Category Archives: Graduate Instruction

Reflective Writing

Bill Caraher, Department of History, University of North Dakota

The great philosopher of history, R.G. Collingwood, famously argued that all history is the history of thought. In Collingwood’s estimation, the historian re-enacts that past in his (for Collingwood, the historian was always a “he”) own mind when he reads a historical text or studies objects from the past. While rethinking the thoughts of the actors who participated in a past event, the historian is aware and critical of his own thinking about the past. This critical practice distinguished “the best kind of historian” from other people who make it a habit of merely assembling evidence into an orderly presentation and passing it off as some kind of objective or impartial truth. Collingwood saw the ability and responsibility of historians to think past thoughts as key to the role history plays in the production of human knowledge. In fact, he argued that history was the only discipline that produced human self-knowledge.

While his arguments for the autonomy of history have not received universal acceptance, Collingwood has contributed to how I think about reflective writing in the classroom. Over the course of expounding his larger argument, Collingwood noted in an offhand way that when he reads something he wrote days before, he acts the part of the historian by reflecting on his own writing and using it to reconstruct a past thought.

This was a helpful idea to me as I sat down to struggle with constructing assignments for my graduate historiography seminar. Graduate historiography is a required course for all M.A., D.A., and Ph.D. students in history in our department. Generally, the course elicits a kind of exaggerated dread because it is designed to force students to examine their assumptions and practices as historians. In general, historians regard an ability to recognize one’s own disciplinary, historical, and social assumptions about the past as a crucial step in a student’s development in the profession. The course, then, insists that students reflect and own up to their own position in relation to the process and methods of historical thinking.

Reflective writing has become an important part of encouraging students to write and think about a text, situation, or body of material. Generally, the practice has allowed students a certain amount of latitude in how they approach a subject and has sought to instill confidence in students by recognizing the authenticity of their own engagement with material.  This goals of reflective writing are particularly suitable for my graduate historiography class where I introduce the students to any number of challenging texts and push them to embrace often uncomfortable critiques leveled against longstanding academic practices. This can be, as you might imagine, a difficult task as the students tend to resist the most critical challenges to traditional historical practices. To allow students to engage these critiques in a safe place, I require reflective essays each week that respond to the readings assigned. These then become, to some extent, the basis for our discussion in the seminar.

Traditionally, graduate historiography seminars require students to, say, write a few critical book reviews and perhaps write a longer paper on a particular aspect of historical practice (e.g. women’s history, microhistory, Marxist history, et c.). These are boring things to read and largely reproduce the kind of exercises that students write in their other graduate history courses. On the one hand, historical works tend to be boring, so having students write boring assignments does not make them less useful. And, using an assignment in a graduate historiography class to reinforce skills developed elsewhere in the program can be a good thing. Increasingly, however, I want my graduate historiography seminar to encourage students to engage critically and reflectively with difficult ideas.

So, in the spirit of Collingwood, I ask my students to take their reflective writing, compile it into an archive, and to write a historical paper based that uses these reflective texts as “primary sources”. The goal is, of course, to get the students to think about how they thought about writing history. In Collingwoodian terms, I am asking the students to re-enact, critically, their own learning process.

In other words, it’s an effort to close the loop.

Midsemester Reflection of a First Year History Teacher

Robert Caulkins, Department of History, University of North Dakota

Bob is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History and has graciously agreed to share some of his experiences as a first semester instructor with our Teaching Thursday audience.

Bill Caraher recently asked me if I would contribute a piece to the Teaching Thursdays blog and, although I read this informative blog with some regularity I have always been hesitant to add my proverbial two cents to this column—I had not actually taught a college level course of my own.  As Bill has since pointed out, I can no longer say that, and in fact I’m really excited about some of the developments that I have recently observed among my US History to 1877 students.  This excitement comes from actually watching one component of my teaching strategy work with my students.

When I initially constructed the syllabus, selected the textbook, and chose some ancillary readings for the course, I had a very broad concept for the class in mind and that was to examine the historical development of the “American Character.”  Early in this conceptual stage I decided that by presenting early American and colonial history in a comparative manner that was more closely tied to anywhere else other than the American portion of the North American continent and not focusing just on what white Europeans did once they arrived on the shores of the future thirteen colonies, I believed that my students would be able to make larger historical connections to what many people believe are uniquely American values and characteristics.  My greatest hope was that I would be able to pique the curiosity of the students concerning where these “American” traits originated from.  Of course implementing this plan was another matter. 

