Center for Teaching and Learning

Past seminars

The Advances in Higher Education Research Seminar series highlights original research in college-level instruction and learning. Seminars are held monthly during the academic year. Please see below for a list of past presentations.

For a list of upcoming seminars visit the Advances in Higher Education Research Seminar page.

Winter 2020 seminars

Reimagining Graduate Dance Education / Hannah Wiley

Hannah Wiley, UW Dept. of DanceHannah Wiley, UW Department of Dance
March 3, 2020

In 1990 Hannah Wiley designed the UW’s graduate program in dance to respond to two issues: the absence of professional dancers in dance department faculty positions and the academy’s incomplete understanding of the value of dance in higher education. In this presentation, Professor Wiley discusses the creation and evolution of this successful program, which supports professional dancers’ transition into university teaching, as well as the production of new creative work.

Tailored, interdisciplinary scholarship is the foundation of the program. Students complete an individualized course of study, and collaborate with a wide variety of departments–from Physical Therapy and Rehab Medicine to the Natural Sciences–to complete their master’s project. Thirty years after its inception, over ninety percent of the graduates from this program hold college-level teaching positions—a number are chairs and deans.

Hannah Wiley is a professor at UW Department of Dance, and the architect of UW’s innovative Master of Fine Arts degree in dance. She is also the founding artistic director of the Chamber Dance Company, which allows M.F.A. candidates to continue performing while furthering their academic training. Professor Wiley held the Floyd & Delores Jones Endowed Chair in the Arts from 2011 to 2014, and was awarded a Donald E. Petersen Endowed Professorship in 2003.

Can Learning be Fair?: Explicit Acknowledgment of Structural Oppression as a Teaching Tool / Jessica Cleeves

Jessica Cleeves, Center for Science and Mathematics Education, University of Utah
February 11, 2020

Traditional diversity classes engage students in self-reflection about identity and experience, often around ideas like race, class, gender, ableism, and heteronormativity. These curricula typically explore complex problems deeply, but seldom discuss practical steps toward solutions. This problem-centric focus can leave individual students feeling helpless, overwhelmed, and/or guilty to the point of emotional overload. A creative new approach to impactful instruction about equity situates conversations about access and power within a context of enactable inclusive pedagogical practices.

In this talk, Jessica Cleeves describes the Learning Assistant (LA) pedagogy course she developed for the University of Utah’s Center for Science and Mathematics Education. The course connects evidence-based best practice for small group facilitation and the individual, institutional, and cultural barriers that motivate the opportunity gap in the first place. LAs delve into issues of academic exclusion, while also learning strategies they can deploy to increase inclusion. This approach helps LAs from backgrounds of privilege move beyond potentially paralyzing feelings of anger, guilt, and shame. Simultaneously, LAs who identify with historically excluded communities are protected from tokenization and invited into advocacy for their students, with whom their identities may or may not align. LAs learn to co-create solutions concurrent with understanding the historical depth, cultural complexity, and structural resistance to making education equitable and inclusive.

Jessica Cleeves (MAT, NBCT, MSW) is the Associate Director for Equitable Instruction and Clinical Support at the University of Utah’s Center for Science and Mathematics Education. Jess supports educators of all levels to hone practices and expand socio-emotional skills to improve classroom instruction. Prior to her role at the CSME, Ms. Cleeves taught middle and high school science for a decade, and supported her colleagues as an instructional coach in Title I “Turnaround” schools.

February 11 seminar recording “Can Learning be Fair?:  Explicit Acknowledgment of Structural Oppression as a Teaching Tool”

Autumn 2019 seminars

Against the Odds: Insights From a Statistician With Dyscalculia / Katherine Lewis and Dylan Lynn

Katherine Lewis, UW College of Education
Dylan Lynn, statistician, Seattle
November 19, 2019

Mathematics is a gatekeeper—one that often prevents students with dyscalculia from pursuing academic and career paths in STEM fields. Unfortunately, research on dyscalculia has focused exclusively on young students’ difficulties with basic arithmetic and adopted a deficit model of the student, rather than addressing the lack of accessibility inherent in traditional mathematics teaching.

In this talk, Prof. Lewis and Ms. Lynn offer an alternative vantage point to the prevailing deficit notions about dyscalculia. They explore how Ms. Lynn—a statistician with dyscalculia—navigated structural barriers as an undergraduate mathematics student at UC Berkeley, and the compensatory strategies she used to address issues of access. Based on this experience, Lewis and Lynn offer recommendations for tools and instructional approaches that may be beneficial for students with dyscalculia.

