Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

SoTL research projects, past and present


Pilot research project to assess the impact of Arts One on students’ academic work in other courses. Primary investigator with Evan Westra (Philosophy MA student) as co-investigator.

  • The pilot project consisted of a short online survey designed to gather the views of current and former Arts One students (those who were still at UBC) on the impacts they believe the program has had on them. The survey was available online from the last week of March 2012 to the second week of April 2012. I analyzed the results in Fall 2012, and designed another research project on the basis of that (see next item). I discuss some of the results of this study on a blog post, here:


Pilot research project investigating the impact of peer feedback on writing in Arts One. Primary investigator, with Jeremy Biesanz (Associate Professor, Psychology, UBC) as co-investigator.

  • We are studying the “dose-response curve” in student peer feedback on writing: how many “doses” of peer feedback sessions are needed before one begins to see results in the form of students using the feedback from their peers, and are there diminishing returns after a certain number of sessions? This question has not been adequately addressed in the SoTL literature on peer feedback: there have been many studies showing that peer feedback improves students writing, but little on how many sessions of peer feedback are needed to provide optimum results.
  • Our research questions include:
    • To what degree do students use peer comments to improve their later essays (both those they receive from peers and those they give to peers)? Many research studies on peer feedback focus on the use of peer comments on drafts of a single essay, rather than looking at whether students transfer peer comments to their work on later essays.
    • Do students tend to use peer feedback comments (given and received) more after a few feedback sessions, or do they use such comments even just after one peer feedback session? Are there diminishing returns after many sessions? We call this the “dose-response” curve: how many doses are needed before one gets a response? Arts One is a good environment to study this question, because students write an essay every two weeks and have a peer feedback session on every essay, with a group of four students plus their instructor.
  • As the data analysis for this project is quite complex, we started with a pilot project involving 13 students in my Arts One seminar group for 2013-2014, to refine our data gathering and analysis procedures in preparation for a larger study involving more Arts One students. We collected ten essays from each of the 13 students in the pilot group, as well as all of the peer and instructor comments on each essay.
  • Currently we are analyzing the data from the 2013-2014 pilot study. We have coded all the peer and instructor comments according to a rubric with 4 main categories and sub-categories under each of those. We are now coding the 130 essays according to the same rubric, and plan to finish the data analysis by October 2015.
  • We plan to extend this pilot study into a larger study with more Arts One students, and in early 2015 we submitted a SSHRC Insight Development grant application to fund such an extension. Unfortunately, we did not receive this grant, but plan to try again to secure funds from SSHRC or elsewhere for this research.


Studying “direct instruction” versus “productive failure” in students’ use of video content. Primary investigator, with Ido Roll (Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at UBC) as co-investigator.

  • We are looking at the broad question of whether it is better to provide students with all information about a task up front, or to let them work with a problem for a little while first so that they come to understand why that information is needed and how to apply it. A relevant study asking similar questions is that by Schwartz and Bransford (1998): some students were asked to analyze several cases in psychology, and those who got information about relevant psychological phenomena in the cases after they worked on analyzing the cases themselves (rather than before) performed better when making predictions about similar phenomena on a new case one week later.
  • Using several short videos on “The Trolley Problem” that I created for my Introduction to Philosophy course, we are conducting research to determine whether it is better for students to try to solve some of the questions the videos raise and answer (such as the various possible solutions to different versions of the problem) before or after they watch the videos themselves. Is it better for students to try to figure out answers on their own first, before seeing relevant information? Does it lead to better retention as measured in later tasks? We will conduct this research in my PHIL 102 course in Fall 2015.


Studying how students use educational videos and creating a new video tool. Principal investigator: Sidney Fels (Faculty of Applied Science); co-investigators: Gregor Miller (Faculty of Applied Science), Ido Roll (Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at UBC), Christina Hendricks (Faculty of Arts).

  • During the period of this TLEF grant we are not only developing the tool itself but also doing research on how students interact with educational videos more generally, whether with this tool or with existing platforms like YouTube or Vimeo.
  • We are also submitting an application for a large TLEF grant for work starting in 2016, to engage in more research, to further develop the tool and make it available for any UBC instructors who want to use it.


 Survey of faculty attitudes on open textbooks and other open educational resources. Co-investigator, with Rajiv Jhangiani (Kwantlen Polytechnical University), Jessie Key (Vancouver Island University), Clint Lalonde (BCcampus), Beck Pitt (The OER Research Hub).

  • We designed, implemented, and analyzed the data from a survey of faculty members across BC (and beyond) regarding their views of the value and quality of open textbooks and other open educational resources. Among other things, we asked faculty about the factors that enable or hinder their use and creation of open educational resources and open textbooks, the kinds of open educational resources they use and for which purposes, the perceived pedagogical value of using open educational resources, and more.
  • We are able to break down the data by factors such as type of institution (research intensive, community college, special purpose teaching university (such as a polytechnical university)), years of teaching experience, and full-time or part-time faculty.
  • We presented some of the preliminary results of this research at the BCcampus Open Textbook Summit in May, 2015. We are writing a detailed report during Summer 2015 and will present on that report at the Open Education Conference in Vancouver in November, 2015. See the “publications and presentations” page.


Survey of UBC faculty attitudes towards open sharing of their teaching materials. Primary Investigator.

  • In early 2014 the UBC Board of Governors passed Policy 81, which (at the time) stated that if faculty members share their teaching materials with others, then any other UBC faculty member may make use of them for for-credit courses. Please see this blog post for a discussion of the 2014 version of Policy 81:
  • There was a good deal of controversy about this policy at UBC, and I did a small, informal survey of faculty members who had “opted out” of the policy. I then presented on this survey at the 2014 Open Education Conference in Washington, DC (see the publications and presentations page).
  • I am in the process of interviewing several people who responded to that survey, asking them about their attitudes towards sharing their teaching materials with others, whether publicly or privately, and the effect Policy 81 had on those attitudes.
  • I am also in the process of creating a larger survey for all UBC faculty, at the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses, asking about their attitudes towards sharing their teaching materials with open licenses (licenses that allow others to reuse, revised, redistribute them). I am working on ways to get that survey publicized to all UBC faculty.


 Work Cited

Schwartz, D. L., & Bransford, J. D. (1998). A Time For Telling. Cognition and Instruction, 16(4), 475–5223.