Throughout the teaching process I have faced the same problems and difficulties that most other teachers have had to deal with and one of these issues is getting adequate feedback from the students on the effectiveness of my teaching.  While I’m as human as the next teacher and would be overjoyed to hear what a “great teacher” I am, I’m also enough of a realist to know that there are students in the class that are there for any number of reasons, some of which do not have anything to do with satisfying an unquenchable thirst for knowledge of American history.  More pragmatic issues such as filling electives or completing general studies requirements are motives that are just as important to some students as the motives of those who see history as a component of their liberal arts education.  In order to find some sort of balance or center to aim at as a teacher, I started the semester by giving my class of fifty a survey with some questions that I hoped they would answer honestly, providing me with enough information to allow me to tailor certain aspects of the course to achieve my teaching objectives.

The survey allowed the student to remain anonymous as no names were required or wanted—in fact I told the students that if they did not want to fill it out they did not have too.  I did not receive a single returned blank survey sheet.  The survey addressed six questions, and while the class roster provided an answer to the first question, which was, “what year or grade are you in?” is available in People Soft, having the student identify themselves as freshmen or sophomores while providing a brief writing sample had some value in determining who I was teaching and what my expectations of them would be.  While there is no way to draw grand conclusions from this particular question their handwritten responses allowed me to connect the rest of the survey to the grade level of the student.  There were no surprises in the answers, out of fifty students, forty-four of them were either first or second year students, and here they were almost evenly divided. 

For the sake of brevity I won’t go over all the questions, but the two questions that have since provided the most utility for my teaching were, “What questions would you like answered while you are here?” and rather surprisingly, “Where are you from, and what is your ethnic background or heritage?”  The big question for me, was to discern what if anything the students enjoyed learning about and how to best connect the events of the past to them personally in the present and their own personal history or background seemed like a good place to start.  The responses to the question of what they wanted answers too did not produce what I thought were any profound revelations.  One student expressed curiosity over the role of religion in the formulation of laws while several others wanted more information on wars the United States had been involved in.  Another student wanted to know why an entire semester was devoted to a survey course that only covered half of the country’s history.  For the most part I was left with the impression that those whom I was dealing with possessed a kind of tabula rasa when it came to their own country’s history.  The responses concerning their ethnic and cultural background however, were brimming with information.  According to their answers the entire class was native born and all students but one claimed some ethnic or cultural background, the lone dissenter simply identified himself as an “American.”  This ethnic background information became useful in that I could use it to lead class discussions on a nation formed by diverse groups of immigrants by linking the colonization of North America to the students own immigrant roots.  The trick was going to be putting these two components together and provide the students with enough information to stimulate their curiosities to the point where they would develop questions concerning the country’s past. 

Last week, after giving the class their second term examination results, I directed the students to write a short, in-class essay on what they have learned to date about American history.  Several of the students stated that they had augmented their existing levels of knowledge but pointed out that they had benefitted from some particular area of history that extended beyond the usual limits of a survey course in American history.  But the majority of the students almost without fail noted the expanded or more cosmopolitan manner of how they now viewed America’s early history.  Many students noted particular historical characters that they had never heard of before, while other encouraging feedback concerned student’s comprehension of complex concepts such as the application of “enlightenment era” philosophies during the formation of the country.  But it was individual observation and comments that gave me the most satisfaction.  One student expressed relief to know that divisions and rancor between political parties was not new or a twentieth century development and was very surprised to know that it has existed since the formation of the nation.  Other students expressed surprise over more mundane aspects of what had been taught in the previous nine weeks of the semester—such as reconsidering the cultural mythology surrounding Christopher Columbus.  Other students professed a new understanding of the history of slavery in America, some complete with expressions of surprise at the levels of suffering endured by slaves held in captivity.  Overall I am very pleasantly surprised by what I had received as feedback being two-thirds through the semester.  I truly appreciate this opportunity to share my experience with others and I hope that some of this may be beneficial to the other rookies coming along in the future.  I am reminded though that the semester is still not over and there are a few other items though where the jury is still out on how my class is dealing with requirements for the course such as their writing assignment on selected portions of Alexis De Tocqueville’s Democracy In America.  This might make an interesting follow up post.

