Past Projects

Reflections on 2021 University Teaching Exploration Grants

by Christopher Richmann 10/25/22

This month, five University Teaching Exploration projects wrapped up their work. As in past years, this crop of projects has furthered discussions about teaching and learning at Baylor and beyond.  

Grading—especially for writing—is fraught with challenges for consistency and objectivity while also often negatively affecting the student-instructor relationship. In their project, “Encouraging Faculty Participation in Portfolio System Assessment” Nicole Kenley (English), along with graduate students Christina Lambert and Sarah Tharp, piloted a new process for assessing student writing in First-Year Writing courses. Instead of instructors grading their own students’ writing, independent scorers used a common rubric to assess student portfolios. The team (with the help of Baylor’s Learning Design) created a custom assessment tool in Canvas (the first of its kind!) that greatly eased the logistical problems with these types of assessment practices and helped increased the number of faculty who have signed on to the portfolio assessment. They plan to share the assessment tool with other institutions and to submit their work to Computers and Composition. (If you’re interested in hearing more, listen to our podcast episode with Nicole.)

A very different kind of project stemmed from English in the work of Joshua King, “Environmental Humanities Minor at Baylor: Interdisciplinary Environmental Learning and Action on the Banks of the Brazos.” Along with Julia Daniel (English), Susan Bratton, (Environmental Science), and Julie King (Environmental Science), Josh organized a Consultation and Planning Team and solicited the expertise of two external consultants. The result was a truly interdisciplinary proposal involving fifteen programs and academic units across Baylor and focused on ecological and human flourishing that prioritizes experiential learning and community engagement. In September, the University officially approved the Environmental Humanities minor; over the next year, the team will support the development of more courses for the minor and plans to apply for an NEH Connections grant, with the minor officially launching in Fall 2023.

More holistic and integrative approaches to learning were also at the heart of Tricia Blalock’s project, “Assessing Spiritual Needs and Work-Faith Integration Curriculum at Faith and Non-Faith Based Doctorate of Physical Therapy and Master of Athletic Training Programs.” Tricia (Health, Human Performance, and Recreation) was joined by HHPR colleagues Heather Hudson and Andrew Meyer as they surveyed faculty and students in Texas DPT and MAT programs to identify the scope of curriculum covering spiritual needs assessment and determine if Baylor graduates from these programs find value in spiritual needs training, report confidence in assessing spiritual needs, and actively integrate faith into their practice. Among other findings, they discovered broad agreement among faith- and non-faith-based institutions on the importance of spirituality in patient care, although faith-based programs were much more likely to incorporate student reflection on their own spirituality and say it was important for students to learn how to do spiritual needs assessments with patients. The team has presented these findings at a regional conference and plans to apply for further funding from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation.

Religious dimensions of higher education also came into focus in the work of Elizabeth Petsios (Geosciences). Her project, “Teaching the Theory of Evolution in a Faith-Affiliated Institution” examines the intersection of students’ acceptance of evolution, perceived conflict between faith and evolution, and perceptions of their instructor’s religiosity in Geology, Biology, and Science Education courses. The team—which included Brendan Anderson (Geosciences) and Suzanne Nesmith (Curriculum and Instruction)—found students’ level of evolution acceptance to be stable across a semester, despite focused lessons on evolution. They furthermore discovered a loose positive correlation between perceived instructor religiosity and acceptance of evolution. Having already presented this work at several regional conferences, the team now looks to apply for an NSF Education and Human Resource grant to continue exploring this topic. (Elizabeth will be presenting her findings in more detail in an upcoming SET, “Evolution and Instructor Religiosity.”)

Scientific literacy—as demonstrated, for instance, in acceptance of evolution—has a prominent role alongside civics literacy in Baylor’s mission to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service. In her project, “Elementary Social Science Methods: Investigation of Best Practices by Notable Teachers in the Field,” Karon LeCompte (Curriculum and Instruction) observed the teaching of leaders in her discipline at other Tier 1 institutions. In these master teachers, Karon discovered specific teaching strategies, like the “journey box,” as well as dispositions like authenticity. So impressed was Karon with what she witnessed that she brought two of the faculty she observed to Baylor’s award-winning summer iEngage camp. She will present this work at the National Council for Social Studies and American Educational Research Association and in a forthcoming edited volume, Action Civics.   

