Educational Development Unit Research Projects

The EDU is engaging in a diverse range of research projects and initiatives that contribute to our ongoing commitment to evidence-based practice.  These projects engage staff and faculty from across the EDU, even those who are not formal collaborators.  The projects are both conceptually and practically focused, but consistently leverage the “wisdom of practice” that is emerging from the Educational Development Unit.  We are able to employ a number of undergraduate and graduate student Research Assistants that support various projects with their methodological and administrative expertise.

Educational Developers Portfolios

Over the last three years, Natasha Kenny and colleagues from across Canada (Paola Borin – Ryerson University , Judy Chan – University of British Columbia , Debra Dawson – Western University , Isabeau Iqbal – University of British Columbia, and Erika Kustra – University of Windsor) have collaborated on a research project to explore educational development portfolios. To date, little research has focused on educational developer portfolios, and this project aimed to draw upon scholarly literature and findings from research gathered through World Cafés, to explore the possibilities and potential for the educational developer portfolio. Findings demonstrated that educational development portfolios provide an authentic tool to communicate the scope, quality and impact of the work of educational developers. It also identified a need for a cultural shift throughout the ED community to further integrate and normalize portfolios in our practice.

Exploring the Emerging Reality of Educational Development in Higher Education

The implementation of educational development initiatives is considered a comprehensive and practical response to the teaching and learning challenges that are evident in higher education, and huge investments of post-secondary capital are being made to institutionalize educational development practice. However, when the idea of “educational development” is examined closely, there is a pronounced emphasis on localized notions of the phenomenon, and there appears to be little agreement about what the term means across contexts.  Robin Mueller has developed a three-phase research project that will generate enhanced conceptual and applied clarity about educational development, and further substantiate and direct institutional investments in educational development practice. This study was submitted to the 2015 SSHRC Insights Development grant competition and awarded a 4A status.  Consequently, Robin is moving forward to begin this research with an Insight Development Enhancement Grant in combination with grant support from the Educational Developers Caucus.

Open Classroom Week: An investigation into the efficacy and impact of post-secondary classroom observations

Open Classroom Week is an initiative offered by the University of Calgary’s Teaching Academy, where several instructors “open” their classes to observers over a one week period (  The purpose of Open Classroom Week is to provide opportunities for all U of C teaching colleagues to observe classroom settings, teaching practices, technology applications, and learning experiences across a variety of disciplines and contexts.  This is a new practice for the University of Calgary, and one that is not well researched or documented within SoTL literature.  Robin Mueller and Meadow Schroeder (Werklund School of Education) have developed a research project to determine how well Open Classroom Week works, and to explore the capacity for Open Classroom Week to demystify higher education teaching practices.  The purposes of the Open Classroom Week research project are to: (a) determine if and how the Open Classroom Week initiative is meeting its’ intended outcomes for participants; (b) evaluate the effectiveness of the initiative; and (c) to investigate the kinds of learning and/or teaching development that occur through participation in Open Classroom Week.

Open Classroom Week instructor Michael Adorjan
Open Classroom Week instructor Michael Adorjan

Investigating the Experience and Impact of Strategic Planning in University Educational Development Centers: A Case Study

Educational development centers have traditionally been at the periphery of centralized strategic planning processes.  Such centers now find themselves facing requirements to plan, without the benefit of any established processes that adequately fit educational development contexts and purposes.  The Educational Development Unit (EDU) at the University of Calgary’s Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning has engaged in a process that explicitly merges research evidence and wisdom of practice for the purpose of establishing a living strategic plan.  Robin Mueller and collaborators Natasha Kenny, Joni Miltenburg, D’Arcy Norman, and Patrick Kelly have, with the support of research assistant Daniel Elleker, developed a case study research project in order to generate evidence about strategic planning processes that are specific to post-secondary educational development environments.  The purpose of the study is two-fold: (a) to evaluate the efficacy of an innovative, portfolio-based strategic planning process used in a university’s educational development center; and (b) to investigate and document staff and faculty member experiences of the portfolio approach to strategic planning in university educational development.

Graduate Student Teaching Development Competencies Study

The Educational Development Unit (EDU) launched a Graduate Student Teaching Development (GSTD) program, which offers a micro-credential. The credential is an electronic badge and is awarded to participants who complete the program requirements. The Framework for Teaching Assistant (TA) Competency Development (STLHE, 2015) will be utilized to map the intended learning outcomes of the GSTD program to the competencies framework. The students who earn a badge will be invited to participate in the study, and they will be asked to identify the competencies they have developed in the GSTD program.  Cheryl Jeffs and collaborator Carol Berenson (EDU) are conducting the research, with the following purposes: (a) to seek evidence that the GSTD program is meeting its intended outcomes; (b) to provide students with an opportunity to reflect, and identify their learning and development; and (c) to supplement the evaluation data collected after each workshop. The significance of this study is that it will test the framework; provide feedback to the GSTD program planners and facilitators; provide an opportunity to adjust or revise the program; and support evidence-based practice of TA development.