Katherine Lewis, associate professor, UW College of EducationKatherine Lewis is an associate professor at UW College of Education who is dedicated to making mathematics accessible to students. Prof. Lewis adopts a disability studies approach in her research, which holds that individuals are not disabled by their physical, sensory, or neurological differences, but by inaccessible spaces and contexts. Her work focuses on the ways students’ unconventional understanding and use of mathematical representations results in issues of mathematics access.

Dylan Lynn, statistician, former data analyst, math tutor, and researcher based in SeattleDylan Lynn is a statistician, former data analyst, math tutor, and researcher based in the Seattle area.

Teaching Integrity in Empirical Research: The Pedagogy of Reproducible Science in Undergraduate Education and Beyond / Richard Ball

Richard Ball, professor, Dept. of Economics, Haverford College

Richard Ball, Department of Economics, Haverford College
October 29, 2019

Many journals now require authors to submit extensive public-facing documentation to support empirical papers. In this talk, Professor Richard Ball discusses teaching research transparency to students in quantitative fields of study. Project TIER (Teaching Integrity in Empirical Research) integrates transparent and reproducible research methods into instruction by developing standard protocols for conducting and documenting statistical research. Enacting these protocols ensures that all reported results are computationally reproducible and that the methods employed are immediately legible to other researchers.

Professor Ball gives an overview of the approaches to research reproducibility that Project TIER promotes, discusses the resulting educational benefits, and considers lessons for professional research practice that emerge from using the Project TIER system. He also identifies potential opportunities for collaboration between Project TIER and UW faculty to promote transparency in education and research.

Richard Ball is a professor of economics at Haverford College and co-director of Project TIER (Teaching Integrity in Empirical Research), which promotes the integration of transparency and reproducibility in the research training of social scientists. His research has included theoretical papers on political economy and empirical work on development and social issues.

Mind the Gap: Active Learning in Undergraduate STEM Classes Narrows Achievement Gaps for Historically Underrepresented Students / Elli Theobald

Elli Theobald, research scientist, UW Department of Biology

Elli Theobald, UW Department of Biology
October 8, 2019

Women and minority students remain underrepresented in STEM majors and STEM professions, despite widespread efforts to increase their access to STEM fields. This is in part because of differential performance between historically under- and well-represented students—the “achievement gap”—in college STEM courses. Lower-performing students are less likely to major in STEM and more likely to drop out of college altogether. How can we modify instructional practice in our courses to remedy this problem?

A recent meta-analysis (Freeman et al., 2014) showed that active learning improves performance among all students relative to lecture-only classes. Building on this work, Dr. Theobald conducted the first large-scale study to show that active learning also narrows achievement gaps across STEM fields, and the first to show what amount of active learning is required to improve student performance. By pooling data from 133 studies of higher-education STEM courses that incorporate active-learning strategies, Theobald found that such courses reduced achievement gaps by up to 75%. In addition, active learning must comprise at least 30% of available class time to realize student gains.

Dr. Elli Theobald is a research scientist in the Department of Biology’s Biology Education Research Group (BERG). Before joining BERG, she worked as a middle school and high school teacher, earned her PhD in ecology, and then transitioned to discipline-based education research as a postdoc. Dr. Theobald’s research revolves around how to be a better teacher, and how to narrow achievement gaps for under-represented students.

Spring 2019 seminars

Beyond Bars: Higher Education and Carceral Space / Gillian Harkins

Gillian Harkins, associate professor of English and adjunct associate professor of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies

Gillian Harkins, UW English Department
May 28, 2019

Although people think of universities and prisons as separate institutions, in fact they are highly interconnected. The UW holds contracts to purchase materials from prison labor, UW faculty engage in research projects focused on prisons, and state funding for incarceration impacts financial support for our university. Yet people who are currently and were formerly incarcerated often face the greatest barriers to entry at UW.

The term “school-to-prison pipeline” describes how disparities in access to quality education and targeting for disciplinary and police detention lead to a disproportionate number of non-white, non-heterosexual, and economically-disadvantaged youth ending up in prison, rather than higher education. However, a more accurate term is “school-to-prison nexus,” in which the pathways to prison or to college are not separate, but actually intertwined in the institutions we inhabit (Meiners 2007). In this talk, Prof. Gillian Harkins reports on her and her colleagues’ efforts to create sustainable pathways to higher education for this underserved population, by leveraging existing connections between universities and prisons.

Gillian Harkins is an associate professor of English and adjunct associate professor of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at the UW.  She specializes in cultural studies of the novel and contemporary sexual politics as well as the intersection between education justice and prison abolition. She currently works with three regional higher education in prison programs in the Puget Sound Area.

