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    Taking Time to Ponder

    Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer said something on this week’s Sunday Morning news show that caught my attention and put me on a reflective path.

    Langer said that human beings are unique in their ability to think about the future, which leads us to be thinkers about our unique and collective futures (Weisfogel & Ross, 2020).  While recognizing that plans create an illusion of control and that plans are guesses, these uncertain times call for us to contemplate and hope about what is to come.  Langer goes on to say, “But what we need to recognize is that if something leads us in a different direction, that could end up even better for us.”  So, in other words, by taking time to ponder, we each may be able to find a pathway toward a different but perhaps more enjoyable destination.

    I thought about this all day.

    Dr. Smith listening to Research in Education graduate students
    Dr. Smith listening to Research in Education graduate students describe their research proposal posters

    Since returning to teaching four years ago, I have focused my research in three areas.  First, I have continued my career-long work in critically assessing the impact of Strategic Enrolment Management on the twin goals of achieving institutional health and student success.  Second, I renewed my interest in the international student experience by exploring student perspectives on the way we teach in our colleges and universities and how we can improve our teaching of culturally and linguistically diverse international students.  Third, after coauthoring two open educational resource (OER) textbooks and making increasing use of OERs in my teaching, I am beginning to focus on how we can achieve deep and interdisciplinary learning by enhancing our use of OERs.

    While each of these research threads are different, it occurred to me that there is common ground between them; namely, the amplification of the student voice.  If ever there was a time to pay more attention to student views, it is now.  The COVID-19 Pandemic has left so many of us questioning the future.  This includes students, faculty and staff, and those who lead our postsecondary educational institutions.

    Psychiatrist Pavan Madan, who was also interviewed on Sunday Morning, spoke about the anxiety that is impacting us all.  Dr. Madan suggests that “we put our big dreams aside for now and focus on the small, more manageable details of daily life” (Weisfogel & Ross, 2020).

    So, in this public space, let me say that during the balance of the time we have in the Pandemic and for the time to follow, I will commit to amplifying the student voice in all I do. 

    If this interests you, consider joining me (Clayton.Smith@uwindsor.ca).  I am thinking that both the journey and the destination will be quite enjoyable.

    Clayton Smith

    Weisfogel, A. & Ross, C. (27 December 2020).  Going to Plan B: When COVID pulls the rug out from under you.  Sunday Morning.  New York: CBS.  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/going-to-plan-b-when-covid-pulls-the-rug-out-from-under-you/?ftag=CNM-00-10aab8c&linkId=108041071

    Achieving Personal Mastery with SEM

    In idealistic-pragmatist, Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline (1990), one of the five disciplines is personal mastery (the others are systems thinking, mental models, building shared vision, and team learning). Senge writes, “Organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs” (p. 139)   So, for our institutions to grow, each of us must find our own path to personal mastery.

    Senge describes personal mastery as “the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively” (Ibid, p. 7).

    Kirsty Wadsley, head of widening participation at the London School of Economics and representative of the UK-based Association of University Administrators, presents a research poster at the 2017 AACRAO SEM Conference
    Kirsty Wadsley, head of widening participation at the London School of Economics and representative of the UK-based Association of University Administrators, presents a research poster at the 2017 AACRAO SEM Conference

    For enrollment managers, one of the ways of achieving personal mastery is through developing professional competencies and proficiencies in Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM).  For those new to SEM, here is one of my favorite definitions:

    Enrollment management is a comprehensive and coordinated process that enables a college [or university] to identify enrollment goals that are allied with its mission, its strategic plan, its environment, and its resources, and to reach those goals through the effective integration of administrative processes, student services, curriculum planning, and market analysis.” (Kerlin, 2008)

    This can be achieved by reading some of the SEM classics and the SEM Quarterly journal, or by continuing the development of personal mastery by engaging with colleagues engaged in their own professional development. 