Using a Flipped-Classroom Approach to Foster Understanding of the Process of Scientific Inquiry in a Large Enrollment Biochemistry Course

Acquiring a deep understanding of scientific inquiry skills is one of the most important yet challenging objectives in undergraduate science education.  Carol Berenson and Isabelle Barrette-Ng (Faculty of Science) are assessing the impact of a flipped-classroom approach on students’ understanding of scientific inquiry.  Supported by a University of Calgary Teaching and Learning Grant, they are employing quantitative and qualitative strategies to compare students’ understanding of inquiry in both traditional lecture and flipped classrooms.  The overarching goal of this two-year study is to better understand the learning impact of lecture-based and flipped approaches to supporting student learning with difficult or complex subject matter.

Investigators in the flipped teaching project: (from left) Carol Berenson, Isabelle Barrette-Ng, Miranda MacCallum
Investigators in the flipped teaching project: (from left) Carol Berenson, Isabelle Barrette-Ng, Miranda MacCallum

Exploring and Establishing and Open Access Site for Conference Proceedings

Cheryl Jeffs (EDU), and Library and Cultural Resources (LCR) collaborators, Judy Powell and Kathryn Ranjit, were awarded a 2015 University of Calgary Teaching and Learning Grant. The grant is to explore, and establish an Open Access (OA) site for proceedings from the annual U of C Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching.  The project has the following goals to: identify the appropriate OA site, recommend a title for the publication, develop the history, focus and scope, and write conference proceedings guidelines, and peer-review criteria. The OA publication will be available for the 2016 conference proceedings.  The process of exploring and establishing an OA publication will be documented, including the collaboration between the EDU and LCR, challenges, and outcomes of the project.  The significance of this project is that it will: provide an opportunity to disseminate scholarly contributions on teaching and learning; raise the profile of the EDU; and, provide guidance to others who are considering establishing an OA publication, thus building capacity.

Moving a face-to-face course to entirely online: A study of design and implementation

D’Arcy Norman, Carol Berenson, Ellen Perrault, and Jessica Ayala are contributing to a qualitative research case study, designed to determine the important organizational, technical, and educational development success factors involved in the conversion from a face-to-face course to a quality online course. The process of designing and implementing an online Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) course will be studied over nearly two years. Data collection will consist of individual interviews with administrators, faculty members, course developers, course instructors, and the participants/students in the online ISW program. Additional data collected will include: observations, transcripts of planning meetings, archived materials, Quality Matters survey results, and member checks. Data will be analyzed using coding, data reduction, conclusion drawing, and verification. Dissemination of this study’s findings will include conference presentations, peer-reviewed journal article submissions, Teaching Community submissions, and a report submitted to the University of Calgary with clear recommendations and implications for practice.

Micro-credentialing: Digital badges in faculty professional development

Patti Dyjur, Lin Yu, Joni Miltenburg, and Kevin Saito are engaging in a research project pertaining to a micro-credentialing platform at the University of Calgary for educational development initiatives.  The UCalgary Badges system enables participants to track their learning, define their own personal learning pathway, and share their non-credit professional learning achievements (see for more information).  The objective of the study is to explore the influence of badges on individuals’ motivation to engage, and participate in, professional learning development.  The study will also explore the potential for expanding the micro-credentialing initiative more broadly at the University of Calgary.

Examples of badges developed as part of the micro-credentialling initiative
Examples of badges developed as part of the micro-credentialling initiative

Analytical Support – National Survey of Student Engagement

Nahum Arguera provides ongoing analytical support to University of Calgary faculties and departments as they begin to interpret and apply their discrete NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) data.  Nahum provides in-depth analysis of trends and individual survey items that are of particular interest to individual disciplinary areas.

