Our Focus

The central research focus of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning is on the science of learning. 

The center will develop new knowledge on the learning modalities of today’s college students and the myriad cultural, social and religious influences that inform their learning processes.

Faculty Fellow Research Projects

Team-Based Learning to Increase Student Learning and Engagement

Jane Parent

Associate Professor of Management
Faculty Fellow, 2015-16

Jane Parent spent her fellowship pursuing research on team-based learning. TBL uses small, structured group activities to promote student engagement across disciplines and class sizes. In a TBL-structured class, class time is spent on team assignments that require students to utilize course content to problem solve and come to a decision together, making these activities convergent, as opposed to traditional group assignments in which work is divided and performed individually.

This method has been found to have a positive influence on student learning (Davidson, Major, Michaelson, 2014). Parent’s work on TBL will enhance a number of existing pedagogies at Merrimack, including the popular “flipped-classroom” approach and the use of mobile technology in the classroom.

Parent is available to train other faculty in the implementation of TBL in their classrooms. With permission, data will be collected to analyze the effectiveness of this approach to learning. She will also hold workshops and disseminate relevant literature on the topic.

Immersive Learning Strategies

Sally Shockro
Assistant Professor of History
Faculty Fellow, 2015-16

Wishing to engage her students with subject material in a more holistic, intensive manner, Sally Shockro has begun using immersive role-playing games in which students are assigned a role of a figure from a major moment of change in history. Students form factions, write position papers and strategize for class debates, often using primary sources.

Instead of passively consuming history, students learn about an issue by placing themselves in the mindsets of those who experienced it, heightening students’ ability to understand the perspectives of others with very different beliefs and backgrounds. These immersive-learning strategies create a strong sense of community and engagement in the classroom and are said to lead to better retention of course content. They have also been shown to have an impact on student satisfaction and retention.

Shockro is in the process of implementing longer-term games in her classes and hopes to develop her own immersive activities based on historical primary sources. As part of her research, she will work with other faculty to incorporate immersive learning across the disciplines since these techniques lend themselves to any level, discipline or classroom technology.

Understanding Neuroplasticity and Metacognition and Helping Faculty to Incorporate Metacognition Into Their Teaching

Christina Hardway
Associate Professor of Psychology
Faculty Fellow, 2014-15

Christina Hardway’s project aimed to educate students about the malleability of their personal attributes — a powerful concept since students’ ideas of the nature of their intelligence pervades the learning process (Ambrose et al., 2010). To help promote student learning and success in college, Hardway developed lessons to help students in First Year Experience courses better understand neuroplasticity and metacognition. She also developed a workshop for faculty on ways to transform student perceptions of their learning abilities through the use of pedagogical tools. Her work has sparked conversation around campus on incorporating metacognition into teaching and learning.

More information on mindsets and the role they play in learning
More information on metacognition and resources for educators

Maximizing Technology for Teaching and Learning Inside and Outside of the Classroom

Michael Stroud
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Faculty Fellow, 2014-15

In the first phase of his research, Michael Stroud assessed current Merrimack faculty usage of technology for teaching and learning with special attention paid to the two campus-sponsored systems, Blackboard Learn and Google Apps. Results indicated a need to educate faculty on alternative uses of tools to accomplish course management needs. To do so, Stroud developed a teaching circle to focus on collaborative classroom techniques through the use of technology. Secondly, he developed helpful video tutorials on topics that emerged as needs from the survey. He then shared these tutorials with faculty in a CETL-sponsored workshop and through a Google Plus community. His work has been vital as Merrimack continues to harness technology for learning goals.

Visit Stroud’s video tutorials

Infusing Online General Education Courses with Experiential Learning

Monica Cowart
Professor of Philosophy
Faculty Fellow, 2014-15

Monica Cowart’s research purpose was to develop effective experiential learning assignments for online general education courses. Online courses present challenges to creating experiential learning due to potential feelings of isolation by students (Bates, 2014, Bassanjav 2013, Carver et al., 2007, and Huang 2002).

With this in mind, Cowart and other faculty members developed four pedagogical priorities for incorporating experiential learning in online general education classes: a sense of community, psychological safety, critical thinking/creativity and reflection/feedback, and utilized these to revise PHL1000: Introduction to Philosophy. The result was a highly engaged class that fostered an online learning community where students encountered opportunities to build community and critically think and reflect upon their own experiences.

This was done primarily through the use of the discussion board wherein students received extensive instruction and feedback on their postings. The final project asked students to create a visual representation of their personal theories on happiness to be displayed in an online gallery.

This gave students a transformational learning experience that enabled them to relate readings to their own lives. The next step will be to get faculty together to discuss how this work can be utilized to promote student success at Merrimack.