USG Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Fellows 2017-2018 Program

The second cohort of the University System of Georgia (USG) Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Fellows had their orientation at the USG Teaching and Learning Conference in Athens, Georgia, on April 5-7, 2017.

The USG established the SoTL Fellows to foster and support a learning community whose members plan and develop classroom-based research projects.

Mary Carney, Director of UNG’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership (CTLL), currently serves as the co-director, and Laura Ng, Interim Assistant Dean at the Oconee campus, was selected for the inaugural cohort of 2016-2017. Up to ten Fellows are chosen each year system-wide to advance SoTL work that will enhance the larger teaching and learning community, both within and without the University System.

During the initial meeting, the Fellows attended presentations by Rebecca Rose, the Head Librarian at the Cumming campus who also serves as the USG SoTL Fellows embedded librarian. The guiding concept for the 2017-2018 cohort will be AAC&U’s LEAP initiative. Over the course of the academic year the Fellows will meet as they design, develop, and implement their SoTL research projects.

For more information about the USG SoTL Fellows program, contact the co-directors: Denise Domizi at or Mary Carney at

Using Book Clubs to Foster Student Engagement

At it’s core, traditional teaching and learning involves students gaining meaning from printed and oral language. Raphael and McMahon (1994) suggested that comprehension is achieved through a partnership of students, peers, and instructors. Students should not sit isolated working individually. Instead, students should interact through oral and written language to aid in comprehension. The use of a book club in class provides an “opportunity for personal response to encourage students to construct meaning with their peers and to question whether meaning is inherent in text” (Raphael & McMahon, 1994, p. 103).

Outside of the classroom, book clubs abound and range in many different formats, styles, and purposes. Book clubs seemingly enhance many aspects of peoples’ lives. For example, the Get into Reading Project has set up over 50 book clubs in settings such as psychiatric facilities, care homes, homeless shelters, and libraries. These books clubs are designed to incite self-reflection and foster positive change in the participants’ lives. The adults in these programs have demonstrated remarkable changes from increased mental health to empowered life transformations.

Furthermore, the use of book clubs has been shown to boost literacy among children, adolescents, and adults (e.g., Kooy, 2003; Raphael, Florio-Ruane, & George, 2001; Ward, 2010). While increased literacy has been the primary variable used to evaluate book club outcomes, a number of other educational processes and outcomes across the lifespan have been examined. For example, Raphael & McMahon (1994) found that, at the conclusion of their book club process, elementary school students with varying reading comprehension levels and cultural backgrounds (a) developed a greater ability to synthesize information, (b) had higher standardized test scores than those in more traditional reading programs, (c) had better recall of the content of the books read, and (d) demonstrated a more sophisticated writing style over time. Additionally, homeless men have been found to be more open to counseling and talking about health-related topics while participating in a book club (Home, 2008). Others have reported a link between participating in classroom book clubs and higher-order ethical decision-making (e.g., Cohen, 2006).

I have been using book clubs in my face-to-face courses for many years. I started utilizing them for several reasons. One, I wanted students to feel more ownership in their educational process. For that reason, I do not lead the book club discussions; they are student-led. Two, I wanted students to wrestle with challenging reading and discuss how to apply the material to their lives. I typically choose books that are either evidence-based applications or that are theory-based and written by the theorist. Finally, I wanted students to be more engaged with each other. I have heard from students over the years just how meaningful these books clubs have been. I have tweaked things here and there based on their feedback, but by and large students have expressed genuine affinity for the process (but not always the books I’ve chosen).

I recently decided to collect some data from students to examine the process and outcomes more closely. I won’t share all the methodology here, but some of the qualitative data might help sway you toward thinking about this as a possibility in your own courses. First, a description of the process seems in order. I give some class time for the book club discussions to occur, and each of those assigned weeks students read a chapter from the book. Students remained in the same group for the entirety of the book club process. Each week, one student from each group led the discussion by bringing a few prepared questions for dialogue. All students in the group were instructed to formulate some ideas for each book club dialogue. Group leaders submitted their prepared questions each week to the instructor via the course learning management system site.

