RE: Proposal for Teaching Research in University Environment (TRUE) Teaching Circle 2016-2017

RE: Proposal for Teaching Research in University Environment (TRUE) Teaching Circle 2016-2017

May 6, 2016

To: Bill Reynolds, Director

Institute of Faculty Development

Stockton University

RE: Proposal for Teaching Research in University Environment (TRUE) Teaching Circle 2016-2017

Primary Contact: Manish Madan, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice.

Participants: Manish Madan, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Robin Hernandez-Mekonnen, Assistant Professor of Social Work;Elma Kaiser, Assistant Professor of Social Work; Katie Yang, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Jessie Finch, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Zornitsa Kalibatseva, Assistant Professor of Psychology

The Need: Stockton University offers a number of courses in research design and evaluation (referred as ‘research methods’ from hereafter) that introduces our students to the nuances of social science research. For instance, a course in Criminal Justice program emphasis on formation of research questions as it pertains to the field, selection and implementation of appropriate research strategies and presentation of findings in a professional manner. Similarly, a research methods course in Social Workfocuses onresearch ethics, human subjects andcritical implications ofsampling,measurement, and design onvulnerable populations, and evaluatingcurrent empirical studies on scientific merit.Otherresearch coursesprovide a basic understanding of research methodology and other important components of research processes in the field.

Through a creative research forum organized in Spring 2014, a few common goals in research methods were identified– for example, scientific writing in APA style (papers/posters), understanding methodology, conducting and interpreting data analyses. There were also a few obstacles identified in meeting these goals such as: covering content while students simultaneously complete a quality project within a single semester, inspiring students to conduct research, creating and managing group projects, moving from proposal writing to include data collection, conducting surveys, and writing high quality research reports thereafter.Even though a number of expert faculty members teach such courses every semester, it has been noted that students find these courses as one of the most dreaded and challenging courses.

Faculty members have engaged in informal discussions, workshops to share their ideas on how to make research methods courses as exciting, challenging, yet an enjoyable experience for our students. To continue these discussions and adapt new teaching and pedagogical approaches in a core course such as research methods, it is perhaps imperative to adopt a more formal approach where a teaching circle of interested faculty members is created in anticipation of sharing of distinct instructional strategies on a more goal-setting basis. The potential advantage and goal-setting for this teaching circle is not only in bringing the research methods experts together but also to devise various teaching strategies in building the next generation of researchersand to further teaching and learning experience of our students at Stockton. As Stockton University is growing, it is critical for the faculty and students to be benefited by an interdisciplinary approach in teaching research to our students.

Next, as Stockton’s Graduate studies has grown, currently listing 18 graduate, doctoral, and post graduate programs, we see an increase in Stockton’s undergraduate students applying to graduate programs at Stockton. As such, there is a need to develop a seamless flow of technical foundational research skills, so that our undergraduate students and faculty are preparing for the possibility of graduate level research expectations. Communication and collaboration are key to ensuring our students are well prepared, and that the course work expectations align with the skillsets needed to be successful in graduate studies.

The Teaching Research in University Environment (TRUE) Teaching Circle is envisioned just as its name suggests – getting together to share knowledge and expertise in teaching research across programs at Stockton. The TRUE Teaching Circle will meet at least once every semester (i.e., in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017). The purpose of these meetings will be to continue the discussion on developing the best practices in teaching research method courses to our students, to identify scholarly literature on the pedagogy of teaching research and literature highlighting the importance of research in social sciences. The collaborated literature can serve as core reading not only for the faculty teaching research courses but also for the undergraduate students where they will read first-hand advantages of understanding the importance of research in social sciences courses.

The 2015-2016 academic year included a teaching circle, “Undergraduate Research Teaching Circle,” that “aims to help faculty members strengthen their undergraduate research by gaining familiarity with the literature on undergraduate research, … take advantage of opportunities available to undergraduate researchers.” However, the TRUE proposed teaching circle is taking a step back to basics. It is aimed at first enabling an environment between the professor (teaching research methods, evaluation courses) and the students; in developing and enhancing the pedagogical approach in teaching research at both the undergraduate and graduate level, with an emphasis on social sciences. TRUE, in our view is about finding the best practices in teaching courses like research methods that Stockton students often find challenge in. Teaching effectively will be a precursor to having students appreciate the finer nuances of research. Additionally aligning undergraduate and graduate faculty pedagogy is an important aspect of our work. We further anticipate that by bringing together faculty teaching similar courses, TRUE will be able to bridge this gap between students and their interest in research by developing best practices in teaching research to our students.

Both Drs. Hernandez-Mekonnen and Madan are reviewers for the Distinguished Graduate Research Fellowships, and note that a significant number of the research fellowship proposals are made in absence of a thorough research proposal. The fellowship applicants have also been limited to a few schools at best. It is important as Stockton now has several new graduate programs, that students are prepared for and motivated to engage in student research, and seek these opportunities from all programs. If faculty is supported in successful and engaging teaching of research methodologies, student will be more likely to engage in applied research projects. These applied research projects could be inked with service learning modules in courses, or serve as independent studies or fellowships.

Finally, our Provost, Dr. Laurie Vermeulen has identified a priority and focus upon developing opportunities for student research. Thus, it is timely for this teaching circle to explore mechanisms by which we can support faculty, who teach research, to cultivate and harvest optimal teaching strategies and techniques to advance this priority.

Dr. Madan will be the point person for the circle, however, he will be assisted by Dr. Hernandez-Mekonnen in facilitating the teaching circle. We have furtheridentified a core group with faculty from Social Work, Psychology, Sociology.This teaching circle, once formally supported will also invite senior faculty experts with varied experience in teaching research at Stockton to share their views in teaching research to our students. TRUE teaching circle will share the best practices in teaching research,developed on behalf of the TRUE teaching circle. We will submit a final white paper or other public dissemination record to the IFD prior to June 30, 2017, documenting the activities conducted by the circle, and any measurable impact.

Additionally, TRUE will submit a proposal for two of its members to present a paper on the pedagogy of teaching research in social sciences for 2017 International Education Conference[1](IEC) in Maui, Hawaii, Jan 1 – 5, 2017. The 2017 IEC provides a forum for faculty and administrators to share proven and innovative methods in teaching at all levels of education with a focus on teaching methods and social sciences. The purpose of attending this conference will also be to learn from other scholars, academicians on innovative teaching methods in a University environment, and explore ways to enhance and transform teaching methodologies, particularly of research methods in social sciences.

Tentative Budget:The registration fee for 2017 IEC conference is $400.00per member. Estimated travel ($1063), lodging ($1175), and per diem support ($428) for two Stockton faculty members will be approximately $2666.00. Total Budget: $3466.00 approximately.

Sincerely yours,

Manish Madan, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice

School of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Stockton University

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