dawson, Sarah Fedko, Nancy Johnston, Elaine Khoo, Sarah King, Saira Mall, Mary Olaveson, Janice Patterson, Kamini Persaud, Frances Sardone, Zohreh Shahbazi, Allyson Skene, Martha Young, and Clare A. Hasenkampf

A Report on the Implementation of the Blooming Biology Tool: Aligning Course Learning Outcomes with Assessments and Promoting Consistency in a Large Multi-Section First-Year Biology Course
Angie O’Neill, Gülnur Birol, and Carol Pollock

Is “Safety” Dangerous? A Critical Examination of the Classroom as Safe Space
Betty J. Barrett

If you are interested, please have a look at these articles and learn more about the journal by visiting .

Ken N. Meadows
Managing Editor
The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning /
La revue canadienne sur l’avancement des connaissances en enseignement et en apprentissage

Ken’s Musical Postscript:  As I mentioned in a previous blog piece, I have decided to add a musical postscript to each of my blogs to mention three songs I enjoy, including a classic song.  I encourage everyone to dance when the mood strikes.
1) “Cheap and Cheerful” by The Kills
2) “Kandi” by One EskimO
3) “Contact” by Big Audio Dynamite


Opportunities and New Directions

The conference season is quickly approaching and there are a number of great conferences this Spring and Summer for those interested in Research on Teaching (RT).  One I would highly recommend attending is the University of Waterloo’s annual Opportunities and New Directions: A Research Conference on Teaching and Learning which is next week (i.e., Wednesday, April 28, 2010).  OND is just a short drive away, is  extremely affordable, and always includes very interesting presentations and posters. 

This year, there are two presentations  at OND that have particularly caught my eye.  The first is the keynote presentation by Dr. Catherine Wehlburg from Texas Christian University entitled “Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: You’re Already Doing It!”.  The abstract for her session is as follows:

Many post-secondary educators who are thinking about doing research on teaching and learning are dissuaded from doing so by the perceived extra work such research would entail. However, Dr. Wehlburg argues that this perception is misguided. If teaching, learning and student assessment are happening in your classroom (and they are!), then you’ve already done most of the work needed to be a scholar of teaching and learning. So why not take advantage of it? This engaging and interactive workshop will help participants develop the strategies they need to parlay course prep and assessment time into powerful “scholarship of teaching and learning” results” (Wehlberg, 2010).

Dr. Wehlburg’s session should provide excellent practical tips on doing RT without developing extensive additional assessments.  I know this session will be beneficial for faculty with RT experience as well as those who have wanted to do RT but felt that they did not have the time or expertise to develop additional assessments.

The second is a plenary session by Dr. Tom Carey from the Higher Quality Council of Ontario and the University of Waterloo entitled “SOTL as a Strategic Support for Developing Innovation in the Student Learning Experience”.  The abstract for his session is as follows:

“Our SOTL work has traditionally contributed to – and consequently been supported by – institutional agendas around the quality of teaching and learning and research agendas to “advance the general state of knowledge in the discipline”. A third focal point for contribution (and potential funding) has begun to emerge: SOTL work to support strategic government priorities around developing an innovation economy. This presentation asks the question: Can we use SOTL work as an exemplar to students of how research-informed innovation adds value to our work practices, to support their understanding of innovation processes, challenges and risks” (Carey, 2010)?

I had not really considered possible outcomes of ourRT work to include the development of our students’ understanding of innovation or their abilities to innovate but I am very intrigued by these ideas and look forward to exploring them during Dr Carey’s session.  

As I mentioned, these are only two of the many interesting session that are scheduled.  For more information about OND, please see the conference web site at .

I hope I will see you there.

Ken N. Meadows

Carey, T. (2010, April). SOTL as a Strategic Support for Developing Innovation in the Student Learning Experience. Paper to be presented at the Second Annual  Opportunities and New Directions: A Research Conference on Teaching and Learning, Waterloo, ON, Canada.  Abstract retrieved from

Wehlburg, C. (2010, April). Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: You’re Already Doing It!  Paper to be presented at the Second Annual Opportunities and New Directions: A Research Conference on Teaching and Learning, Waterloo, ON, Canada.  Abstract retrieved from 


Ken’s Musical Postscript:  As I mentioned in my last blog piece, I have decided to add a musical postscript to each of my blogs to mention three songs I enjoy, including a classic song.  I encourage everyone to dance when the mood strikes. 

1) “Velvet” by The Big Pink

2) “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

3)  “Headhunter” by Front 242 (the original – V1.0 – not one of the remixes…)

My Slack Week: The Instructional Skills Workshop Experience

The name “Slack Week” has always struck me as such a misnomer.  Since the first year of my undergraduate degree (almost 25 years ago…) “Slack Week” has been an extremely busy study and/or work week for me.  This year was no exception.  In fact, this year it was particularly intensive as I was participating in the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW).  For those who may not be familiar with ISW, it is a three or four day concentrated workshop designed to help small groups of new and experienced faculty members further develop their teaching knowledge and skills.  At the heart of the workshop are three 10-minute mini-lessons which each participant develops and teaches.  Both written and oral feedback is provided by the learners, the other group members, and the mini-lessons are digitally recorded to provide the instructor with an opportunity to reflect further on her/his teaching.  Using active learning techniques, participants also learn about the theory and practice of teaching including, but in no way limited to, designing learning objectives, employing active learning techniques, and developing learning assessments (see for further information).