Graduate Student Reflections on the First Weeks of Teaching

Daniel Sauerwein, Ph.D. Student, Department of History

Ever since my sophomore year of college, I desired to teach history at the college level.  I gained this desire through seeing the passion and satisfaction that my undergraduate advisor and mentor, Dr. James Davis, exhibited daily as a professor at Illinois College.  I knew that I wanted to teach at a small college like where I attended.  Since then, I have completed my MA here at UND, and am completing my Ph.D. and enjoy what I do.  This year, I have been given the privilege of teaching my own class, a section of History 103 (US to 1877), with approximately fifty students.  With the fourth week of classes underway, I have made several observations that I hope other new teachers and students soon to be teaching will learn from as they prepare and teach their own classes.

One thing I find challenging in conducting my class is finding that fine line between being too easy and too hard as an instructor.  While I have confidence that students can rise to the occasion and are not afraid to work hard, I also know that if I come across exceedingly tough that by being too hard, I could cause students to hate history.  If I am too easy, I risk shortchanging the students’ education, even though they may like me for being “an easy A.”

Another issue is class time.  With survey classes, you really only have a couple solid choices:  three days per week for fifty minutes each class, or two days a week, with each class running an hour and fifteen minutes.  While fifty minutes seems convenient for students, it is limiting as time flies when you are lecturing (or so it seems).  In the future, I may explore holding a two-hour once a week class to see how different it is, but for now, I keep working to make the most of each fifty minute class.

Preparing for class can be challenging, as I wish I would have used more time in summer to prepare.  Coming up with what to cover for not only one class, but the whole semester is tough, as there is so much material.  In addition, when teaching material that I am less familiar with, I am always concerned with whether or not I am covering the material well and giving the students what they need.  I would love to see a workshop or series of classes devoted to helping new teachers prepare their classes.  While the Office of Instructional Development has the mentoring program for new faculty, I am not aware of such programs for new graduate student teachers.

Technology is (at least to me) a double-edged sword.  The debates over its application in pedagogy are numerous, but the trend is towards the increasing reliance upon it in the classroom.  Part of this is because of our use of it in everyday life.  This is especially true for our students, who are connected in ways that were not even possible a few years ago.  This presents many challenges for new teachers, like me, who are a little behind the curve.  When I was an undergraduate, few of my courses used technology.  At UND, I have come face to face with Power Point and Blackboard.  I am attempting to use both in my class and do get frustrated with them.

My issues with Power Point stem largely from the extra time and effort that go into putting the slide show together, plus, in the case of my classroom, the position of the screen limits my movement, so that I am not blocking the students’ view of the screen.  I do see the benefit of providing students an organizational framework while they take notes, but I believe there are other ways to do this without the projector.  When lecturing, you can highlight key terms by changing your vocal tone to add emphasis, or by simply stating that the item is important.  While technology can be annoying, I am starting to come around to it, as it can give me a frame for developing an online course.

The other technology available to instructors at UND is Blackboard.  This software has gone through a couple upgrades since I started here and can be the bane of many instructors’ existence.  This is due to the construction of the program, which has caused me a couple of problems when attempting to do online writing assignments.  The other issue relates to its occasional slowness, which drives me up the wall when trying to enter grades.  Overall, I am starting to come around to Blackboard, but there is room for improvement.  Now, if someone could just explain clickers to me.

One thing I am going to try in class that is becoming popular is an active learning exercise.  My example relates to the US Constitution, where I will have the class act as a constitutional convention.  They will be asked to come up with key points related to what type of government they want to create and then offer an amendment to said constitution.  I think it will be quite interesting to see how their debate goes and how their creation differs from our Constitution.

This active learning exercise is part of my larger attempt to increase student engagement with the material, which is difficult.  The culture of most students is to not talk in class, which is a bit different to what I experienced in college.  The key is to get them to come out of their shells.  This involves using a bit of humor, if appropriate, or popular culture references, which can be difficult if they do not understand the reference due to age difference.

Despite the challenges and occasional annoyances that come with being a new instructor, I am satisfied with it.  The class is my own and reflects my historical outlook and interests to a degree.  My students seem to be a capable and good bunch of young people with a desire to work and learn.  I am learning to keep aware of mistakes I may be making along the way and to not repeat them.  I will say that I would like to try my hand at an upper division class, or online class next time to learn the differences in teaching with a more focused subject, or via the Internet.  I wish all new instructors luck this semester and hope to hear advice on your classes to better my own teaching.

Expanding the Discussion: Graduate Students and Teaching

As anyone involved in University level teaching knows, a significant amount of teaching at every almost every doctoral and research level university in the US is handled by graduate students.  Graduate students reap the benefit of preparing for their future careers as academics, the students they teach encounter an instructor immersed in cutting edge research, and teacher and students can find the common ground in the shared experience of being a student.

