News on UMR's efforts to enhance its learning environment & the learning outcomes of students

 

November 2004 Issue:


UMR efforts contribute to increased student retention

UMR focuses on the importance of academic advising

OURE program gains outstanding response from students

Leadership luncheon series off to a good start

Faculty workshops make an impact

UMR Writing Center offers additional services to graduate students


 

UMR efforts contribute to increased student retention

Through the activities of the office of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies (UGS), the university is focusing on identifying the practices that contribute to improving the learning environment and enhancing the learning outcomes of UMR students. UGS has developed programs centered on these core objectives that are intended to improve student retention. Combined with the efforts of the academic departments, these programs are beginning to demonstrate a positive impact.

UGS is achieving success by developing and implementing beneficial offerings for students and faculty. This newsletter highlights a few of the many UGS programs that contribute to this mission. These are the activities of the Center for Educational Research and Teaching Innovation (CERTI), the academic advising program, and UMR’s undergraduate research program.

CERTI has recently offered a variety of beneficial activities for faculty that address collaborative, experiential, and technology-enhanced learning practices. In the past three months, CERTI has engaged approximately thirty percent of all UMR faculty in one or more activities related to innovative teaching improvement, student-centered active learning, and technology-enhanced classroom applications. Participating faculty recognize that these activities contribute to the enhancement of student learning and the overall improvement of the UMR learning environment. Faculty participants have contributed to the planning of future activities that will offer beneficial practices that can be incorporated into the UMR classroom.

UMR also recognizes the importance of good academic advising practices. As a result, UGS has developed an academic advising program to help improve advising best practices and strengthen the relationship between students and advisors, subsequently contributing to improved student academic success and student retention. Recent advising conferences have been well-attended, demonstrating that these core principles are important to faculty and staff advisors on the campus.

Additionally, UMR is focused on increasing experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students. In response, UGS is planning the development of a Center for Experiential Learning and Student Design. This new center will include service learning, undergraduate research, and student design programs. UGS’ recent focus on experiential learning has led to the expansion of the undergraduate research program to include freshman introduction to research, sophomore introduction to interdisciplinary investigation, and an undergraduate research symposium and poster day. The undergraduate research symposium and poster day session will occur on the UMR campus in the spring 2005.

In summary, each of these recent developments supports the primary objectives of improving the learning environment and the learning outcomes of UMR students. UGS wishes to thank those that have participated in these activities and helped to contribute to the continual improvement of UGS program offerings. Look for more planned initiatives as UGS works to expand in each of these areas.


UMR focuses on the importance of academic advising

The role of today’s academic advisor has evolved beyond the mechanics of developing a four-year class plan into one of the most foundational relationships necessary to ensure a student’s academic success.

UGS recognizes the critical role academic advising has on the success of UMR students and, in collaboration with academic council, has developed a plan for strengthening the existing structure as well as providing more support and recognition for our advisors.

In a recent meeting with advisors, advising coordinators and administrators, Vice Provost Harvest Collier announced the creation of a formal academic advising program designed to increase the effectiveness of current advising activities. Many attendees expressed great interest in the program and provided excellent insight and suggestions. New components of the program include the establishment of an academic advising network, opportunities for advisor training and an advisor recognition program.

The second in a series of these conferences was held on November 8, 2004. The session focused on informational resources currently available to the campus. Participants brainstormed on resources needs, and contributed to the planning of an advisor training program and advisor recognition program.

For more information about UMR’s academic advising program, please visit our web site at http://campus.mst.edu/ugs/advising.htm, or contact UGS at 341-7600.


Opportunities for Undergraduate Research Experiences (OURE) program gains outstanding response from students

This year, more than 100 UMR students are learning out-of-the-classroom through OURE, an advantageous campus program that involves undergraduate students in exciting research experiences.

Experiential learning is a growing practice in education, and undergraduate research is at the core of this national focus. Undergraduate research is a form of experiential learning that engages students to take a more active role in the learning process through scientific or other research practices.

OURE introduces UMR students to the joys of discovery and helps students learn about resolution, problem solving and critical thinking. Undergraduate students benefit from the opportunity to learn about their chosen fields of study as well as to contribute meaningfully to the expansion of knowledge in those fields.

OURE students gain a foundational understanding of how research is conducted in their disciplines and a greater understanding of the availability and utilization of information resources on the UMR campus. Students also gain knowledge of the fundamentals of experimental design, and interpretation of research results.

OURE offers UMR faculty in these departments the opportunity to enhance their teaching and become more engaged with their students by involving them in research projects. Faculty conducting research with undergraduates benefit greatly by mentoring undergraduate students to invest in and assist with the expansion of the faculty research program.

Students that participate in OURE, (and other undergraduate research programs offered by UGS), will have the opportunity to celebrate the results of their collaborative projects by presenting their research findings to the campus during the UMR Undergraduate Research Symposium and Poster Day in the spring 2005.

For more information about OURE, contact UGS at 341-7276 or visit http://campus.mst.edu/ugs/OURE.htm .

 


Leadership luncheon series off to a good start

CERTI provides an avenue for timely discussions on relevant pedagogical issues facing campus leadership through its Leadership Luncheon Series (LLS). The LLS is a forum where campus leaders can dialog with visiting academicians and well-known educators as they extrapolate on factors affecting pedagogy and present thought-provoking strategies on how campus leadership can capitalize on those factors to improve teaching excellence.

