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The Transition From Innovation to Sustainability: The McMaster Inquiry Experience Susan Vajoczki Acting Director Centre for Leadership in Learning Director,

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Presentation on theme: "The Transition From Innovation to Sustainability: The McMaster Inquiry Experience Susan Vajoczki Acting Director Centre for Leadership in Learning Director,"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Transition From Innovation to Sustainability: The McMaster Inquiry Experience Susan Vajoczki Acting Director Centre for Leadership in Learning Director, Experiential Education Faculty of Social Sciences Associate Professor, School of Geography & Earth Sciences

2 Today’s Path Context of Inquiry Learning at Mac Institutional Comparison – Gloucestershire-Mac Re-energizing Innovation Blended learning Quality assessment Institutional reputation

3 What is inquiry? Inquiry is both a process and set of skills to: – develop and refine a researchable question; – demonstrate the ability to obtain relevant information; – critically evaluate validity and relevance; – communicate a coherent response; and, – critically reflect on the learning process (Justice et al., 2006).

4 Inquiry: Active Learning Mac Development of an idea for institutional change in u/g student learning within teaching and learning centre (CLL – Centre for Leadership in Learning) Acquired external one-time funds Faculty buy-in – Humanities, Sciences, & Social Sciences Development of level one, stand-alone, small first year courses

5 Soc Sci Inquiry – The history What we know – Enhanced student learning outcomes (Justice et al., 2006) – High level of student satisfaction (Justice et al., 2006) – High level of instructor satisfaction (Maurer, 2007) – Expensive to deliver (Dean, frequently!) – Questions about on-going development of inquiry skills – Students demanding just in time teaching; electronically available materials

6 So to summarise… key enablers Gloucestershire – Leadership and values – Culture valuing teaching and learning – Policies – Systems and structures – Resources – Evidence base for change McMaster – Leadership and values – Resources – Students Source: Spronken-Smith, R., M. Healey, & S. Vajoczki, 2008 based upon Pettigrew, 1985.

7 And key constraints… Gloucestershire – Workload McMaster – Culture – Resources – Systems and structures – Academic identity Source: Spronken-Smith, R., M. Healey, & S. Vajoczki, 2008 based upon Pettigrew, 1985.

8 Key learnings thus far Context plays a major role in academics perceptions about curriculum change Interdisciplinary vs disciplinary curriculum initiatives – Unless have dedicated funding, curriculum changes within a departmental framework appear to be more sustainable Lack of alignment between academic staff and senior administrators Source: Spronken-Smith, R., M. Healey, & S. Vajoczki, 2008 based upon Pettigrew, 1985.

9 Stand Alone Mac Science - none Humanities – 2 large class experiences Social Sciences – 16 small class experiences WHY Soc Sci successful? – Existence of the research – Presence of an advocate – Modest structural commitment

10 Activity Theory Barrier to cross to resolve this ‘problem’ (Engestrom, 2001) Structural Tensions Institutional Expectations vs Behaviours Funding Shortfalls Sustainability Planning (role of dean) Cultural Tensions Research vs Teaching Administrative Expectations vs Instructor Willingness Pedagogical Tensions Stand-alone Course vs Embedded Approach

11 Funding shortfall … Demise of a initiative or driver for change

12 What we wanted to know Can we: maintain the learning outcomes; use a blended learning approach; embed more inquiry; and, ensure longer term sustainability? Innovation Sustainability

13 Blended Learning combines face-to-face instruction with computer mediated instruction

14 How do we find out? Stage One – Where is inquiry occurring already in Social Sciences? – What is the influence of discipline? – What is the influence of class size? – What type of inquiry is occurring?

15 Types of Inquiry Structured Inquiry: the instructor provides learners with a problem to investigate, as well as procedures and materials, but does not inform them of expected outcomes. Guided Inquiry: the instructor provides the materials and problems to investigate the problem, but the learners devise their own procedure to solve the problem. Open Inquiry: learners formulate their own problem to investigate, as well as the procedure to solve the problem. Staver and Bay, 1987

16 How can we find out? Document Analysis of Social Sciences Course Outlines Development of a scoring rubric

17 Developing a scoring rubric Developed a scale of 7 questions Score each outline out of 600 Determine weighting in course by grading schema Convert to a score out of 100 (not a percentage scale)

18 Results – When is inquiry offered?

19 Who offers it?

20 Does size matter?

21 When does size matter?

22 Conclusions: Document Analysis - Course Outline Amount of inquiry dependent upon: – Level – increases by level – Department variation – Class size Type of inquiry dependent upon: – Structured – first & second year; larger class sizes – Guided – third and fourth year; moderate class sizes – Open – third and fourth year; small class sizes BUT does occur in large first year classes

23 What’s next Instructor interviews – Unpack inquiry definition & understanding of inquiry process – Identify technology ‘willingness’ Identify courses for increase in inquiry based on a combination of a low inquiry score AND technology willingness Embed inquiry experiences that are facilitated through blended learning

24 What are UUDLEs?  University Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations  Developed by the Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents (OCAV) and approved by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU)

25 UUDLEs  Depth and Breadth of Knowledge  Knowledge of Methodologies  Application of Knowledge  Communication Skills  Awareness of Limits of Knowledge  Autonomy and Professional Capacity

26 The Opportunity McMaster specific UUDLE(s) – Interest in linking research & teaching Inquiry possible that link Serendipity – Dr. Ilene Busch-Vishniac Mac Chair OCAV group working on Quality Assessment Framework

27 The Opportunity Institutional Reputation – Problem-based learning – Inquiry Learning Mechanism to keep student learning at the forefront in a research intensive university

28 Innovation – Sustainability Lessons Learned Alignment of expectations Ongoing funding Structures (policy and procedure) Cultural Awareness Importance of an advocate (s)

29 Discussion: Innovation to Sustainability Do you anticipate other enablers? Barriers? Do you have suggestions to increase likelihood of success? Other thoughts….comments…..

30 Acknowledgements Co-investigator, Dr. Susan Watt; Associate Dean of Social Sciences on the course outline project Funding for the course outline project was provided by the McConnell Foundation and the Faculty of Social Sciences, McMaster University Research Assistance on the course outline project was provided by Rose Liao, Sarah Tuszinski & Ronnie Ali

31 References Engeström, Y (2001), ‘Expansive learning at work. Toward an activity-theoretical reconceptualization’, Journal of Education and Work, vol.14, no.1, pp Justice, Christopher, Rice, James, Warry, Wayne, Inglis, Sue, Miller, Stefania, & Sammon, Sheila. (2006). Inquiry in Higher Education: Reflections and Directions on Course Design and Teaching Methods. Innovative Higher Education, 31, Maurer, Daphne. “Teaching Inquiry at McMaster: The Impact on the Instructor.” In. C. Knapper (ed.) Experiences with Inquiry Learning. Proceedings of a Symposium at McMaster University, October 1-3, Hamilton: Centre for Leadership in Learning, 2007: Spronken-Smith, R., Healey, M. & Vajoczki, S., Institutionalizing Inquiry-based Learning: A Comparative Case Study of the Universities of Gloucestershire (UK) and McMaster (Canada) Staver, J. R., & Bay, M. (1987, October). Analysis of the project synthesis goal cluster orientation and inquiry emphasis of elementary science textbooks. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 24(7),


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