The following are some verbatim quotes taken from the data collected from the students:

“I found the readings valuable and was enlightened by the new perspectives.”

“I took a lot of notes and applied it to my own life. The book really enhanced my learning.”

“From a multicultural perspective, especially lower SES, we talked about how we could apply the book club’s knowledge to those populations.”

“It provided an effective way for us to process and synthesize the information. We were able to communicate on a different level.”

“We were more invested emotionally. That was great.”

“We were able to discuss some of the same concepts each week, but with a different slant based on the current reading. That helped me learn so much more than if I had just read the chapter and then discussed it in the usual classroom way.”

“It was a positive experience because it helped me a great deal to discuss the material and make learning more of an active process.”

“The book club process was extremely beneficial, as different perspectives and insights really added to the learning of the material read.”

“Hearing other students’ viewpoints helped broaden my critical thinking skills.”

Of course, not all comments were so positive, but negative responses were few and far between. One thing that really emerged from the data was that the students indeed felt more ownership in their education. In addition, they also felt more obligated to read the material and be present in class. Wow, what a win!


Cohen, R. (2006). Building a bridge to ethical learning: Using a book club model to foster ethical awareness. Journal of Legal Studies Education, 23, 87-103.

Kooy, M. (2003). Riding the coattails of Harry Potter: Readings, relational learning, and revelations in book clubs. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 47(2), 136-145.

Raphael, T. E., & McMahon, S. I. (1994). Book Club: An Alternative Framework For Reading Instruction. The Reading Teacher, 48(2), 102-182.

Raphael, T. E., Florio-Ruane, S., & George, M. (2001). Book club plus: A conceptual framework to organize literacy instruction. Language Arts, 79(2), 159.

Ward, H. (2010). Teachers’ book club helps boost boys’ reading ability. Times Educational Supplement, (4891), 13.

Finding and Supporting Student Applicants for Nationally Competitive Scholarships

NSF GRFP, Jack Kent Cooke, Udall, NIH, Fulbright, oh my! The world of scholarships is a large one indeed; every time I think I may have a handle on one scholarship, a new one pops onto my radar, and I’m back at square one again! However, even with the multiplicity of opportunities out there, most nationally competitive scholarships are looking for the same thing: smart, driven students with the capacity to make a difference either to society or their field. Each of us has had and will likely have again, that one great student, who we know is destined for success and greatness. The question is: how do we help that student along the path to scholarship success?

The NCS office

The first line of defense for nationally competitive scholarships is the Scholarship office run through my position as Assistant Dean of Student Research and Scholarship ( Half of my job is to monitor trends in scholarships, locate scholarships that dovetail with UNG’s strengths, and recruit students to apply for these opportunities. The other half of my work focuses on getting students from start to the final “submit” button. This part is the most arduous, and includes offering strategic advice, repeatedly workshopping essays, tracking down transcripts, translating “scholarshipese,” or the specific demands of the scholarship for students, and supporting them emotionally. It’s a long process; I ask students to start very early (sometimes a year early!) and complete at least 12 drafts. Yet, this is necessary. As I tell each of my students when they begin to fatigue after the first few rounds of drafting: It’s not you, it’s the scholarship.


Before I can begin working with students, though, I have to find them. This is where faculty play an integral role. You know these students; you work closely with these students; you understand them as more than a GPA. And, what’s more, they know YOU. Your help in locating these students is essential. If I send an email to students, 2 out of 100 may write me back. But, they know and trust you. And often your simple nudge, your letting them know that you think they have what it takes, is literally all it takes to move a student into the scholarship process. Simply put, I need you.

So, what sorts of students are competitive for these scholarships?