    Some will choose graduate programs or courses/experiences that culminate in a certification of some type.  But for many of us, it is about coming to the AACRAO Strategic Enrollment Management Conference, which is celebrating this year its 30th conference in Las Vegas on October 25-28, 2020.  Topics typically include: SEM culture, leveraging technology and data, career development, student success, and reaching optimal enrollment.

    An important way to contribute to your own personal mastery in SEM is to actively participate in the conference.  Currently, conference planners are promoting a Call for Proposals, where you can submit proposals for a best practice session, a poster, round-table, or a stop and share discussion on SEM hot topics, SEM research, or innovative ways institutions are implementing SEM. Proposals from multiple institutions or types of institutions are encouraged, as are proposals from Canadian and international institutions.

    If you are thinking of submitting a proposal and want to discuss some ideas, send me an email at Clayton.Smith@uwindsor.ca  (I am the director of the AACRAO SEM Conference!).

    Whether you submit a proposal or not, let me encourage you to join us in Las Vegas this fall to enhance your personal mastery with SEM.

    -Clayton Smith

    Kerlin, C. (2008).  Community college roadmap for the enrollment management journey.  College and University, 83(4,), p. 11.

    Seng. P. M. (1990).  The fifth discipline The art and practice of the learning organization.  New York: Currency, Doubleday.

    One Tree Does not Make a Forest

    Reciprocal Learning Program alumni with program sponsors and co-directors Dr. Shijing Xu, University of Windsor, and Dr. Michael Connelly, University of Toronto

    Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 6th Annual International Conference on West-East Reciprocal Learning in Education held at the University of Windsor. It was a spectacular event!

    Reflecting on the event, co-director Dr. Shijing Xu, said “one tree does not make a forest.” By this she meant that it takes many partners to achieve success. And what a success it has been.

    A true Canada-China partnership

    Statistics tell us that 233 students from Southwest University in Chongqing, China and 100 students from the University of Windsor have participated in the joint Reciprocal Learning Program that sees teacher candidates travel to China or Canada to experience the way teaching is done in another country, and to take in a little culture.

    I can remember when it all started 10 years ago. Drs. Xu and Connelly were so hopeful. They believed that a peaceful world could be created by getting to know each other better.

    The alumni couldn’t agree more. David Potocek said it was “stepping out of our comfort zone.” Taylor Paré agreed by saying we were “voices heard around the world” and “no matter where in the world you find yourself, its all about getting a child to smile at you.”

    Last week we remembered. And now it is time to ensure that more teacher candidates in China and Canada benefit from this outstanding program. Let’s continue planting more trees!

    -Clayton Smith

    Dr. Smith along with presenters and volunteers at the 6th Annual International Conference on West-East Reciprocal Learning in Education Conference.

    Rowing Against the Wind

    For many, the road to writing a master’s thesis is challenging and often filled with minefields. Now, imagine what it is like to write your first major publishable-quality academic paper in a language other than your native language. This will give you a sense as to the pathway Yuehua Zhu encountered on her way to defending her master’s thesis last week.

    Yeuhua took my Research in Education class a year ago and, after learning about the magic of educational research, decided to pursue a master’s thesis. This was not easy for her. She gave it a great deal of thought and, in the end, began her journey. But she was rowing against the wind!

    She used all of the support that was available, including weekly meetings with me and frequent visits to the Leddy Library Writing Support Desk. She also asked for feedback from her student colleagues, which helped a great deal.

    Two of the members of Yuehua’s thesis committee were also of great help to her. Drs. Ma and Zhou provided wonderful advice to her on directions her research might go to achieve her stated purposes.

    Yeuhua Zhu has completed a thesis which fills an important gap in the research literature by showing how student political participation impacts social integration, student sense of belonging, and English proficiency; all of which contribute to Chinese-origin student retention and success at Canadian post-secondary institutions.

    Look for her thesis, “Enhancing Social Integration in Canadian Post-Secondary Educational Institutions for Students of Chinese-Origin through Political Participation.” It is outstanding.

