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Music professor reaps rewards after enrolling in CTLL academies

Music professor reaps rewards after enrolling in CTLL academies
University of North Georgia (UNG) assistant music professor Esther Morgan-Ellis, left, enrolled in the Faculty Academy on High-Impact Educational Practices (HIPs) and later the Faculty Academy on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). Mary Carney, director of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Leadership (CTLL), co-founded and directs the SoTL with Laura Ng.

University of North Georgia (UNG) assistant music professor Esther Morgan-Ellis wanted to pair composers with students in her music history class. She also sought to improve her students' writing skills.

"I was looking for a superior alternative to the research paper," she said.

When Morgan-Ellis enrolled in the Faculty Academy on High-Impact Educational Practices (HIPs) at UNG in spring 2014, she found a solution. She devised a new project melding her two ideas — connecting students directly to contemporary composers and requiring them to present a paper at its conclusion — because it was a requirement for her own class. She then developed a survey — a skill she learned in the Faculty Academy on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) — to measure the project's success.

Three years later, the single assignment has reaped rewards. Morgan-Ellis has a new project for her music history class. A few students have presented their papers at national conferences for undergraduate research in 2016 and 2017. And Morgan-Ellis' article about her project and its results will appear in the Journal of Music History and Pedagogy in March 2018.

Mary Carney, director of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Leadership (CTLL) at UNG, said that kind of success is the purpose of her department and its professional development programs. Carney and Laura Ng co-founded and direct the SoTL Academy as part of CTLL’s mission to foster UNG’s community of scholars as they pursue research-based design and implementation of significant educational experiences.

UNG's HIP Faculty Academy provides tools and peer mentoring so faculty can refine skills essential to their own and their students’ success in the classroom by:

Designing (or redesigning) a service-learning or undergraduate research assignment that uses selected quality dimensions.

Applying educational taxonomies to be intentional about student learning outcomes.

Implementing the ideals and practices of the Association of American Colleges and Universities initiative for a 21st century education, entitled Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP)

"These educational practices are found to be a better way to engage students more profoundly in the learning process so their learning will be deeper and more sustainable," Carney said.

Morgan-Ellis said it works.

"Being involved in the HIPs academy required me to draft the project," she said. "I might never have gone through with the work."

The SoTL academy helped Morgan-Ellis develop a questionnaire for her students about contemporary music and evaluate their responses. SoTL’s objective is to improve undergraduate education by studying what happens in the classroom and sharing it with fellow faculty at UNG and other universities.

When her students answered the questionnaire, Morgan-Ellis learned the project's effect had on them. For example, one question asked students if they would attend a concert by the contemporary composer who they were assigned to learn about and speak to during the semester. All of the students checked "strongly agreed."

"That means they bought into the music and enjoyed it," Morgan-Ellis said. "And I have a lot of comments about how it changed the way they thought about music and their respect for contemporary music."

None of this would have been possible without the HIPs and SoTL academies. This year, CTLL is starting another course geared to help faculty write papers similar to Morgan-Ellis' research about her project and its results.

Write Now is a semester-long academy that takes faculty step-by-step through converting and revising a conference paper to a full-length article for publication. So far, 30 faculty have enrolled in the program this fall.

For more information about HIPs, SoTL and Write Now, visit the CTLL website.

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