At the same time graduate student teaching has its share of challenges.  Inexperience can lead to lapses in confidence.  Balancing the responsibilities of being a student against those of teaching students is every bit as as challenging as the balance between research and teaching for full-time faculty.  The work of preparing new classes and discovering a classroom voice is always both difficult and exciting.

The challenges and excitement of being a teaching graduate students offers a rich array of new perspectives on the interplay between all aspects of our professional and scholarly identities.  We’d love to have graduate students contribute to Teaching Thursday!  If you’re a graduate student at the University of North Dakota and want to talk about teaching here, drop us a line. You’ll find the contact details on our about page.

Teaching What You Don’t Know: Student Research

Cynthia Prescott, Department of History, University of North Dakota

In his posting, “A Quick Review: Teaching What You Don’t Know,” Bill Caraher talked about challenges he faces teaching material he doesn’t know (or doesn’t know well) in undergraduate survey and introductory methods courses.  That got me thinking about my responsibilities in directing graduate and undergraduate research projects.  I regularly advise M.A. theses, and undergraduate capstone research projects, and also assign independent research projects in my upper-division undergraduate courses.  With only ten full-time faculty in the history department, my colleagues and I are regularly called on to serve on graduate committees, or even direct theses, that lie far beyond our individual comfort zones of specialized expertise that we developed in graduate school.  In my three years at UND, I have directed research on topics ranging from the 1680s to the 1980s, from the American Great Plains to Greece, and from military history to popular culture.  Somehow my doctoral work on late-nineteenth-century gender ideology in the Willamette Valley of Oregon was supposed to prepare me to guide students in their individual explorations on all these topics, and more.  On good days, this feels like a great opportunity to learn new things.  On less good days, when my own research deadlines loom, I have piles of papers to grade, and my daughter’s teething keeps me up most of the night, I wonder why I should even pretend to care about student research projects that only seem to reduce my own scholarly productivity.  And I begin to question why I bother to assign students research that they don’t want to do and I don’t want to grade.

I find that I have more questions than answers to offer about our proper role(s) as professors and advisors:

* How far afield from my specialization(s) can I reasonably advise students?  At what point does my lack of knowledge hinder my ability to properly serve a particular student?

* Do I need to know a certain amount about their topic in order to direct a student’s research, and if so, how much?  Or is my background in historical research methodology sufficient?  Is the level of required expertise – if it exists – higher or lower for a master’s thesis (where the project is more complex, but the student should be better prepared to complete independent research) than for a sophomore’s term paper?

* How much reading do I need to do on each student’s chosen topic?  Am I responsible for completing background research on the student’s topic to prepare to guide and assess their work?  Or can I reasonably assume that the student has identified and dealt appropriately with all relevant sources?

* When I work with a student within my area of expertise, should I utilize that expertise to provide them with more guidance in narrowing their focus and identifying potential sources?  Or does such guidance rob the student of valuable experience in formulating their topic and source base independently?

* Within a single class, does my greater level of preparation on some students’ individual research topics constitute an unfair advantage (in that I am better prepared to guide them) or disadvantage (because I am better prepared to critique their finished project)?

* Is it appropriate for students to select research advisors based on comfortable working relationships, rather than their research expertise?

* To what extent should the answers to the above questions vary depending on my academic discipline, the size of my department, and the type of institution (i.e. teaching- versus research-oriented) where I am working?

While the importance of instructional development has gained visibility within the academy in recent years, much of the attention at UND and elsewhere seems to have focused on improving pedagogy in introductory-level courses.  Yet when it comes to directing our students’ independent research projects, my sense is that we tend to mimic our own experiences as graduate students.  I think it is time for us to turn a more critical eye to the ways that we approach our advising and mentoring relationships with our more advanced students, and to try to answer questions such as these in ways that will better serve those students, and at the same time further our own development as scholars.

Strategies and Tips for Scholarly Writing and Publications

Cynthia Prescott, Department of History, University of North Dakota

As part of the recent UND Scholarly Forum in March 2010, Sagini Keengwe (Teaching & Learning), Travis Heggie (Recreation & Tourism Studies) and I (History) provided advice on writing for publication in the social sciences. I have combined our comments and discussion into the following list of tips for graduate students and junior faculty, and compiled a list of recommended readings.

Take a writing class. Scholarly writing is different from other academic writings. T& L 543 (Scholarly Writing) is one of the writing classes offered at UND – it demystifies the process of writing for publications. Or read on your own – see the list of recommended readings below.