    Yuehua Zhu with her University of Windsor thesis committee members,
    Dr. Clayton Smith, Dr. George Zhou, and Dr. Zhenzhong Ma

    -Clayton Smith

    Taking My Breath Away!

    Throughout the summer, it has been my pleasure to enjoy working with two wonderful undergraduate students, Miranda Pecoraro and Renan Paulino.  Each contributed in meaningful ways to our ongoing research projects that are examining student views on the promising practices for teaching linguistically and culturally diverse post-secondary international students.

    Miranda Pecoraro is a third-year Social Work student from Windsor, Ontario who is in our Outstanding Scholars program.  She has been working with me for the past three semesters. The Outstanding Scholars program “provides an exceptional and supportive undergraduate learning experience for high-achieving students, emphasizing depth and breadth of research-based academic inquiry, strong and ongoing faculty/student mentorship, effective communication of research achievement, and achievement of external recognition of academic excellence.”  Check out this video where Outstanding Scholar students explain the OS program in their own words.

    Renan Paulino is a third-year Education student from Brazil who joined us as part of the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship program, which places undergraduate students at Canadian universities from a wide variety of countries (e.g., Brazil, China, European Union, Germany, India, Israel, Mexico, UK, US) to engage in faculty-led research projects.  The focus of the Mitacs program is to create awareness of the leading research being done at Canadian universities and to enhance linkages between top international students and Canadian university faculty members. Here is a video on the Mitacs Canada Globalink Research Internship program. Interestingly, this is Renan’s second international exchange in Canada (the first was in St. Johns, Newfoundland while he was a high school exchange student), and he is considering returning for graduate education in the near future…hopefully with us!

    Dr. Smith enjoying some end of summer’19 moments with
    Miranda Pecoraro and Renan Paulino

    Undergraduate research is one of the “high-impact practices,” originally identified by George Kuh (2008), that can be life-changing.  They “demand considerable time and effort, facilitate learning outside of the classroom, require meaningful interactions with faculty and students, encourage collaboration with diverse others, and provide frequent and substantial feedback.”  Students who participate in high-impact practices experience a more complete university student experience. Those that engage in undergraduate research frequently develop strong relationships with student peers and faculty members.

    Our students participated in writing projects that led to a peer-reviewed published book chapter and research poster, and a journal article in press on the topic of “Variability by Individual Student Characteristics of Student Satisfaction with Promising International Student Teaching Practices.”  They also developed a workshop on this topic for our upcoming University of Windsor GATAcademy.  Further, they are facilitating an international student-learning community project that is continuing to investigate the difference in student opinions between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and non-STEM students on this topic. 

    They really take my breath away!

    I cannot wait to welcome more undergraduate students into our research group!

    Clayton Smith

    References:

    Kuh, G. D. (2008).  High-impact practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter.  Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

    Smith, C., Zhou, G., Potter, M., & Wang, D. (2019).  Connecting best practices for teaching linguistically and culturally diverse international students with international student satisfaction and student perceptions of learning.  In James, W. B., & Cobonoglu, C. (Eds.), Advances in Global Education and Research Volume 3, (252-265).  Sarasota, FL: Association of North America Higher Education International.  https://scholar.uwindsor.ca/educationpub/24/

    Smith, C., Zhou, G., Potter, M., & Wang, D. (2019).  Connecting best practices for teaching linguistically and culturally diverse international students with international student satisfaction and student perceptions of learning. Poster presented at the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Conference, Winnipeg, MB.

    Ireland Take-Aways

    While in Ireland last week, I became aware of the concept of “take-aways” rather than the North American term “to-go,” and so I thought I would reflect on a few take-aways from our recent, mostly sunny, trip to Ireland.

    Dr. Smith presenting the results of the international student teaching study to the Ireland International Conference on Education, 2019
    Dr. Smith presenting the results of the international student teaching study to the Ireland International Conference on Education, 2019

    Let me start with my reason for visiting the emerald isle.