If you would like to learn more about University Teaching Exploration Grants or apply, visit

-Christopher Richmann

Reflections on 2020 University Teaching Exploration Grants

by Christopher Richmann 12/1/21

This fall, several Baylor faculty finished research projects with the help of the ATL’s University Teaching Exploration Grant ( As was the intention with this grant from its inception in 2019, these projects have furthered the scholarly conversation on teaching and learning in higher education from a range of disciplines and context.

Programs often make pedagogy and curriculum decisions without the benefit of deep understanding of what happens at other institutions and classrooms. In “A Scientific Approach to Language Learning,” Jill Owen (MLC, French) explored the use and effectiveness of required language learning labs across the higher ed landscape. Using surveys and interviews, Jill captured instructors’ perceptions of the advantages, disadvantages, and keys to effectiveness in language learning labs. Among the many takeaways is the recommendation to create task-oriented (rather than rote drilling) labs with plenty of coordination between the lab instructor and the regular course instructor (see Jill’s discussion here). Jill will be presenting these findings at an upcoming MLC faculty colloquium and submitting an article based on this work.

In another language learning setting, Tracey Jones (MLC, Spanish) partnered with a local primary school to create a service-learning program for third-year Spanish students. In this program, called Bilingual Readiness through Interaction, Language, Literacy, and Alliances (or BRILLA for short; “brilla” is Spanish for “shine”), the Spanish students serve as tutors with native Spanish speaking primary school students. The college students get to practice their Spanish in an authentic environment; the elementary students get focused learning assistance. Through questionnaires, observation responses, and reflections, Tracey found that the program increased students’ confidence in speaking Spanish outside the classroom and prompted students’ awareness and value placed on bilingualism. An article, which Tracey co-wrote with one of the La Vega district partner teachers, will appear in The Journal of Multicultural Affairs.

In the context of “Global Baylor,” our current Quality Enhancement Plan, Jared Alcantara’s (Truett Seminary) project, “Pursuing Practices in Interculturally Skilled Instruction” is especially important. Jared used the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) to assess the intercultural competency of 15 Baylor faculty from Truett Seminary and the School of Social Work. Jared, who became a licensed IDI administrator in the course of this work, followed up with these faculty participants in debriefing sessions. The instructors reported greater reflection on their teaching practices related to intercultural issues. Informed by this work, Jared addresses the recognition and reduction of stereotype threat in the preaching classroom in a forthcoming article in Homiletic.

Teaching during a pandemic, we all learned technologies for instruction. Jon Eckert (Educational Leadership) takes this a step further with his project, “Technology-Enhanced Engagement and Feedback.” Using survey and student outcomes data, Jon found improved retention rates and high reports of engagement from students by strategically incorporating lightboard technology, Mentimeter, Gimkit, Pear Deck, Slido, and Mural. Both instructor and students used these tools to aid a range of learning activities, including presentations and feedback.

Another technology-based project was from Kirsten Davin and Barbara Doucet (Occupational Therapy), “Telepresence Robot Use with Clinical Simulation in Occupational Therapy.” Kirsten and Barbara compared students’ experiences in simulated clinical work both with and without the assistance of a telepresence robot. The robot entered the simulation variously as a case manager, physician, and family member of the patient. Through surveys, Kirsten and Barbara found that students rated the simulations with the robot as better designed, and they were more confident and satisfied with their learning aided by the robot. Kirsten will present their work at the upcoming Online Learning Consortium annual conference.

The pandemic has increased our reliance on remote interactions. In their project, Tonya Davis and Jessica Akers (Educational Psychology) evaluated the effectiveness of remote performance feedback to pre-service behavior analysts in telehealth settings. Beyond comparing non-feedback conditions to feed-back conditions, Tonya and Jessica also explored the relative effects of and student preferences for immediate versus delayed (1-2 hours) feedback. They found that both types of feedback improved student performance, although students preferred immediate feedback. An article on this work is currently in the review process.

We congratulate our Baylor colleagues on their fine projects, and we look forward to watching how their work will continue to have “legs” in their departments and in broader scholarly discussions on teaching.  

If you would like to learn more about University Teaching Exploration Grants or apply, visit

-Christopher Richmann