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Monday, May 22, 2017 - 2:00pm

Are you learning what I’m teaching?

It’s a startling question, and it’s also the title of a poster presented last year at Mercy’s Thought Leaders Forum on Student Success. The poster, authored by a team of educators in the Office for Teaching Excellence and Engaged Learning (OTEEL), highlighted a process known as Pulse on Learning, or POL, a new approach to engaging students as partners in optimizing the classroom experience. Now the same team—Victoria Mondelli, Mitchell Fried, Matt Lewis, Tim Schaffer, and Gloria Schlisselberg—has been tapped to lead a roundtable discussion of their findings at Pace University’s Retention Conference on June 16, 2017.

The POL initiative was first piloted at Mercy in 2010, using focus groups of students in the School of Health and Natural Sciences to gather data and input about their perceptions of the learning environment. While this technique is not new, the group’s innovative spin is beginning to generate excitement about new possibilities for enhancing student learning and success.

“Typically students are given an evaluation sheet at the end of the semester—a method that has value, but comes late in the process,” said Victoria Mondelli, Executive Director of OTEEL. “Our early-term survey happens about 3 or 4 weeks into the semester. We ask students for their impressions of different aspects of the learning experience, such as how the class is structured, whether they’re getting sufficient opportunities to practice skills and acquire knowledge, how engaging the instructor is, and so forth.”

The survey tool is optimized for smartphones and tablets, so students can complete it quickly and anonymously. Their feedback can be reviewed, interpreted, and relayed back to instructors within 36 hours. “Just a month into the semester, professors can access helpful feedback that allows them make adjustments in real time—before they risk losing student engagement,” said Mondelli. “We want to support faculty by giving them not just the findings, but also simple ways to make changes now, not next semester. This also helps students perceive the faculty—and the school—as responsive to their needs. And that goes a long way toward keeping students engaged and on track, right through graduation.”

For those instructors who opt to make adjustments based on survey results, the team provides individualized support to help them redesign their teaching strategies to accommodate student needs. “A lot of students want more interactive methods of learning,” said Mondelli. So a class may benefit from innovative models such has flipped classrooms, simulations, case studies, role playing, and other interactive methods.

The Pace Retention Conference will offer a unique opportunity for Mercy to share best practices with other educators who are working to keep students engaged. “Mercy is demonstrating the vast potential of engaging students as partners in the learning process,” said Mondelli. “Effective teaching leads to better learning outcomes. It’s a major lynchpin of student success. It’s working well for us and we want to share it with other institutions.”

Mondelli added, “Our team comprises four phenomenal instructional designers who are teachers themselves. They have an incredible depth of expertise, plus they are approachable, knowledgeable and helpful. Their command of evidence-based practices and the body of teaching and learning literature is a vast resource, which the Mercy faculty are free to mine on a regular basis. We’d love to connect with more educators who want to explore tapping this resource and working with us to optimize the classroom experience.”