Current Research Projects

Fostering Peer and Student/Faculty Rapport in Online Educational Environments

Research Team: Shayna A Rusticus, Brandon J. Justus, Bhawan Mann, Amanda Dumoulin, and Tanisha Bali

This mixed methods project is currently underway.

The goal of this project is to identify the quantity and quality of interactions that occur between student peers and between students and faculty in an online learning environment, and to identify how the quality of these interactions can be fostered or improved. In the first study, we will qualitatively explore, using student focus groups, student perceptions of the type, frequency, importance and quality of their online interactions among their peers and with their instructors, with a secondary goal of identifying any important strategies to consider as being important for the formation of rapport that are not currently discussed in the literature. In the second study, we will use an online survey, with both quantitative and qualitative items, to gather a larger and more diverse sample of participants and query them again on their perceptions of the type, frequency, importance and quality of their online interactions among their peers and with their instructors, being sure to gather data on existing strategies identified in the literature for developing rapport and the new strategies identified from study one.

The Impact of Course Format on Student Perceptions of the Classroom Learning Environment and Teamwork 

Research Team: Shayna. A. Rusticus, Michael Wiechers, & Leonardo Landaverde-Umana 


Traditionally, education has been largely delivered in an in-person format; however, an increasing number of courses are being delivered entirely online or with a blend of online and in-person components. These formats differ along various dimensions, such as the quantity and quality of interpersonal interactions and connections, which will likely lead to different student experiences. Using a sample of 200 undergraduate student responses from an online survey, we compared five different course formats (in-person, synchronous online, asynchronous online, blended with alternating weeks, and blended exam only) on students’ perceptions of various elements of their learning environment, including teaching presence, cognitive presence, social presence, sense of community, and teamwork. A between groups ANOVA demonstrated significant differences for seven of the eight variables examined. In each case, the in-person format was rated the most positively and the blended exam only format tended to receive the poorest ratings. Overall, our results suggest that live interaction among students, and between students and instructors, whether it is from an in-person format or a blended alternating format, appears to be linked to more positive perceptions of the social learning environment.  

A Systematic Review of Validity Evidence for Measures Assessing Peer Perceptions of Teamwork Performance and Functioning in Classroom Setting 

Research Team: Shayna A. Rusticus, Amanda Dumoulin, Brandon Justus, Rachna Minhas, and Kayla Garvin

This project is currently underway.

The goal of this project is to identify self-report measures assessing teamwork performance/functioning in classroom settings and to evaluate the validity evidence available for these measures.

Attitudes Towards Working in Student Teams: A Systematic Review of Validity Evidence

Research Team: Shayna A. Rusticus & Leonardo Landaverde-Umana


Working in small groups of peers is a common activity in classroom settings; however, students are mixed on whether they perceive teamwork positively or negatively. Being able to assess students’ attitudes towards teamwork can help identify facilitators and barriers towards working with peers and can contribute to fostering a more positive learning environment. In this paper, we present a systematic review that identifies measures that are available to assess student attitudes toward teamwork and the validity evidence for these measures.  The scope of this review consisted of studies that provided quantitative self-report data relevant to adolescent or adult students’ attitudes towards working in a team of peers in a classroom setting. We excluded studies that focused on interprofessional medical teams (clinicians and students), workplace teams, and sports teams. We also excluded studies that focused on the assessment of team performance rather than general attitudes about working in a team. We conducted our search through to May 27, 2021. Of the 15,346 initial citations, 10 studies, representing eight unique measures, were included in this review. An overall validity percentage score was calculated for each of the studies, with the average score equal to 46%. The Feelings Toward Group Work Questionnaire Greek version (Goudas et al., 2009) achieved the highest score at 88%. Taken together, these findings provide guidance for those looking for a measure of teamwork attitudes.  

This paper has been submitted to Social Psychology of Education

Trends and Disruptions in Teaching as a Result of the COVID-19 Pandemic: What was Lost and Gained?

