SHOWCASE: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Showcase (90 mins)


  • Kelly Schrum
  • Sophia Abbott
  • Delton Daigle
  • Siddhartha Sikdar
  • Graziella McCarron
  • Ioulia Rytikova
  • Susan Hirsch
  • Agnieszka Paczynska
  • Cara Frankenfeld
  • Sharrell Hassell-Goodman
  • Steven Harris Scott
  • Jessica Rosenberg
  • Ben Dreyfus



The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Showcase is designed for faculty engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning to share their results and discuss SoTL methodologies as well as for faculty interested in learning about evidence-based practices and SoTL work at Mason. The session is organized as a series of lightning talks followed by opportunity for conversation with presenters. This year's session is facilitated by Kelly Schrum, Ph.D.

Speakers List:

1. NSF National Research Traineeship Program at Mason’s Center for Adaptive Systems of Brain-Body Interactions

Siddhartha Sikdar, Volgenau School of Engineering, Bioengineering


The Center for Adaptive Systems of Brain-Body Interactions (CASBBI) is the home for Mason’s first NSF-funded National Research Traineeship (NRT) program. The NRT is NSF’s flagship program for innovations in transdisciplinary graduate education. This 1-year traineeship program at Mason is designed to cross-train graduate students from across the university using a community-engaged design thinking model. The first cohort of 11 trainees started in summer 2020, and the second cohort of 14 trainees started in summer 2021. Cohorts are comprised of graduate students from diverse disciplines, including basic science, engineering, humanities, health and computing. The students work in interdisciplinary teams on a year-long design project with the close collaboration of community stakeholders. Trainees are tackling the opioid use epidemic, mental and behavioral health disorders, and Parkinson’s disease among other projects. The learning outcomes of the traineeship are knowledge integration, procedural learning, transfer learning, communication skills, and team science.


2. Exploring Graduate Student Perspectives on Teaching Innovations

Sophia Abbot, CEHD, Higher Education


This session will describe the research process of an ongoing 4-VA grant study, Reimagining the History of Higher Education in the Digital Age. The study has taken a qualitative case study approach to exploring student’s experiences completing a newly designed final course project. I will share how we collected data for our study and a few examples of the kinds of information we have been able to learn from our research process. This showcase session will offer a grounded example of qualitative research in the scholarship of teaching and learning that may support others as they embark on their own SoTL projects.


3. Embedding Experiential or Community-Engaged Learning Projects Into Your Courses Susan Hirsch, Agnieszka Paczynska,

Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution


In this presentation, we focus on embedding engaged learning in a course. Hirsch will discuss her decision to involve a class of MS students in a county-led initiative to study and reform Arlington County’s police practices. Although mounting class projects that involve community engagement can be risky, a set of lessons learned helps to create a smooth process when the benefits of engagement are especially compelling. Paczynska will discuss best practices for embedding and developing a variety of role playing and simulation actiities for both in-person and online instruction models, including how to adapt experiential exercises developed for an in-person format into a virtual setting.


4. Re-imagining Collaborative Discussions to Bolster Cognitive Learning in Online Courses Graziella McCarron, School of Integrative Studies,


The 2020 New Media Consortium Horizon Report noted that institutions should adjust curriculum to meet the demands of new industries and an evolving workforce. This reality, in tandem with the COVID-19 pandemic and other social upheavals, prompts us to acknowledge the essentiality of new approaches to education that transcend time and place for both learning and practice. This transformational shift provides educators with an opportunity to “think outside the box” and create innovative, digitally-driven approaches to education. In this talk, we will share results of a Mason-based study in which cognitive learning markers (e.g., synthesis, application, creation of knowledge) were examined for one fully online, asynchronous undergraduate leadership studies class over the course of three semesters offerings (fall 2018, fall 2019, fall 2020). We explore how students’ representations of cognitive learning in collaborative online discussions changed as well as potential contributors to enhanced cognitive learning. Teaching tips will be shared from the instructional design and faculty lens.



5. Developing and Validating Learning Modules for Strengthening MS Graduates’ Applied Research Skills Ioulia Rytikova, Information Sciences and Technology

Associate Professor, Associate Chair for Graduate Studies

Our team investigated the effectiveness of a novel approach intended to address the challenges experienced in a rapidly evolving workplace. Recent reports on graduate STEM education have placed additional emphasis on the need to use student-focused teaching to provide curricular support for graduate research experiences while emphasizing a need to diversify the process and purposes of these research experiences. The team explored and developed a collaborative multidisciplinary research environment for graduate students that utilizes inquiry-based and active learning methods across three courses that are currently used in two master programs. We developed and evaluated three generic learning modules and their adaptation and implementation in three domain specific courses. These modules introduced graduate students to research activities gradually, consistently, and systematically, with the goal of developing collaboration, innovation, and creativity skills. While transforming our current graduate courses into research and innovation-oriented courses, we also documented our experiences and developed guiding materials to facilitate the application of the learning modules in similar domains and how to adapt them in new domains. Our team designed and developed three reusable research methodological modules that can be integrated into any course that uses the Blackboard LMS (Bb) either for the initial introduction of how to perform research or for a quick review of fundamentals of research practices in more advanced research-intensive classes.