Read journal articles. You can’t write unless you read what others have written in your field. This will help you to develop your writing ideas. Get a feel for what types of research and writing styles each journal publishes.

Start small. You have to go beyond harboring good intentions of writing to start writing even few paragraphs a week. They quickly add up to a page! Additionally, if you want to start small, explore regional journals before going to national premier journals.

Find your writing zone. Do you write best in your office, at home, at the library, or in a busy coffee shop? Do you require silence, or does background music help you concentrate? Are you a morning person or a night owl? Find a routine that works for you, and stick to it.

Collaborate with other authors. Collaboration offers you the opportunity to learn from familiar yet accomplished researchers and writers who model good writing habits.

Stay positive about the writing process. We know not everyone can write. However, any one can attempt the writing venture. Those who write often and much are usually positive and dedicated to being successful as writers.

Set writing goals. Like other important things in life, setting definite writing goals and objectives could help you to find success in scholarly writing. Make a publishing plan for the next 1, 2, 5, and even 10 years.

Be consistent and habitual. Be consistent as you take small steps at a time and learn to develop a good habit for scholarly writing!

Form a writing community. Meet weekly or monthly to critique one another’s writing, hold one another accountable, provide moral support, and celebrate goals achieved.

Know your audience. A thesis or dissertation is written for an audience of four or five committee members who expect you to demonstrate your mastery of specific bodies of literature and research methods. In contrast, most journal or book readers only want to learn about your unique findings or contributions to the existing literature. Revise your writing to meet the expectations of your intended audience and publication.

Package your research effectively. Not all research results should be published. Be realistic in assessing what you have written. Can your thesis/dissertation/conference paper be turned into journal articles or a book with only minor revisions? Or should you harvest only the best elements? Journal articles might highlight the best chapter (or part of a chapter) of your thesis, summarize the heart of your argument, or use your thesis/dissertation work as a jumping off point for new research.

Write review articles. Writing a review of existing literature can be a relatively easy way to get a publication as a graduate student. This will help you to identify where you might contribute new research, and will give you a head start on writing the literature review for your thesis/dissertation.

Count the rewards. In most professional and/or academic fields, scholarly writing is viewed in a positive light. Scholarly writing is generally recognized and often rewarded.

Recommended Reading:

Beth Luey, Handbook for Academic Authors, 5th ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2009)

Paul J. Silvia, How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (American Psychological Association, 2007)

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (American Psychological Association, 2009)

H. S. Becker, Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article, 2nd. ed. (The University of Chicago Press, 2007)

A. S. Huff, Writing for Scholarly Publication. (SAGE Publications, 1999)

K. T. Henson, Writing for Publication: Road to Academic Advancement. (Allyn & Bacon, 2005)

F. Pyrczak & R. R. Bruce, Writing Empirical Research Reports: A Basic Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 6th ed. (Pyrczak Publishing, 2007)

Bridging the Gap in Graduate Education

Rebecca J. Romsdahl, Earth System Science & Policy Department, University of North Dakota

For more on this, be sure to check out the On Teaching Lunch Seminar directed by Rebecca Romsdahl and Patti Alleva on Wednesday April 28, 2010.  Here’s the flier.

In graduate education, there is often a great divide between classroom learning and research endeavors. Many graduate degree programs emphasize the research enterprise above the classroom education resulting in a devaluing of the classroom experience for both instructors and students, e.g. graduate coursework is just a checklist to be completed in the shortest amount of time possible. In an effort to bridge this divide, a colleague and I have adapted strategies and values from the undergraduate learning community (LC) model, to develop a collaborative research project which links our two core courses, “Biosphere & Biodiversity,” and “Environment & Society.” Our primary goal is to build stronger and more meaningful ties between classroom learning and research so that our graduate students see them as complimentary learning rather than separate, unevenly valued components.

Our department, Earth System Science & Policy (ESSP) at the University of North Dakota, is a relatively new integrated graduate program, with a first cohort of graduate students in 2004. To facilitate a baseline understanding of ESSP concepts, students are required to take six sequential core courses during their first year (10 credits per semester); this structure is very similar to the coordinated studies programs within the LC model (Smith et al 2004).

