“Action Research” is a form of investigation designed for use by teachers to attempt to solve problems and improve professional practices in their own classrooms. A number of DSU faculty who are engaged in such research presented their data at this year’s Teaching and Learning Symposium held during the Spring semester of 2021. Jaime Kearra, Director of the Structured Enrollment Program at DSU’s Student Success Center and Hailey Nailor, Student Success Coach presented data that they have collected that provide insights into how students handle time management. With the help of a mini-grant from DSU’s Center for Teaching and Learning, they implemented an intervention that included direct teaching of time management skills and required students to use a paper planner in which they blocked out time for studying, assignments, papers, and projects. The data they presented showed that, although students were required to use a paper planner, most students used other systems more frequently (Canvas To-Do list, Canvas Calendar, Google Calendar, paper task list, etc.). During the Fall 2021 semester, Kearra and Nailor plan to extend the study to 300 new freshmen and track the effectiveness of new lesson plans and time management strategies.
Lauren DiSalvo, Assistant Professor of Art History, presented her data on “Ungrading” in which she evaluated the comparative usefulness of grades and feedback without grades by collecting data on her students who take sections of her upper division art history classes. In some sections she uses traditional grading. Other sections consist of feedback, rubrics and formal learning reflections instead of grades. Because university policy requires the assignment of a letter grade at the end of the semester, students in “ungraded sections” assign themselves the grade they think they have earned in the class for the semester. DiSalvo has collected data over the past two years comparing grades in her traditional graded classes and her “ungraded” classes.
“There is not much difference between the distribution of grades and the grades that I would assign to students and the grades that students assign for themselves,” says DiSalvo. Her findings are consistent with other research in the education literature showing that “ungrading” can serve to redirect time and attention to more important things such as increased reflection, increased motivation, creativity and individuality.
Action research is a legitimate aspect of the research process and often expands into more extensive controlled research studies. The Office of Undergraduate Research plans to highlight other DSU faculty who are engaged in such research.