6. Facilitating Groups Projects in a Virtual Environment: Lessons Learned for In-Person and Online

Cara Frankenfeld Associate Professor/Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Global and Community Health Affiliate Faculty, Microbiome Analysis Center and Department of Nutrition and Food Studies


While group work has established benefits and is often required for particular types of projects, it is often a disliked part of students’ academic careers. Such projects can take on many forms, such as short-term vs. long-term and low stakes vs. high stakes. Based on experiences in-person and online, there are key guiding principles and steps that professors can take to facilitate a productive and meaningful group work experience. This presentation will cover key guiding principles, illustrate their use during 2020 virtual learning, and provide tips for using for in-person or virtual learning environments.



7. Inclusive Teaching Practices Sharrell Hassell-Goodman,

CEHD, Higher Education


Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important considerations for university teaching. Today’s students expect faculty to be knowledgeable around these topics and incorporate inclusive teaching practices in their classrooms. Likewise, faculty want to find ways to integrate inclusive teaching methods and practices but have limited time with numerous responsibilities around teaching loads and research. This lightening talk will review the results of a website content analysis research study of inclusive teaching practices implemented at various universities. Participants will have the opportunity to explore inclusive teaching practices and examine implications for student learning and developmental readiness, classroom expectations and participation, syllabi, assignments, and assessment construction. As a result of this session, participants will have the opportunity to begin to think about how they can prioritize and interrogate their own teaching practices to create a more inclusive teaching approach.



8. Classroom Engagement Tools in a Large Lecture Class and a Moderately-Sized Class

Steven Harris Scott


Classroom engagement tools have increased in usage over the last decade. Harris-Scott began using the Top Hat classroom engagement tool in his large lecture class, HIST 125: Introduction to World History, in 2017 as a way of increasing engagement in this 80- to 120-student class. Then, in 2018 when he began teaching a 45-student HIST 387: Global History of Disease class, he wrote a short, interactive e-textbook on the Top Hat platform. Dr. Harris-Scott will provide a brief overview of the Top Hat tool and how he uses it along with some early takeaways on student satisfaction with the tool, how it has worked, what problems it has solved, and how it could work better. Dr. Harris-Scott is in the very early stages of writing a SoTL article on this topic.


9. Drinking out of the Firehose: Preparing GTAs as they Begin their Teaching Careers

Jessica Rosenberg, Physics and Astronomy, COS


In the department of physics and astronomy, we have been running a weekly seminar for GTAs to help them as they transition into their new roles as instructors for the past two years. These GTAs mostly teach in a laboratory environment in general education astronomy courses or the introductory physics sequence. The seminar was developed as part of an NSF grant to shift introductory STEM courses towards an active learning format. The curriculum of the weekly seminar ranges from navigating university structures to basic classroom management and

teaching pedagogy to active and inclusive teaching practice. I will discuss what we have learned about some of the key elements and challenges for building a program to support graduate students as they transition into a teaching role.


10. How the Learning Assistant Experience Impacts Learning Assistants as Students

Ben Dreyfus, COS


Learning Assistants (LAs) are undergraduate STEM students who participate in a pedagogy course and facilitate active learning among their peers in a variety of courses. Much of the existing research on LA programs focuses on the impact on the students taking courses with LAs or on course transformation. In addition to this, we look at the impact on the LAs themselves as students. We asked LAs in the College of Science to reflect on how their LA experience has affected them through interviews with fellow LAs and free-response surveys. We analyze these qualitative data to identify emerging themes. LAs found that their LA experiences had impacts on their conceptual understanding, metacognition, time management, confidence about public speaking and working with fellow students, and relationships with professors.



11. Using Empirical Evidence in SoTL: A Pathway to Engagement and Exposure Delton Daigle,, Schar School of Policy and Government

Associate Professor, Director of Online Learning


In many disciplines the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) is permeated with personal experience and anecdote as to what works best to produce student outcomes. While it is not my contention to dismiss the value of real lived and learned pedagogical experiences, it is my contention that SoTL needs to also be a place where the claims we make about effective innovations are supported by rigorous empirical evidence. Drawing on evidence from two studies I conducted while a professor here at George Mason University, I will describe how empirical evidence creates large interest at both the level of your host institution as well as among international conference audiences. Moreover, I will discuss how intentional research design can provide a pathway to publishing in flagship journals.


Author Biographies

Delton Daigle

Schar School of Policy and Government

Siddhartha Sikdar

Volgenau School of Engineering

Graziella McCarron

***TEA 2018 Winner***

Ioulia Rytikova

***OTEA 2021 Winner***