Research Team: Daniel D. Pratt, Amanda R. Dumoulin, Shayna A. Rusticus, Sandra Jarvis Selinger ,Elizabeth Armstrong, Holly C. Gooding


Background: We have gone through one of the most profound and sudden changes in health professions education in living memory. Students and faculty, suddenly and without choice, found themselves in a mandatory online learning environment at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. The purpose of this paper is to explore whether requiring a change to virtual teaching disrupted or shifted health educators’ orientations to teaching.

Methods: This is an instrumental case study of the educators enrolled in the Harvard Macy Institute Program for Educators in the Health Professions. We used the Teaching Perspectives Inventory data for six consecutive cohorts (2016-21), resulting in a sample of 815 educators.

Results: Four patterns emerged from this data relating to dominant teaching perspectives, starting with trends over time and concluding with sharp changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data shows how educators’ pedagogical identity was disrupted in several ways and demonstrates the impact of mandating a switch to a virtual context for teaching.

Conclusions: If we are to help people adapt to virtual contexts, while also trying to enact their pedagogical identity, we must consider physical, social and temporal contexts of teaching and learning.

This paper is under review at Medical Teacher

Narratives of Empowerment through Attaining a Black Belt in Mixed Martial Arts  

Research Team: Shayna A. Rusticus, Amanda R. Dumoulin 

In this qualitative study, we explored the experiences of 10 adults who trained in mixed martial arts (MMA) to understand the meaning they ascribed to attaining the black belt and their martial arts journal overall. Using a conventional content analysis, four themes were derived from the data: importance of the black belt, benefits of training in MMA, dealing with injuries, and being part of the MMA community. Training in MMA was very positive, with both individual benefits (improved physical and mental health, skill development, and personal growth) and interpersonal benefits (relationship development and sense of community) being reported. Self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) and goal setting theory (Locke & Latham, 2002) are used to discuss participants’ motivation in their pursuit of the black belt and continued training. 

This paper is under review at Martial Arts Studies

Does Level of Teaching and Teaching Experience Indicate a Teacher’s Teaching Perspective? A Descriptive Analysis Using the Teaching Perspective Inventory 

Research team: Amanda R. Dumoulin, Brandon J. Justus, Shayna A. Rusticus, and Daniel D. Pratt


The Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI) assesses teacher’s beliefs, intentions, and actions as they relate to the five teaching perspectives of transmission, apprenticeship, nurturing, developmental, and social reform. In this study we explored whether there was a relationship between teachers’ dominant teaching perspectives and both level of teaching (elementary to graduate) and teaching experience (novice to very experienced) in a sample of 54,176 respondents from Canada and the United States. A chi-square test of independence revealed a statistically significant and medium-sized relationship between teaching perspective and level of teaching, with a nurturing perspective being more common among elementary and secondary teachers and an apprenticeship perspective being more common among undergraduate and graduate teachers. A second chi-square test of independent revealed a statistically significant but small relationship between teaching perspective and teaching experience. All experience levels had the same rank ordering of perspectives: nurturing, apprenticeship, developmental, transmission, then social reform. Understanding patterns and diversity in teaching perspectives can help institutions foster faculty development to provide a more personalized approach to supporting their educators, allowing for the benefits to be felt by the students. 

The paper has been submitted for publication and is currently under review.

Dumoulin, A. R., Justus, B. J., Rusticus, S. A., & Pratt, D. D. (2021, June). Teaching perspectives are related to level of education and teaching experience [Poster]. 82nd Canadian Psychological Association Annual National Convention, Virtual.

Adapting the Employable Skills Self-Efficacy Survey

Research team: Amanda R. Dumoulin and Shayna A. Rusticus

Based on the findings of the Employable Skills Self-Efficacy Survey (ESSES) Validation Study, we are revising the ESSES. Items have been added and revised based on their factor loadings, subscale reliability, and theoretical relevance.

We are currently collecting data for pilot for this project. If you would like to participate, access the survey through SONA.