Assessing Instruction in the TILE Classrooms

Assessing Instruction in the TILE Classrooms

What do students and instructors really think about TILE courses? How do we know if active learning is effective? Dr. Sam Van Horne can help us address these questions and more.

Dr. Van Horne started working with academic technologies at the University of Iowa as a graduate assistant in ITS. After earning his Ph.D., he accepted the position of Assessment Coordinator with the Office of the Provost and ITS, where he conducts studies on the TILE initiative and presents his findings in journals and at conferences. 

Van Horne’s first studies looked at how instructors incorporated the TILE tools and technology into their teaching strategies and the extent to which students perceived those strategies to be effective.  So did students notice a difference? Was there any correlation between student perception of the course and grade outcome?

“We found that the factors associated with successful learning outcomes were related to the ability to collaborate and that the frequency of group activities was predictive of learning outcomes over and above final grades” Van Horne explains.

Dr. Van Horne also notes that a student’s interest in taking additional courses in the TILE classrooms was related to the link between TILE’s unique technologies and the course design.  On average, if students perceived a strong connection between the course material and the TILE space, they were more likely to want to take more TILE classes in the future.

“Students feel that the more they collaborate with others and the more they feel like the tools in the room are propelling their learning, the more likely it is that they want to continue to take courses in the TILE classrooms” says Van Horne.

The notion that student success was affected by the instructor’s ability to effectively design instruction for a TILE room, in addition to using the technology fluidly, helped shape the way that TILE Essentials and Accelerator labs train instructors. It became clear that faculty members needed more specific training on the technology of TILE classrooms and they needed it more frequently.  TILE training sessions also increased the focus on incorporating the technology of the rooms into the instructor’s course design. 

More recently, Dr. Van Horne and his colleagues have been presenting their latest research findings from a follow-up study that looked at the role of department administration in TILE courses.  They interviewed 13 Department Executive Officers (DEOs) across the University of Iowa to inquire about factors that may potentially be impeding a broader adoption of TILE courses. 

Van Horne and his colleagues identified a few important issues that may help to explain how different university departments approach the idea of adopting courses in TILE classrooms. 

“Some of the DEOs in the Humanities perceive that the TILE classrooms were designed for problem-solving types of course and were unsure of how to integrate a Humanities-based course, which might be centered on interpretation or complexifying issues” he explains.

Additionally, some departments are concerned that they could not offer multiple TILE courses, which often have fewer students, without creating larger class sizes in other courses in order to maintain the number of students in department courses.

So what can we do to help address these issues?

Well, Van Horne sees a strong interest in continuing to develop and promote strategies that are grounded in active learning and that are inclusive of different disciplines. He also underscores the importance of open communication between department administrators and their faculty, who can share course learning outcomes and personal experiences.

On December 6th Dr. Sam Van Horne leads a TILE Accelerator lab where he will discuss results from his research and how students and instructors can overcome the obstacles they may face with TILE instruction. Click here for more information.

Learn more about Van Horne’s research and assessment in the TILE Classrooms on our resources page.