Related Documentation and Materials

Open Classroom Week assessment data

Micro-credentialling documentation

The EDU ePortfolio

Conference presentations:

  • Barrette-Ng, I., Berenson, C. (2015, May). Flipped design for learning: Deepening scientific inquiry in a large-enrollment class. University of Calgary Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching, Calgary, AB.
  • Barrette, Ng, I., Berenson, C.  (2015, July).  Flipped design for learning: Deepening scientific inquiry in a large-enrollment class — Preliminary Research findings. Poster presented at the Western Conference on Science Education. London, ON.
  • Berenson, C. (2015, November). Making the most of mixed methods: Investigating scientific inquiry in a flipped classroom.  Symposium on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Banff, AB.
  • Berenson, C., Barrette-Ng, I. (2014, November). Using a flipped-classroom approach to foster understanding the process of scientific inquiry in a large-enrollment biochemistry course: Preliminary research activities and findings. Symposium on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Banff, AB.
  • Borin, P., Dawson, D., Kustra, E., McDonald, J., Kenny, N., & Arbach, M. (June, 2014). Investigating the educational developer’s portfolio: a world café experience. ICED, Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Goody, A., McDonald, J., & Kenny, N. (July, 2014). What might an educational development portfolio look like? Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia Conference. Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China.
  • Kenny, N., & Mueller, R. (2015, June). A meaningful plan: Using a “portfolio of practice” approach to strategic planning in higher education. Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE), Vancouver, BC, Canada.
  • McDonald, J., Arbach, M., Borin, P., Kenny, N., & Kustra, E. (February, 2014). Building an EDC community resource: developing a guide to support an educational developer’s portfolio. EDC Conference, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.
  • McDonald, J., Hannon, N., Watson, G., Chan, J., Dawson, D., Kustra, E., Iqbal, I., Kenny, N., & Borin, P. (February, 2016). Building a foundation for your educational developers portfolio. EDC Conference, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario. (3-hour pre-conference workshop)
  • Mueller, R. (2015, February). Strategic planning for educational development: An inquiry-based approach. Educational Developers Caucus, Winnipeg, MB, Canada.
  • Mueller, R. (2015, May). Testing a model of organizational values in higher education strategic planning. Canadian Association for the Study of Educational Administration (CASEA), Ottawa, ON, Canada.
  • Mueller, R. (2016, February). The portfolio of practice: A meaningful approach to strategic planning in educational development.  Educational Developers Caucus (pre-conference workshop), Windsor, ON, Canada.
  • Mulhall, S., & Mueller, R. (2015, February). Maximum impact: Putting values to work in educational development organizations. Educational Developers Caucus, Winnipeg, MB, Canada.

2015 Conference Proceedings:  Prism database (University of Calgary Library)

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Kenny, N., Iqbal, I., McDonald, J., Borin, P., Dawson, D., Chan, J., & Kustra, E. Exploring the
    potential of educational developer portfolios. To Improve the Academy: A Journal of Educational Development. Accepted with minor revisions (February, 2016).
  • McDonald, J., Kenny, N., Kustra, E., Dawson, D., Iqbal, I., Borin, P., & Chan, J. (2016).
    Educational Development Guide Series: No. 1. The Educational Developer’s Portfolio. Ottawa, Canada: Educational Developers Caucus. Accessed at:

ISW D2L course (currently not public)

NSSE documentation

Assessment Strategies

The “assessment plan” for Academic Group research looks slightly different that it would for program delivery or other practice-based activities.  The assessment of our research will consist of knowledge mobilization, dissemination, and practical application rather than a formal evaluation of efficacy.  The goal of dissemination is to encourage application of the knowledge that we have generated in a wide variety of contexts, so we will use a range of methods to gauge how scholars and practitioners are applying our research results.  These strategies will include:

·       Scholarly publications

·       Scholarly blog posts

·       Conference presentations

·       Development of institutional, provincial, and national networks of practice (eg/ tracking who has requested and/or used research results about Open Classroom Week at their own institutions)

·       Tracking social media engagement pertaining to our research

·       Tracking uptake and use of our research “products” (eg/ badges)

·       Developing practice-focus workshops based on our research results

Reflection and Impact

The research being conducted by the EDU’s staff and faculty members, and our collaborators from across campus, is contributing to enhanced understanding of broad educational development trends and concepts, as well as specific teaching, learning, and curriculum development practices.  Our research is generating evidence that can be used to inform a variety of applications within higher education, which will ultimately impact teaching development, student learning, and the character of educational development practices, both at our own institution and nationally.  As we move forward, we will consider how to become strategic about knowledge mobilization and dissemination, and ensure that we are re-framing our research results in order to maximize their application in a variety of contexts.


Project collaborators: Patti Dyjur, Joni Miltenburg, Kevin Saito, Lin Yu, Nahum Arguera, Cheryl Jeffs, Carol Berenson, Ellen Perrault, Jessica Ayala, D’Arcy Norman, Robin Mueller, Patrick Kelly, Natasha Kenny, Daniel Elleker

ePortfolio post authors: Robin Mueller, D’Arcy Norman, Patti Dyjur, Cheryl Jeffs, Natasha Kenny

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