URI team honored for research in educational development

Faculty development director, grad student receive national award

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Holly Swanson and Eric Kaldor
Eric Kaldor, assistant director for faculty development, and Holly Swanson, a doctoral student, at the University of Rhode Island were awarded the Robert J. Menges Award for Outstanding Research in Educational Development. They were honored at a ceremony on November 16. (URI Photo/Michael Salerno)

KINGSTON, R.I. — December 3, 2018 — Eric Kaldor, assistant director for faculty development, and Holly Swanson, a doctoral student, at the University of Rhode Island have been awarded the Robert J. Menges Award for Outstanding Research in Educational Development.

Established in 2000, the award is given by the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education, an organization that supports innovations in student and faculty learning development. The award is presented to researchers that reflect Bob Menges’ commitment to advancing higher education and values and the approaches he took to his work. Menges, an honored scholar in educational development, loved to create studies out of ideas, and he practiced a wide variety of methodologies and designs, according to the organization.

Kaldor and Swanson were honored for research they conducted on student engagement with guest speakers and the use of metacognitive learning strategies, specifically in gateway science courses such as chemistry and biology.

“Professors bring speakers to campus to motivate students,” said Kaldor, of East Greenwich. “But how do we make sure the impacts of visiting scholars last?”

Grants from the Office of Teaching and Learning and the Davis Educational Foundation allowed them to bring Sandra McGuire, a nationally recognized speaker who specializes in enhancing student learning, to the Kingston Campus. Her talk focused on different ways to better understand and retain course material. Some of her strategies included using a timer to help reduce procrastination, completing homework as if it were a test, teaching course material to others and exploring ways to more effectively complete reading assignments.

Kaldor and Swanson then organized the “Ace Your Course” challenge, where they asked students to try one of McGuire’s suggestions for a month. The results, they said, were impressive.

Students who attended the lecture alone averaged 3 points higher on their final grade than peers who did not attend. Those who went to the lecture and participated in the challenge averaged five points higher on their final grade.

“I’m just entering into my career, and this opportunity provides validation knowing that I’m utilizing my time and training as a graduate student to enter this discipline,” said Swanson, of Portsmouth. “This project allowed me to really develop as a researcher.”

They also plan to partner with departments across the University to implement practices based on their findings.

“Kaldor and Swanson’s prestigious award for research designed to foster student learning and success is a perfect example of the type of innovation that is the focus of URI’s Academic Strategic Plan,” said Diane Goldsmith, director of the Office for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning. “It exemplifies the new, integrative approaches to teaching, scholarship, and outreach. It’s very exciting for their work to be recognized nationally.”