Community College paves the way with Scholarship of Teaching and Learning initiative

Community College paves the way with Scholarship of Teaching and Learning initiative

January 12, 2018

Faculty are laying the groundwork to improve education for all community college students, starting with the students at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, under a new initiative called the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). Through faculty research, changing classroom instruction and assessing impact, the initiative allows faculty to better understand how community college students learn and enhance teaching to improve success.

“We’re excited to launch a Scholars of Teaching and Learning program at Anoka-Ramsey,” said English Instructor Catherine Ford, Ed.D., who serves as the program coordinator. “It’s unique for community colleges to be engaged in this work. This is a relatively new concept for four-year institutions, and it is much more of a rarity for two-year colleges.”

Deidra Peaslee, Ed.D., vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, was instrumental in launching the program last year. She said the goal is to support faculty as they conduct original research projects, in order to improve student learning outcomes.

“If we’re looking for academic excellence, we should be first turning the lens on ourselves and seeing how we are performing as teachers,” said Ford. “We’re better teachers when we reflect on our teaching strategies and how they impact our students.”

To get the program off to strong start, Ford conducted research on existing models, finding little in national literature. Recognizing this as an opportunity to showcase innovation at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Ford and Peaslee have presented at a number of conferences on “Developing an Institutionally Supported Scholars Program at a Community College.” including the Spring Minnesota State Academic and Student Affairs Conference. Ford also presented at the annual conference of the International Society for Exploring Teaching and Learning in Orlando, Fl., in October, sharing research by Anoka-Ramsey faculty alongside faculty from four-year colleges and universities.

Peaslee and Ford recently presented their findings at the Lilly Conference on Evidence-Based Teaching & Learning in Austin, Texas, in January.

Faculty research projects have varied in topics and scope, and they range from recognizing student learning styles to providing video feedback for students in clinical scenarios. Broadly speaking, the goal of each project is to determine what enhances learning for community college students and what teaching techniques are not as successful.

“If we can take the learning from our research and have meaningful reflection on our teaching, then we can make a meaningful difference in the classroom,” said Ford.

Peaslee, who was recognized for her leadership and innovation in the Minnesota State system, said Anoka-Ramsey Community College is well-poised to become a leader in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning for two-year colleges across the nation.

“The wave is coming in and we are at the top, and it has not crested yet,” said Ford. “My dream is that Anoka-Ramsey will rise to the top of the wave, and become a model that other community colleges will use to build their own programs.”

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