Responsive Teaching and Social Justice / Amy D. Robertson

Amy D. Robertson, Research Associate Professor of Physics, Seattle Pacific University

Amy D. Robertson, Physics Department, Seattle Pacific University
April 16, 2019

Responsive teaching is an instructional approach that attends to and builds on the beginnings of disciplinary ideas and practices in student thinking. This kind of teaching is about really listening to students, trusting that their ideas are sensible to them, and seeking to understand what they mean and the possibilities for learning within.

In this interactive talk, Professor Robertson will use a seminal example to define responsive teaching in context. Seminar participants will also explore the possibilities and limitations of this instructional approach for teaching for social justice.

Amy D. Robertson is a research associate professor of physics at Seattle Pacific University. Robertson is co-editor of Responsive Teaching in Science and Mathematics, a compilation of research on responsive teaching published by Routledge in 2016. Her research focuses on equity in physics education and on instructional approaches that seek to understand and build on students’ intuitive ideas in science.

Winter 2019 seminars

Global Flipped Classroom: Successes and Challenges of Combining Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) with Study Abroad / Kristi Straus, Eli Wheat, and Wei Zuo

Kristi Straus, UW College of the Environment
Eli Wheat, UW Program on the Environment
Wei Zuo, UW Center for Teaching and Learning
February 26, 2019

In this talk Drs. Straus, Wheat, and Zuo describe a new study abroad model they developed for the Program on the Environment’s “Sustainability: Personal Choices, Broad Impacts” course. The “Global Flipped Classroom” builds on the existing Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) model by adding a brief study abroad trip to the course. This new model enhances global engagement, and provides an affordable and practicable study abroad opportunity for UW students.

UW students enrolled in the class collaborated online with Tsinghua University students to explore how culture can not only define environmental problems, but can also create solutions. The course culminated in a ten-day trip to Beijing, promoting connection and conversation between Tsinghua and UW students while they experienced the city through the lens of sustainability.

Drs. Straus, Wheat, and Zuo discuss the successes and challenges they experienced while developing this model of instruction and their plans for future refinement.

Kristi StrausKristi Straus is the acting director and lecturer in the College of the Environment’s Environmental Studies program and the recipient of a 2017 University of Washington Distinguished Teaching Award. She is passionate about environmental conservation and effective teaching of environmental topics for students of all ages. Her work focuses on conservation of local marine invertebrates, as well as the science of science education.


Eli WheatEli Wheat is faculty in the Program on the Environment at the University of Washington, and is the recipient of numerous awards for teaching and sustainability work including the 2010 Excellence in Teaching Award, 2018 Husky Green Award, and the College of the Environment’s Outstanding Teaching Faculty award. In addition to teaching sustainability and agriculture courses at the UW, Eli owns and operates SkyRoot farm, a 20-acre integrated animal and vegetable farm on south Whidbey Island.


Wei Zuo, CTL instructional consultantWei Zuo an instructional consultant at the Center for Teaching and Learning and the co-director for the Program on Environment China: Sustainability in the U.S. and China (International Extended Flipped Classroom). Her academic and teaching backgrounds are in working with international students, Chinese, equity and diversity in teaching and learning.

Underrepresented Identities in the Classroom: Examining Our Privileges / Rachel E. Tennial

Rachel Tennial, University of Arkansas, Little Rock

Rachel E. Tennial, Department of Psychology, University of Arkansas
February 5, 2019

Professor Tennial will discuss how her research examining aspects of identity, the influence of skin tone bias, and exploring classroom climate moved her from a theoretical understanding of the findings to an applied focus. This new perspective on her work catalyzed introspection and reflection not only on her own identities and privileges but also on the multi-faceted identities embedded in the lives of students.

Her presentation will explore how identity, identification, and skin tone bias—or colorism—relate to the real and perceived barriers that students of color face in college classroom contexts. Professor Tennial will also consider the impact of levity on classroom climate and student satisfaction.

Rachel E. Tennial is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. Her areas of interest include collective identity and identification, with a focus on race and sexuality, prejudice, stigma, colorism (skin tone bias) and teaching scholarship.

Co-sponsored by UW Tacoma.

Calling Attention to Unequal Educational Outcomes in STEM Higher Education / Michael Mack

Michael Mack, postdoctoral research associate, UW Department of Chemistry

Michael Mack, UW Department of Chemistry
January 15, 2019

Unequal education outcomes for historically underrepresented student groups are one of the most urgent and intractable problems in higher education. Where does this problem reside, with the students or with the institution? And who should be responsible for improving student outcomes?

