Written by on March 2, 2018

The Kennedy Library encourages all faculty to apply for the Learn by Doing Scholar Award!

The application period for the Kennedy Library’s Learn by Doing Scholar Award is almost over! Apply by March 5 at 5 p.m. on our website!

The Learn by Doing Scholar Award is an annual award given to faculty members by the Kennedy Library, recognizing the faculty and research that advance Cal Poly’s philosophy of Learn by Doing. The library awards two Learn by Doing Scholar Awards each year: one award for completed research with a grant of $2000, and another award for in-progress research with a grant of $1000. The awards acknowledge scholarly research that goes beyond descriptive examples of Learn by Doing, directly contribute to the understanding and practice of Learn by Doing, and model a teaching practice to other educators.

To share their experience completing research exemplary of Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing, two past recipients of the Learn by Doing Scholar award have agreed to share their stories with the Kennedy Library.

2016 awardee Jim Widmann, Department Chair of Mechanical Engineering at Cal Poly, received the Learn by Doing Scholar Award for his research project Inquiry-based Learning Activities in Dynamics.

“Dynamics is a difficult class for students because there’s a lot of things that are not very intuitive,” Widmann said. “It’s difficult conceptually and analytically, you have to be very precise.” With his research project, Widmann and his colleague Brian Self aimed to find a new way of teaching dynamics concepts through inquiry-based activities, granting students a more hands-on approach to visualizing concepts. “Part of this learning cycle is that you make the student make a prediction, that has to be written down and discussed in a group,” Widmann explained. “Then they do the experiment, half the students turn out to be wrong and they have to figure out why and it becomes very motivating for students to figure out why.” Widmann worked with both graduate and undergraduate students with the program, and the Inquiry-based learning activities were found to be incredibly effective.

J. Kevin Taylor, Department Chair for the Department of Education at Cal Poly won the award in 2015 for his work Adapted Physical Activity Design Projects: A Collaboration Between Kinesiology and Engineering, which examined the impact of working on engineering projects for facilitating physical disabled individuals.

This project was a collaboration with David Hey, Brian Self, Lynne Slivovsky, and James Widmann. To determine how to better prepare students for working in professional fields that require multidisciplinary knowledge and activity, students were assigned different projects with teams of students from different academic preparations. To this end, the kinesiology department and the engineering department collaborated. “We constructed multi-disciplinary teams of students, consisting of three engineering students and one kinesiology student, and they had to design and build a piece of equipment for somebody with a disability,” Taylor explained. “We’d been doing the work for about 10 years, and then we were able to examine the impact of these projects on the students thanks to qualitative research.” The research team found that it was multidisciplinary physical activity-focused projects that were better preparing students for working in multidisciplinary professional settings. The students were also found to have increased levels of motivation to complete their projects within such teams.

A winner of the Learn by Doing Scholar Award from the previous year was Lynn Metcalf, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Orfalea College of Business. Her research was The Impact of Peer Mentoring on Marketing Content Mastery. Metcalf championed the research proposal, taught in the program, and acquired the necessary funding and resources to put the project together.

“We gathered our data in several different ways,” Metcalf explained. “We used peer mentors and we had them analyze student leadership skills through leadership inventories, and we also looked and before and after measures of how much marketing knowledge students came into the class with and left with.” Metcalf’s research team also examined the learning experience of the students, and left with the findings that peer mentors did in fact create better learning environments and increased retention of marketing concepts for students.

These research projects are outstanding examples of the pedagogy of Learn by Doing, demonstrating new research that will allow students at Cal Poly to reach new academic heights. These research projects and the faculty behind them have directly contributed to the understanding and practice of Learn by Doing, and models a teaching practice to other educators.

For more information and to apply, please visit: http://lib.calpoly.edu/faculty/learn-by-doing/

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