Kyle Park
The Silhouette

Formerly known as the Centre for Leadership and Learning, the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning promises initiatives that look at ways to improve the practice of education for students, professors, and faculties at large.

After going through a name change, the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning has its sights set on several first-year courses.

MIIETL’s director Arshad Ahmad said that many new initiatives revolve on the redesign of first-year courses like biology, chemistry, ecology and economics.

Right now the institute is focused on first year undergraduate classes hoping to gain a better understanding of how best to serve students in their adjustment to university life and ultimately increase the rate of returning students.

A successful project of MIIETL is their recent work with Dr. Joseph Kim, a professor of psychology, to make the IntroPsych course fully online by next September. To fulfill this goal, the imperative lies in effective research according to Ahmad.

“We gather evidence on teaching and learning. To become a research center, an institute, you have to find the kinds of evidence that improves practice,” said Ahmad.

He continued, “We’re not just finding evidence so we can publish an article and feel good about it. We take that evidence to redesign courses and learn from that process.”

Another research project aimed to synergize teaching and learning was a series of studies on ‘lecture-capture’ investigating how students interact with recorded lectures, that is, whether they are used as a supplementary resource for additional studying or as a substitute for the actual class.

The survey-based research asked students about the frequency of their engagement with captured lectures and their overall approach to studying.

“Lecture-captures are a strong practice because they are used by students as very useful study aids, and particularly for those students who are approaching the class with a deep and meaningful engagement,” said Beth Marquis, the Educational Research Consultant at MIIETL.

In addition to the increased drive for research, MIIETL also acknowledges the value in employing students as active members of the research team, to provide a space for students to pursue research projects proactively.

“Rather than hiring students simply as research assistants, which certainly still happens, we are also trying to think about the contexts wherein students can come up with their own research projects around teaching,” said Marquis.

When asked about the funding for the increased student employment, research production and upcoming renovated office space, Ahmad said that the university is making significant contributions from Forward With Integrity funds in combination with support from many faculties.

With its drive for research and partnerships among students and professors, MIIETL emerges as a prosperous initiative seeking to produce real changes on campus.




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