Drawing on organizational learning theory, Dr. Mack examines the “deficit” and “equity” interpretive frameworks for making sense of outcomes in higher education, and shows how these frames oblige us to perceive unequal outcomes across student subpopulations in different ways. Participants in this session will engage with the frameworks to: 1) make sense of ethnicity-based disparities in introductory chemistry course grades at the University of Washington, and 2) construct possible strategies for addressing unequal outcomes. Recommendations for how this type of evaluation work can be applied beyond chemistry/science disciplines will be discussed.

Michael Mack is a postdoctoral research associate in the UW Department of Chemistry. His current research focuses on measuring performance disparities in large-enrollment introductory chemistry courses and the efficacy of active learning techniques for promoting more equitable outcomes.

Dimensions in Designing Reflection Activities for Students / Giovanna Scalone

Giovanna Scalone, research associate, UW Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching (CELT)

Giovanna Scalone, UW Department of Human-Centered Design and Engineering
January 15, 2019

Reflection is a form of thinking where one makes meaning of past events as preparation for future engagements. Educators use many activities to help their students reflect on and improve their learning, but few frameworks exist to characterize the choices available in designing such activities.

In this talk, Dr. Scalone explores four dimensions of variation that emerge from reflection activities used by engineering educators: explicitness, customization, guidance, and accountability. Each dimension exists on a continuum that ranges from low to high, creating a large design space that allows educators to articulate their rationale for using reflection activities, foreground decisions about the type and structure of the activity, draw attention to potential positive and negative consequences of the activity, and connect to theories of learning. Dr. Scalone shows how these dimensions of variation can be used to design effective reflection activities in engineering and beyond.

Giovanna Scalone is a research associate at the Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching (CELT) in the UW Department of Human-Centered Design and Engineering. Her research emphasizes the social foundations of learning in both STEM informal and formal learning environments with a focus on agency, meaning-making and identity development.

Autumn 2018 seminars

Learning as Stewardship: Students at the Nexus of University-Community Relations / Katie Headrick Taylor

Professor Katie Headrick Taylor

Katie Headrick Taylor, UW College of Education
November 27, 2018

Some of the most influential theories of learning come from understanding how people learn from and teach one another in settings outside the classroom.

In her Education course, “Learning Within and Across Settings,” Professor Katie Headrick Taylor provides an extra-classroom environment for her students to learn these theories in context. Students make and nurture connections to community centers and other public neighborhood assets through outreach, observation, and feedback on the nature of teaching and learning in these spaces.

In this course, the community/place serves as teacher, and expertise is distributed: across community members, across visible histories, and across different modes of engaging with new information. Professor Taylor demonstrates that empowering students in this way helps them develop a professional vision of learning theory that is not achievable in a traditional classroom setting, while positioning students as stewards of community-university partnerships.

Katie Headrick Taylor is an assistant professor in the UW College of Education. In her research, she explores digital media and technology in the lives of children, youth, and their families through ethnographic and mixed-method case studies, classroom and informal design studies, and the development and teaching of undergraduate and graduate courses.

Framing Active Learning: How “Soft Skills” Enable a Supportive Classroom Culture and Facilitate Student Effort / Ben Wiggins

Ben Wiggins

Ben Wiggins, UW Department of Biology
November 6, 2018 

Instructor “soft skills” reference the ability to shape conversations that happen at the speed and frequency of human communication. These skills shape the effective implementation of active learning methods in class. While conversations around these skills are common in K-12 teacher development, they take place more rarely in higher education.

Dr. Wiggins draws on findings from educational psychology to describe and demonstrate soft-skill teaching methods that create a supportive classroom environment and facilitate student engagement. Techniques such as active listening, honest signals, and reciprocal demonstrations of trust can be used across disciplines, in any size class, and are effective for students from diverse backgrounds.

Ben Wiggins is the manager of program operations in the UW Department of Biology. His research focuses on using active learning in large-enrollment courses at both the University of Washington and Western Washington University.

November 6 seminar recording “Framing Active Learning: How “Soft Skills” Enable a Supportive Classroom Culture and Facilitate Student Effort”

Active Enough? Screens and Active Learning Classes / Ian Schnee

Ian Schnee, Department of Philosophy

Ian Schnee, UW Department of Philosophy
October 9, 2018

There is significant evidence that the use of phones and other screens in class negatively impact student learning. There is also a great amount of evidence that classroom response technologies (CRT), like “clickers” and Poll Everywhere, positively impact student learning. Learning technology companies and universities (including UW) have largely switched to bring-your-own device (BYOD) models of CRT. However, no one has studied whether the fact that this model necessitates screen use in class takes away from the positive benefits of the active-learning allowed by CRT. Dr. Schnee’s work is a three-year project aimed at answering that question.

Ian Schnee is a Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Washington. His research interests include epistemology and the philosophy of film and video games as well as pedagogy.

Questions about the series?

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