Primarily, scholarships are looking for students who are hardworking, committed to making a difference, think outside the box, and have high GPAs. However, stellar GPAs are a dime a dozen these days; really competitive students must go beyond high GPAs to stand out in one (or more!) of three other ways: leadership, service, undergraduate research. Encourage your best students to volunteer, run for office, or include them in your research projects. And then repeat all of these things again.

How else can we help support our students?

Understanding that the scholarship process is novel for the vast majority of our students is key. Many are afraid of applying and/or think they are lacking the excellence required to win. Others underestimate what it takes to get from start to finish on an application. Faculty play a key role in both encouraging and tempering dreams along the path and making sure students understand what’s at stake. More often than not, though, our largest role is just showing simple support by offering an ear or an eye to a draft.

Another key to success is focusing on the process, not the pay off. So many students begin scholarships solely focused on the money that might come through at the end. To me, this is akin to just focusing on a grade for a class, and not the learning. The application process invites students to refocus and refine their academic, professional, and personal goals. In the process of drafting personal statements, they also realize previously unrecognized traits that may serve them well in other pursuits. Finally, the process encourages them to become more involved with other professionals, including me and you. Several of our students who’ve made it to the submit button have attested that the process itself is painful, but worth it, no matter the outcome of the scholarship.

A simple plea

You all give context to the tranguid and have genuine insight into what students are capable of. If you’ve got an outstanding student, talk to him or her about scholarships. Or encourage him or her to email me (  Here’s to our exceptional student scholars!

Using Exam Wrappers as a Learning Tool

By: Dede deLaughter

She sits in your office, clearly fighting back tears. Pointing to the grade on her test, she says, “I’ve never made anything below a B before.”

Sound familiar? How many of us have had similar conversations with our students? And when we probe a little further, asking, among other questions, “What will you do to prepare for the next test?”, how many times do we hear, “I just need to study harder!”? One wonders, what does “study” look like in the average student’s mind, and what does “harder” look like? What if doing more of what didn’t work in the first place yields the same results? As Albert Einstein famously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

How can we turn such occasions into a genuine opportunity for our students to learn? In their book titled How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching*, Ambrose et al. provide compelling reasons to incorporate the use of exam wrappers into our curriculum. An exam wrapper is a form students fill out after receiving a graded test (or any other assessment), with the intent of guiding them through the self-correction process. The exam wrapper incorporates: reflecting on their preparation time and strategies; determining their areas of strengths and weaknesses; and identifying the types of errors they most commonly made. After students turn in their completed exam wrappers, the instructor reads through them for insight into how his/her students are studying. Then, a day or so before the next test, the professor returns the completed exam wrappers to the students in order to have a structured classroom discussion about how best to prepare for the upcoming test. This Purdue University Learning blog provides some good research on using exam wrappers as a meta-cognitive tool, and a quick Internet search of Exam Wrapper yields some good templates to adapt for your own courses. For example, this exam wrapper intentionally focuses on the main goals for using exam wrappers.

How might a guided classroom discussion go so that students can determine how best to prepare for the next test? The discussion might begin, not with a discussion of study strategies and techniques but, instead, with a conversation about their Mindset. In her pivotal work on a fixed versus growth mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck explains how our beliefs about our capacity to learn affects everything about our performance, from how we approach intellectually challenging material to how we deal with failure and criticism. Nigel Holmes has summarized Dweck’s findings in his Two Mindsets graphic. In short, students with a fixed mindset view every assignment, every assessment, every learning task as a referendum on their intelligence, which often results in minimal effort, giving up, blaming, and/or avoiding challenging subject matter. “Why would I risk being seen as deficient?” is their internal message. In contrast, students with a growth mindset relish any chance to grow their brain, viewing even failures as growth opportunities. Their internal message is “I can do this, I can learn, and my devoted effort is what results in mastery.”

