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Dr. Beth Towle
Dr. Beth Towle

SU's Towle Selected Among Inaugural USM Elkins Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Fellows

SALISBURY, MD---Dr. Beth Towle, Salisbury University assistant professor of English and associate director of the University Writing Center, will join 10 colleagues from throughout the University System of Maryland (USM) this fall as a member of the inaugural cohort of USM Elkins Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Fellows.

Created by the USM’s William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation and named in honor of Dr. Wilson H. Elkins, former president of the University of Maryland, College Park, the program seeks to support and elevate faculty research on teaching practice.

“Through her role with the University Writing Center and as chair of SU’s English Assessment Committee, Dr. Towle is at the forefront of not only working with students, but helping to determine how SU can better serve their needs,” said SU President Carolyn Ringer Lepre. “To be among the inaugural cohort of the Elkins Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Fellows is a fitting honor for someone so dedicated to ensuring students succeed at SU and beyond.”

The scholarship of teaching and learning focuses on systematic investigation of student learning, instruction and teaching innovations. Findings from these studies can help inform educators as they decide which instructional methods to use with students as they design courses, helping to improve student performance and contributing to the knowledge base related to effective educational practices.

Each member of the inaugural cohort will be engaged in individual research. Towle’s will further the work done by SU’s English Assessment Committee, which she chairs. Early efforts included revising departmental outcomes for majors and conducting a critical thinking assessment for students.

The next step is focused on community building and ensuring a sense of belonging for current students and recent graduates. Research at this stage will include a survey of students and recent alumni, followed by focus groups that will allow them to discuss their experiences at SU and share ideas for future engagement.

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students continued to feel isolated, Towle said, adding that she hopes this research will lead to methods and strategies to alleviate that going forward. The ultimate goal is to increase retention rates, providing students with a better chance of earning their degrees and succeeding after graduation.

“One of the things that is really clear among first-year students is how important a sense of belonging is for all students,” she said, noting that much of her previous research has focused on first-generation students. “Students tell us all the time how important that is.”

Other topics among fellows in the inaugural Elkins Scholarship of Teaching and Learning cohort include faculty engagement with artificial intelligence and community building in online courses. Its members will meet twice during the 2023-24 academic year to share emerging insights from their studies.

Learn more about opportunities to Make Tomorrow Yours at the SU website.