The LC model, as described by Smith, et al. (2004), emphasizes five core-practices: community, diversity, integration, active learning, and reflective assessment. Each fall, the new cohort of students in the ESSP department develops a strong sense of community as they progress through the required core courses. The students and faculty bring with them a diverse mix of expertise, experience, previous degrees, nationalities, interests, and goals. The integration of these greatly contributes to the exchange of active learning between students, and between faculty and students; our collaborative research project is only one example of efforts to move beyond the lecture mode of “learning as a spectator sport.” At the graduate level of education, reflective assessment is often set aside until the student prepares to defend their thesis. Then they are frequently asked to consider questions such as ‘how would your current knowledge of variable x have potentially changed your analysis?’ or ‘what would you have done differently if you could redo the project now?’ The undergraduate LC model emphasizes that this reflective assessment should take place throughout the learning process.

To help bridge the gap, we strive to provide our graduate students with an opportunity to be teachers, learners, and researchers by studying a regional environmental topic in-depth and exploring it from different perspectives (Brower et al. 2007; Umbach and Wawrzynski 2005). A second objective is to help students build essential skills for their post-graduate school success, e.g team-work and research skills. To accomplish these goals, we utilize the following strategies and values, adapted from the undergraduate LC model (Bielaczyc and Collins 1999):

  • cohort identity– students develop group cohesion through the required sequential courses and we emphasize team efforts and a supportive learning community;
  • discourse learning– faculty and students take turns leading seminar discussions;
  • in-depth understanding and complex problem solving– the collaboration needed for the research project provides a forum to help students build competency in these skills;
  • individual and group work– we encourage students to improve in both these skills;
  • collective knowledge– a collaborative project builds this by necessity;
  • collaborative learning– everyone is a teacher, learner, and researcher in the project;
  • public presentations of results– helps students build self-confidence in public speaking; and
  • tangible products– help promote active learning and students realize the value of their work beyond a final grade.

The project progresses in three phases. In phase one, the team (student cohort plus the two faculty) develops the research question, writes a conference abstract, and determines who will research each component of the regional science of biodiversity conservation. In phase two, the team determines who will research each component of the policy/socioeconomic section of the project. In phase three, the team aggregates the collective background information and any relevant data to organize the conference poster or presentation. In each phase, the faculty provide guidance as the students conduct individual research papers and collaborate to form a consensus report and final public presentation on their findings (Hansen 2006). Whenever possible, assignments in both courses are oriented toward building collective knowledge for the project.

The students receive feedback throughout the process and are assessed at draft stages and final products for class credit. To help ensure accountability, students also assess each other’s individual efforts in the teamwork by an anonymous survey, which accounts for a small percentage of class credit. At the end of the semester, students provide feedback on their learning and on the benefits and challenges involved in the collaborative project through an anonymous survey. To finalize the tangible products, representative students present the project at a national conference and the team writes and submits a paper to a peer-review journal.

In summary, transferring strategies and values from the undergraduate LC model helps us provide our graduate students with opportunities to be teachers, learners, and researchers. Student feedback after two semesters includes praise, critique, and suggestions for improving the project, for example:

· “Preparing [the] poster at national level from the combined research of those two classes was the most rewarding outcome.”

· “When we developed the first set of topics for the biodiversity class, we were given the choice among 5 different topics. Some of those topics were difficult to tie to a policy topic, so when we developed policy topics, some people did something totally different and thus the group’s conclusions weren’t as cohesive.”

What we are finding through this collaborative research project is that coordinated, collaborative teaching, learning, and research can help bridge the great divide in graduate education. Our goal in this collaborative project is to continue to build stronger and more meaningful ties between graduate research and classroom learning so that students see these as complimentary learning rather than separate components of their graduate education. Although the LC model is tailored toward undergraduate liberal arts education, we believe our effort to adapt and transfer many of the values and strategies into the graduate classroom is proving successful and we will continue to refine our progress in future semesters.


Bielaczyc, K., and A. Collins. 1999. Learning Communities in Classrooms: A Reconceptualization of Educational Practice. In Instructional-Design Theories and Models, Volume II: A New Paradigm of Instructional Theory, edited by C. M. Reigeluth. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Brower, Aaron M., Christopher G. Carlson-Dakes, and Shihmei Shu Barger. 2007. A Learning Community Model of Graduate Student Professional Development for Teaching Excellence in Higher Education. In WISCAPE Working Paper Series: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hansen, R.S. 2006. Benefits and Problems with Student Teams: Suggestions for Improving Team Projects. Journal of Education for Business Sept/Oct.

Smith, Barbara L., Jean MacGregor, Roberta Matthews, and Faith Gabelnick. 2004. Learning Communities: Reforming Undergraduate Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Umbach, P.D. , and M.R. Wawrzynski. 2005. Faculty Do Matter: The Role of College Faculty in Student Learning and Engagement. Research in Higher Education 46 (2).