Thankfully, Dweck’s research also conclusively shows that learners with a fixed mindset can develop a growth mindset when discussions about mindset are woven into the fabric of the academic environment. One discussion will not generally result in a mindset shift. Rather, the discussions and coaching need to be an ongoing, natural part of the learning environment. Once students are trained to recognize the voice of a fixed mindset and how to reframe their beliefs, their learning dramatically improves, often resulting in the deep learning we all desire for our students. Ken Bain’s book What the Best College Students Do* provides a thorough discussion of how a fixed mindset lends itself to surface or strategic learning, while a growth mindset lends itself to deep, lifelong learning.

Once students begin to embrace a growth mindset, they are then better able to determine what types of study strategies actually work for them, and they will be more inclined to experiment with different techniques in different courses. Students with a growth mindset are also better able to determine what types of study techniques are active learning strategies versus those that constitute passive, rote memorization. As we all know, memorization does not equal understanding. Let’s take flash cards as an example: once students recognize what deep learning looks like because they are willing to put forth the effort to achieve genuine learning, they are better able to offer suggestions to each other for turning the passive, almost mindless, activity of looking through a stack of index cards into active learning techniques, such as making games from their index cards.

Finally, to assist students in branching out and developing a broader repertoire of study strategies that engage their learning styles, both inside and outside the classroom, consider providing them a link to a short Multiple Intelligence assessment and then encouraging students with similar Multiple Intelligences (MI) to collaborate, using their exam wrapper and their MI results, along with the Practice tab, to devise ways to work from their areas of strength.

The more our students engage in learning about their learning, and the better we are at guiding them through this process, the more they will claim ownership of their own education. We can help restore a measure of sanity to our students’ learning by introducing them to exam wrappers and the benefits of doing an honest “post-mortem” on their previous academic efforts. (A self-guided “tour” through the Mindset and Multiple Intelligence self-assessments is available under the Grow Your Brain section on the UNG Learning Support website.)

*available to check out through CTLL

Getting Involved in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Like many others in higher education, I began my teaching career with no formal training in education. As a graduate student in Mathematics, I began teaching classes by trying to emulate the classes in which I had learned best myself. For me, that meant delivering detailed lectures over the course material and assessing with problems similar to those done in class. While that was somewhat successful, I saw two problems. First of all, no matter how much preparation I put into my lectures and explanations some students failed. Perhaps even worse, I observed that some of my “good” students could mimic procedures without understanding the underlying concepts. Desiring to become a better teacher, I pursued a PhD in mathematics education. In graduate school, I learned about theories of learning including constructivism, and I was introduced to alternative approaches to instruction including inquiry-based learning (IBL) in which students explore problems and concepts without first being taught through direct instruction. This has been a major theme in my own teaching and Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) research. For my dissertation, I explored ways to use technology to create collaborative online environments for problem solving in college algebra, and at North Georgia, I have worked with others to investigate the use of IBL practices in precalculus classes. My ongoing research question involves finding the right balance between student discovery and direct instruction in introductory college mathematics classes.

While pursuing a formal degree in education is not practical for everyone in higher education, I think everyone can learn and improve the experiences of his or her students through SoTL activities. Shulman (2000) argues that there are three reasons to pursue the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, which he calls professionalism, pragmatism, and policy. He argues that we belong to the profession of our chosen field (such as Mathematics) and the profession of higher education. As members of these professions, “we bear the responsibilities of scholars—to discover, to connect, to apply and to teach (p. 49).” Shulman also argues that SoTL research can affect policy by providing research based evidence about what does and does not work in the classroom. While these are important, my primary motivation in SoTL has always been what Shulman calls Pragmatism. I want to find ways to improve my own teaching and the learning experiences of my students. This is something that I think all higher education faculty members need to consider. It is easy to become comfortable with our teaching practices, especially if those practices mirror our own successful experiences as a student. I encourage faculty to seek out other SoTL and education resources in one’s own field. Professional organizations, conferences, and scholarly journals are a great source of inspiration. There is a growing list of resources devoted entirely to SoTL, including the following web sites:

The Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL)

Vanderbilt University’s SoTL Scholars

The International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL)

Indiana University Bloomington’s SoTL Program

Georgia Southern University’s SoTL Commons

Here in Georgia, we do not even have to leave the state to attend the international SoTL Commons Conference hosted by Georgia Southern University. I have attended and presented at this conference twice, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in connecting with a large network of SoTL researchers.