    I had the pleasure of presenting a paper on some research my research team has recently completed on “Connecting Best Practices for Teaching Linguistically and Culturally-Diverse International Students with International Student Satisfaction and Student Perceptions of Learning” at the Ireland International Conference on Education, which was held in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, a short distance from Dublin.  It was well received and left me reflecting on how I might collaborate with researchers in other countries on this topic.  So many are interested in learning more about how we might provide a student voice in our research on the practices for teaching international students.

    This is a small conference (about 100 participants) that left me with a developing network of research colleagues from around the world–all with an interest in enhancing education within the post-secondary education sector.  Here are a few highlights:

    • Gabriel-Miro Muntean, from Dublin City University spoke about the EU Horizon 2020 NEWTON Project’s use of innovative technologies and enhanced learning methods and tools to create or inter-connect existing state-of-the-art teaching labs and to build a pan-European learning network platform to encourage more students to consider STEM careers.  While only a few years in, it shows great potential for turning on a new generation or STEM scientists and practitioners.
    • Michael Plummer, from MAPco Education Consultant Group, shared a bit about misguided public criticism of education, and special education in particular.  Findings from his study revealed that there is a continuing lack of knowledge by the public on the issues around special education.  He also said “You can teach about the profession, but you cannot teach someone how to be a teacher.  Teaching is a complex art, and not everyone can do it.”  Very powerful stuff.  Really made me think about the individual characteristics that contribute to inspired teaching.
    • Deborah Patterson and Susan Carlile, from Portland State University, intrigued us with a session called “Nags, Bitches and Beauties: Women in Leadership” in which they shared the challenges facing women leaders, and recommended development of formal and informal mentoring program, use of a network of support within and outside the organization, and increased training for allies.  I have seen many of these challenges first hand, and was impressed with their body of research.  Hopefully, it will lead to action in the academy to enhance the way we support women along the way to leadership roles.
    • Adam Unwin, from University College London, spoke about some themes from his book with John Yandell, Rethinking Education: Whose Knowledge is it Anyway?  In particular Unwin stressed the challenges associated with the impact of Neoliberal measurement approaches, which have done a lot to “deform the landscape of schooling”  in the United Kingdom.  It made me reflect on how we can address this approach as the Ontario Government pushes performance funding within the post-secondary sector in the next several years.  He even gave me a copy of his book!

    But you can’t just go to Ireland for work, so we also took in some of the sights.

    We toured the Wicklow Mountains, otherwise known locally as the Dublin Mountains, which borders the counties of Dublin, Wexford, and Carlow.  Of course, they really are not mountains.  Our tour guide told us at 561 meters, they are not tall enough to be mountains.  But are they ever beautiful and mountain-like!

    Wicklow Mountains, Ireland

    We also visited the western part of the country and took in side trips to Cliffs of Moher and the City of Galway.  The Cliffs of Moher are really impressive.  They stretch eight kilometers, reaching a height of 214 meters, with a vista embracing the Aran Islands.  Almost thought I was in Newfoundland.  The warm–we were told they are not always warm–winds whipping across the landscape took us back to the Harry Potter films, one of which was filmed here.

    Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
    Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

    Galway is wonderful.  Full of cultural charm, with lots of shopping and, of course, more restaurants and pubs than one can count.

    Then there is Dublin itself.  So much history with the experience of nationhood so near the surface of many conversations.  Some of what tops the list include Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church, the National Museum of Ireland, St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity College, and the huge Phoenix Park that includes the Dublin Zoo, home to some very famous lions.

    Our tour guides (two of the three were named John) used a wonderful style of speaking that I think I will try to use more in my teaching.  Basically, they introduced what we would do, then told a story or two about what we would see, and then summarized before moving on to a new slice of the tour.  Then, at the end, they shared some of the highlights.  While it may be something that is just present in the Irish approach to interpersonal communications, it really worked, and was enjoyed by everyone.

    Perhaps our true take-aways centre on the people, including the colleagues we met at the conference along with the native Irish we came to embrace through our travels in this breath-taking land.

    I think we will be coming back.

    Clayton Smith