In September Deans, Assoc. Deans, Chairs and other campus leaders participated in a discussion on the rapid paradigm shift from instructor-centered teaching to student-centered learning that is occurring in American universities. Neil Fleming, the retired Director of the Education Centre at Lincoln University, New Zealand, presented compelling evidence that all universities must be prepared to re-think teacher-centered approaches to teaching. He encouraged the campus leadership to begin an exploration process on how to incorporate learner-centered strategies to appeal to today’s college student.

Responses from workshop participants rated the overall effectiveness of this workshop as "Good." More importantly, participants whole-heartedly agreed that our campus paradigm needs to shift to a greater degree towards learning-centric. Responses also identified potential obstacles in making this shift as an inadequate reward system for good teaching and the concern that this focus might become too time-intensive for the instructor.

October’s guest speaker was Eric Mazur who holds a triple appointment as Harvard College Professor, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, and Professor of Physics at Harvard University. Eric discussed what campus leadership can to do enhance student learning. Campus leaders listened intently to Mazur as he shared the approach used at Harvard to increase student learning. Mazur highlighted two primary factors that would facilitate progress toward learning improvement; a culture that empowers and encourages faculty to discover effective teaching techniques and implementing a reward system for teaching excellence.

UM President Emeritus Mel George, CERTI's guest speaker for November, brought the topic of how people learn to the UMR leadership community. Using the text How People Learn from the National Research Council as a foundation for his discussion, Mel highlighted some of the barriers to effective learning. He challenged the audience to think beyond the typical, traditional barriers to consider those less conventional. Using the information from How People Learn and a variety of other studies, Mel identified barriers to learning as the preconceived misconceptions of students and an inability of students to conceptualize data. He also offered effective strategies to counter these barriers. This discussion was taped so the entire campus could benefit from the information presented.

Please check the CERTI web site for more information on these and other LLS luncheons. (http://certi.mst.edu/)


Faculty workshops make an impact

Faculty want best-practices proven to enhance teaching and learning. Intrinsically woven in the quest for innovative ideas is the desire to provide a classroom atmosphere where students experience higher level comprehension and problem-solving capabilities. Many faculty are not satisfied with their students rudimentary comprehension of the subject. Rather, they seek to incorporate strategies that elevate student comprehension beyond rote memorization to analysis and synthesis of subject matter.

CERTI has responded to this need by presenting workshops on active learning techniques, innovative teaching approaches, outcomes-based curriculum planning, and incorporating technology in the classroom. These workshops provide an opportunity for faculty to validate current techniques or to explore new approaches. Faculty attendance and participation at these workshops has been significant, sending a strong signal that faculty are serious about discovering best-practices in education.

Faculty turned-out in higher than expected numbers to hear Eric Mazur as he tackled the concepts behind the conventional lecture and provided Peer Instruction as a method in which to encourage student interaction during lectures. Used by a wide range of science and math courses at Harvard, Peer Instruction has been proven by many studies and diagnostic tests to be considerably more effective than the conventional lecture approach. During the workshop, Mazur also described the use of concept tests to engage students in active, collaborative learning sessions.

Faculty survey results rated this workshop as excellent and engaging. The majority of faculty wanted to hear more about how to implement Peer Instruction into their classrooms.

Eric graciously allowed us to video the workshop so everyone could benefit from the discussion. Several excellent points of interest were made at the workshop. CERTI highly recommends viewing the video.


IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS


UMR Writing Center offers additional services to graduate students

Over the past eight years, the UMR Writing Center has become a place where hundreds of undergraduate students each year work with peer tutors to refine their writing skills and improve the quality of their written assignments. The Writing Center continues to welcome all undergraduate students, but has also expanded its offerings for graduate students working on theses, dissertations, journal articles, or other types of professional writing.

International graduate students are invited to participate in a weekly, one-hour writing workshop that emphasizes basic English writing skills. This workshop takes place every Tuesday at 2:00 in 113 Campus Support Facility. No pre-registration is necessary, and students may attend each week or just occasionally, as they choose. International undergraduates are also invited to participate in this writing workshop.

Any graduate student seeking individual, intensive assistance with his or her writing may engage in one or more one-on-one tutoring sessions. Students who are motivated to improve their writing skills may set up long-term, weekly or bi-weekly tutoring sessions over the course of a semester or an entire school year. Graduate students interested in this service should call 341-4436 to schedule their first appointment to work with a writing tutor. Graduate students may request tutoring appointments at any stage in their degree programs, but ideally they would begin these sessions just as they start to write their thesis or dissertation.

Graduate students who have completed a journal article, proposal, or one or more chapters of their thesis or dissertation also have access to our staff of technical editors. Graduate students may stop by the Writing Center at their convenience to fill out an information sheet and drop off their document. An editor will read the document, make suggestions, and then contact the student to set up a mandatory face-to-face meeting. At that meeting, the editor and student will look over the suggested changes together and discuss the reasons for those changes. Editors at the Writing Center focus exclusively on writing style; they cannot be held responsible for the content of any document. Documents will be edited on a first-come, first-served basis, and students who wait until the end of the semester to bring their theses or dissertations to the Writing Center may be disappointed to find a long list of students ahead of them in the queue.

Students will not be charged a fee for any of the above services.

If you have any questions about the services available at the UMR Writing Center, please contact Dr. Kate Drowne, Director of the Writing Center, at kdrowne@mst.edu, or call the Writing Center at 341-4436.