Although ISW did not involve any slacking, it was an extremely rewarding experience.  It provided the opportunity for me to revisit and revise familiar teaching techniques as well as learning and integrating new ones into my teaching repertoire.  I engaged in considerable self-reflection and learned a great deal about myself as a teacher and learner.  The group learned, discussed, and, at times, debated fundamental teaching issues all within a very supportive and secure environment.  I was challenged along with, and by, a wonderful group of colleagues who are also passionate about teaching and learning.  In fact, I think it would be fair to say that we developed into a small learning community, which, I hope, will have future opportunities to discuss other pedagogical issues of interest.  One particular area of interest for me is how ISW graduates have translated their ISW experience into their classrooms (If any of the ISW graduates are reading, please feel free to comment on this blog if you would like to share).

Overall, ISW was a great learning experience and a lot of fun.  I experimented, reflected, shared, engaged, laughed, and left feeling re-energized about my teaching.  It was time extremely well spent.  That said, I am going to try much harder to slack during “Slack Week” next year.  I have a feeling that a beach with clear blue water and white sand is in my future.  Any suggestions?

The Teaching Support Centre is offering the program again in April (see  Will you be participating?   I highly recommend it.

Ken N. Meadows

Ken’s Musical Postscript:  Dr. Mike Atkinson and I have discussed the possibility of using the TSC blog to make song recommendations.  I have decided to add a musical postscript to each of my blogs to mention three songs I enjoy, including a classic song.  I encourage Dr. Atkinson to do the same in his subsequent posts.  I also encourage everyone to dance when the mood strikes. 

1) “Sly” by the Cat Empire

2) “Crystallized” by the XX

3)  “Take Me to the River” by Talking Heads (one of the live versions…)

Western Research on Teaching Grant

Have you ever tried something new in your classroom and wondered what effect it really had on student learning? Have you ever thought of doing research on a teaching technique, a teaching technology, or some other aspect of your teaching or your students’ learning? Research Western, in cooperation with the Teaching Support Centre, has established the Western Research on Teaching Grant program to facilitate research on teaching and learning at Western. The purpose of the Research on Teaching Grant program is to support the work of all faculty, librarians, and archivists to conduct research on teaching developments, innovations and practices in which they are engaged.

Amount: Maximum $3000

Deadlines: Associate Dean – March 17, 2010
                          Research Western – March 31, 2010

More information is available at: .

If you would like any assistance with developing a research on teaching project, please feel free to contact me at

Ken N. Meadows, Ph.D.
Educational Research
Teaching and Learning Services

Are Post-Secondary Institutions Academically Optimistic?

by Ken N. Meadows 

A colleague and I were recently discussing the first year student experience.  He wondered if some members of the university community might inadvertently be conveying to first year students that the university is pessimistic about their academic ability.  Specifically, my colleague wondered if emphasizing the probable drop in grades from high school to first-year University could be sending this unintentionally pessimistic message.  The actual message is undoubtedly intended to help students develop realistic expectations about their academic performance and support their academic self-efficacy but he wondered if that message could also be having this potentially negative consequence.

This conversation led me to do a preliminary literature search on institutional academic optimism.  As it turns out, Hoy and colleagues (e.g., Hoy, Tarter, & Woodfolk Hoy, 2006) have conducted considerable research on the academic optimism of primary and secondary schools in the United States.  They define academic optimism as a positive academic environment determined by three inter-related variables: academic emphasis (“the extent to which the school is driven by a quest for academic excellence”, p. 427), collective efficacy (“…judgment of teachers that the faculty as a whole can organize and execute the actions required to have a positive effect on the students”, p. 428), and faculty trust in students and parents (“…willingness to be vulnerable to another party based on the confidence that that party is benevolent, reliable, competent, honest, and open” p. 429).  They found that institutional academic optimism significantly predicts students’ academic performance over and above students’ previous academic performance and socio-economic status. 

Reading the work of Hoy and colleagues (2006) raised a plethora of questions for me.  Does the academic optimism concept apply to universities and colleges in Canada?   Is academic optimism predictive of students’ academic performance at the post-secondary level?  For large-scale institutions like colleges and universities, would the institution be the appropriate level of analysis or would the faculties’ or departments’ academic optimism be more predictive of student performance?  Would smaller teaching colleges and universities generally be more academically optimistic than their larger research-intensive counterparts?  Does setting realistic performance expectations for first year students have the unintended consequence of sending academically pessimistic messages about the institution?

As always, there are more questions than answers.  Of course, that is part of the reason that research is so exciting. 

What do you think?


Hoy, W. K., Tarter, C. J., Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2006). Academic optimism of schools: A force for student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 43, 425-446.