There is no doubt that faculty have busy schedules, and finding time to do systematic research on teaching and learning must compete with many other activities, including field specific research for many faculty members. One thing that I have found very helpful in balancing my research on teaching with my actual teaching and numerous other activities has been to collaborate with other faculty. I have taken part in teaching circles with faculty members from other departments, and I have collaborated with fellow math department faculty to acquire external funding to conduct SoTL research. Working with others is a great way to generate fresh ideas and to balance the work load. The externally funded projects that I have worked on would not have been possible without my colleagues, and I strongly encourage other faculty members to seek out collaborators. In my experience, the faculty at all UNG campuses are enthusiastic about teaching and eager to work together.

SHULMAN, L.S. (2000) From Minsk to Pinsk: why a scholarship of teaching and learning? Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (JoSoTL), 1, pp. 48–52.

UNG Faculty Academies for 2014

Faculty Academies

We invite faculty and teaching staff to apply for one or more of the UNG Faculty Academies.  These programs provide a sustained professional development opportunity and, when successfully completed, a certificate to mark this accomplishment. The three Academies for 2014 will focus on:

  1. Grant Writing
  2. High-Impact Educational Practices
  3. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

These academies run on the calendar year, beginning in January 2014.  Individuals and research teams are invited to apply. The Academies will involve a combination of workshops, online exchanges in D2L, and day-long retreats to explore topics in depth.

Application Deadline for GrantsMonday, December 2, 2013
Application Deadline for High-Impact Practices and for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Friday, December 6, 2013.
For applications and further information, please see the CTLL Web site.

This Academy will help participants identify targeted funding sources. They will be guided through a concept paper/proposal with support and feedback by peers and professional staff. The Grants Academy will result in a competitive concept paper or full proposal to support faculty participants’ projects. Prior grant experience is not a pre-requisite. All levels of experience are welcome.

High-Impact Educational Practices (HIPs)
The HIP Academy will offer participants a shared community in which to study and implement research-based educational practices. This Academy will offer a methodical approach to re-visioning courses and assignments in order to implement and/or refine high-impact educational experiences in courses. We will offer enhanced focus on three practices in particular:

  1. Diversity/Global Learning
  2. Service-Learning
  3. Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities

HIP Participants will

  • Gain community and support for implementing and/or refining high-impact practices (HIPs) through workshops and peer sharing
  • Examine and discuss the theoretical and applied features of particular high-impact practices
  • Participate in workshops, retreats, roundtables, and mentoring for deep learning on chosen high-impact practices and implementation of a HIP project
  • Implement backward course design to re-vision learning outcomes and the practices used to achieve these
  • Expand their knowledge of classroom assessment techniques (CAT)

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)
The SoTL Academy grows out of a Presidential Innovation Award and will offer participants a shared community and structured approach to learning about SoTL. Each person or team will develop or refine a research question on an instructional topic of her choosing.  The Academy will offer a guided process of identifying a theoretical frame, gathering evidence, analyzing findings, and preparing for presentation or publication.

SoTL participants will

  • Attend workshops, retreats, roundtables, and mentoring for deep learning on SoTL, implementation of a SoTL project, and dissemination of findings
  • Interact with SoTL scholars
  • Participate in SoTL faculty writing group
  • Learn more strategies for classroom assessment techniques (CAT)

The co-directors, Dr. Mary Carney and Dr. Laura Ng, wish to express their thanks for the Presidential Innovation Award that will partially fund this Academy.

For the HIP and SoTL Academies, please submit the online form and upload curriculum vitae, statement of teaching philosophy, and a statement of interest. These Academies are limited to full-time faculty and teaching staff. Further information about the application requirement can be found at the CTLL site.  The application form for the Grants Academy can be found on the CTLL site.