2017 Emerging SoTL Scholar Award Winners
Melissa Scott Kozak
The focus of this project will be about utilizing archival documents from the University of Georgia's Special Collections Library to teach Family Policy. In Family Policy, the learning objectives include student knowledge of content (policy process and concepts), student analysis of policy issues using a family impact lens, and student communication about policy issues. By integrating archival documents across the course, students will also be able to identify the role Georgia has played in family policy issues (education, healthcare, marriage, etc.) that are relevant to their personal and professional lives. Pedagogically, I am interested in how the utilization of archival documents impacts student knowledge of and confidence in the policy arena. When they are allowed to tangibly connect the past to present and future, does that impact their learning and the ways in which they see and engage in policy?
Accomplishments in AY 2017-2018: One of my biggest takeaways was the importance of learning with students, both in process and content. Learning can be daunting, and it is important that I put myself in their shoes, not only in how to examine the archival resources but also in learning about specific topics. I presented some of my findings (focused on two-specific connected activities) at the Teaching Family Science Conference this summer, and I have plans to collaborate with an archivist at the Special Collections Library to publish these findings. As we develop the article, I intend to make more teaching-learning connections so the next Family Policy course is infused with the contributions from past students. In addition to disseminating the work about archival integration, I will present findings on how non-fiction books impact student learning and experience in Family Policy at the National Council on Family Relations in November. I engage in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning because other SoTL researchers have impacted my teaching, and a primary takeaway from this entire process is the importance of contributing to the field so that others may find inspiration.
Reading as Conversation: Connecting Critical Reading to Complex Thinking in the Classroom
This project will be carried out in the course Christianity and Colonialism in Africa. A humanities and social science course such as this one can provide practice in complex reasoning, as students are asked to work with nuance and different perspectives. The disciplinary habit of mind that yields this reasoning is often a type of questioning, engaged reading. However, the potential link between reading and reasoning is lost if students do not read, or do read but take the reading as “the last word.” I wish, therefore, not just to motivate students to read, but also to facilitate their engagement with a particular threshold concept – “reading as conversation.” The focus of the project will be a series of active learning exercises that intend to both make visible and scaffold student reading practices, with an emphasis on connecting individual reading logs to group work with readings in the classroom. I will work with students as co-inquirers to conceptualize the moves they already make, could make, and would like to make to connect reading to thinking.
Accomplishments in AY 2017-2018: One of my biggest takeaways was the importance of meeting students where they are, and making it transparent to them how they can take steps toward more advanced work. I presented some of my findings at the USG Teaching & Learning Conference, and at the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion in Atlanta – and I’ll also present again at the Innovation in Teaching Conference. I submitted two articles for publication, and one was recently accepted. This school year I am in a Faculty Learning Community reflecting together with other faculty on what kind of data we might collect to demonstrate students’ active learning in our classes, and at the same time I’ll be mapping out my next SoTL project. I’m hoping to do further work on critical reading and complex thinking in the humanities. I’m still intrigued by the question of how to make “basic” skills more transparent to myself and students in my classroom – “basic” skills such as reading and thinking (which are actually difficult and invisible).