Writing for a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Journal – Ken N. Meadows

Last week, I attended the Sixth Annual Conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Bloomington, Indiana. The conference was a wonderful opportunity to connect with colleagues from around the world interested in research on teaching and to immerse myself in the latest thinking and research in the area. As the Managing Editor of a new online open access journal on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning/La Revue canadienne sur l’avancement des connaissances en enseignement et en apprentissage, three sessions that I attended were of particular interest. Each of the sessions was about SoTL journals but each was from a different perspective. Jarvis and Creasey (2009) reported on research they had conducted with editors of general SoTL journals and discipline-specific journals that publish SoTL articles. Their focus was specifically on the weaknesses of both the submitted manuscripts and the research itself. The next two sessions involved editors from a number of general SoTL journals (Loui, Richlin, Clegg, Morris, & Cruz, 2009) and discipline-based education journals that publish SoTL articles (Tenenberg, France, Ishiyama, & Grauerholz, 2009), respectively. In both sessions, the editors described their journals and answered questions. One of the common components across the three sessions was recommendations to authors considering submitting research manuscripts to their journals. I have included five of these recommendations below; they may seem obvious but are clearly worth mentioning as they were addressed in all three sessions.

1) Make sure that your manuscript fits the journal’s mission. Each journal has a specific mission and will only print articles that fit within that mission. This information is available on the journal’s web site and, for print-based journals, in each journal issue. Submitting your manuscript to a journal appropriate for your manuscript will save you and the journal’s editors considerable time.

2) Ensure that your manuscript is well-written. I will not address all of the components of a well-written manuscript but some of the issues that were mentioned in one or more of the sessions were writing with clarity and grace, using proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation, not using excessive jargon, defining important variables, and drawing conclusions appropriate in scope and form to the findings. The presenters in each session highly encouraged authors to seek feedback from trusted colleagues before submitting the manuscript to the journals.

3) Make certain that your manuscript is grounded in the appropriate literature. Although the formal education of SoTL authors is generally in other disciplines, it is still important to know the literature relevant to your SoTL research and necessary to provide the context for the research in the manuscript itself. This may be somewhat tricky with SoTL research because there are both general and discipline-specific SoTL literatures but both may be relevant to your research and, if so, should be addressed in your manuscript.

4) Ensure that the appropriate design(s), method(s), measure(s), and analyses are used. There are obviously a plethora of research designs, methods, measures, and analyses that can be employed in SoTL research and it is very important to ensure that you are using the appropriate ones to address your research question(s). If you are not sure what would be the appropriate design, methods, measures, and analyses, consult the literature to see what researchers interested in the same questions are doing. If you are not familiar with those designs, methods, measures, or analyses, consider collaborating with colleagues who have that expertise.

5) Make sure you address the practical implications of your research. Although pure forms of research (i.e., research for knowledge sake) are laudible, SoTL is inherently an applied form of research. It is important to address the implications of your research for teaching and student learning.

If you are considering submitting to a SoTL journal, please keep these recommendations in mind as they will make the publication process much easier for you and the journal’s editors. Speaking as a Managing Editor, I know I would definitely appreciate it.

Ken N. Meadows


Jarvis, P., & Creasey, G. (2009, October). Strengthening SoTL research: The voices of journal editors. Paper presented at the Sixth Annual Conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Bloomington, IN.

Loui, M., Richlin, L., Clegg, S., Morris, L. V., & Cruz, L. (2009, October). Publishing SoTL in the next generation: How to choose a journal. Paper presented at the Sixth Annual Conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Bloomington, IN.

Tenenberg, J., France, D., Ishiyama, J., & Grauerholz, L. (2009, October). SoTL in disciplinary education journals. Paper presented at the Sixth Annual Conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Bloomington, IN.

Research on Teaching Learning Community: Are you a Member yet? – Ken Meadows

Earlier this week, Mike Atkinson wrote a blog post on an innovation he will be implementing in his classroom.  One of the joys about working with the TSC is working with teachers like Mike who are passionate about student learning and are always thinking about new ways of facilitating that learning.  Knowing Mike as I do, I would imagine that he has also thought about how he will know what impact that innovation is having on his students (…I will ask him and let you know).

With Allen Pearson, Faculty Associate in the area of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning with the TSC, I have the pleasure of coordinating programs for faculty members like Mike who implement learning innovations and assess the potential impact of those innovations.  One of those programs is the Research on Teaching Learning Community (RTLC).  The RTLC is a collection of members of the Western academic community who are interested in conducting original research into the effect of teaching innovations on students (e.g., their learning, motivation, engagement). Currently, programming for the RTLC involves a monthly e-mail newsletter and meetings once or twice a term.  The RTLC newsletter updates RTLC members of the research on teaching happenings at Western and more generally (e.g., conferences, grants, publications).  The RTLC meetings allow members to meet to discuss issues of interest related to research on teaching and, if applicable, their own research on teaching projects.  The membership includes faculty members, librarians, and archivists from all ranks and academic disciplines.

If you are interested in research on teaching and would like to join the community (i.e., receive the e-mail newsletter and/or attend RTLC meetings), welcome!  Please e-mail me at

I look forward to hearing from you.

Ken N. Meadows