History Lecturer Wins Grant to Review Learning

A lecturer in the Department of History has earned a faculty eCommons research grant to explore ways to improve critical thinking and writing skills.

Last month, Dr. Kim Breuer received the grant from Academic Partnerships, which is contributing $100,000 next year to the nationwide grant program. She said the grant money will be used to review how students in freshmen-level history courses (HIST 1311 and 1312) are learning and retaining knowledge.

“We want to investigate if the use of journals and discussions boards produces better learning outcomes,” Breuer said.

In both face-to-face and online classes, students are required to journal about the course content and reading material as well as participate in discussions. Breuer said instructors in face-to-face classes typically guide discussions; graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) leading an online class can provide feedback and monitoring a student’s understanding and development of the material.

“Combining journaling with discussions seems to produce the best outcome,” she said. “What we are doing in this study is comparing outcomes in classes which had discussion only or journals and discussions combined. I am increasingly converging online and face-to-face pedagogy, taking what works best from both, to increase student skills and learning outcomes.”

Breuer said her experiments with classroom pedagogy have produced promising results. She said she has even included small group discussions within a class as large as 140 students, and has noted how the social support within class enhances learning.

“I’ve seen where this type of activity pulls up below average students to a level where they see an improvement, sometimes by a whole letter grade,” she said.

Breuer, who has taught at UT Arlington since 2005, said the research grant will help she and her colleagues track improvements over time and investigate which combinations of learning activities work best.

Breuer is one of four UT Arlington faculty members to receive the award. Drs. Joohi Lee (Education), Beth Mancini (Nursing) and Jean Ashwill (Nursing) were also named grant recipients last month.

Academic Partnerships partners with UT Arlington and other universities to deliver full-degree programs online.

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