Faith on campus: Understanding the impact of religious identity on student learning and inclusion

Over the past two decades, increased attention has been accorded in the popular press to the role of religion in the lives of post-secondary students (Finder, 2007). While SoTL researchers and course instructors have rightly examined disparities in student satisfaction, engagement, and inclusion in relation to race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status, religious affiliation constitutes another important – yet often overlooked – form of identity that may be associated with student outcomes. Those students from marginalized religious groups have been referred to as “the forgotten minority” within SoTL research (Bowman & Smedley, 2013). In order to address this gap in the literature, the goal of this research project is to explore the diverse spectrum of student religious identities found at a public, non-denominational post-secondary institution, and to determine the impact religious identity may have on the student experience both within the university classroom and in the broader campus environment. Utilizing a mixed method approach for data collection and analysis, including surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews, this study will examine the perspectives of students identifying as religious or spiritual on their learning experiences and sense of inclusion within a nominally secular post-secondary institution.

Authors: Michael Agnew

Global justice inquiry and the development of a global justice hub

In Winter 2014, the Arts & Science program offered a new, interdisciplinary inquiry course devoted to global justice for the first time. (See the course description here). This unique course, which involves students and faculty from across campus, alumni, and community partners, was developed by an interdisciplinary committee based on an initial idea by Arts & Science Program founding Director Herb Jenkins. Preliminary research, conducted by Beth Marquis & Vivian Tam, sought to explore effective means of teaching for global justice in undergraduate classes, and ultimately informed the design of this course. A subsequent research project aims to understand how enrolled students understand global justice and experience learning about it in the course through in depth, qualitative interviews and an assessment of student course work.

Relevant Publications:
Marquis, E. & Tam, V. (in press). Developing an interdisciplinary inquiry course on global justice: An inquiry-informed, cross-campus, collaborative approach. Accepted for inclusion in J.M. Carfora & P. Blessinger (eds.), Inquiry-Based Learning for Multidisciplinary Programs.

Authors: Beth Marquis, Abraham Redda, Vivian Tam, Louise Twells

Past Research

AODA and the accessibility of teaching and learning at McMaster University

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is provincial legislation that seeks to remove barriers to access for people with disabilities in all areas of life—including education. This longitudinal research project seeks to consider the extent to which this legislation is delivering on its promise by exploring (through qualitative interviews and reflective journaling) the ways in which various members of the McMaster community perceive and experience the relative accessibility of teaching and learning at the institution over the AODA implementation period. Specific, follow up work is also considering what the insights of participants in this study suggest in terms of developing effective educational development connected to accessibility.

Relevant Publications:
Marquis, E., Jung, B., Fudge-Schormans, A., Vajoczki, S., Wilton, R., Baptiste, S. & Joshi, A. (2012). Creating, resisting or neglecting change: Exploring the complexities of accessible education for students with disabilities. The Canadian Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning 3(2). Available online at:


Authors: Beth Marquis, Bonny Jung, Ann Fudge Schormans, Sara Lukmanji, Sarah Rostom, Christina Vietinghoff, Susan Baptiste, Robert Wilton

The decision to go to university: Examining the experiences of students with disabilities and their supports

A university education is an important milestone in career development. However, we have very little understanding about how people with mental illness make decisions about attending university and their future careers. The purpose of this research is to explore how people living with mental illness make decisions about attending university and their future careers, the supports and resources they utilize, the advice and guidance they are provided with, and the barriers or challenges that they encounter. We are conducting in-depth interviews with 8-10 current McMaster students who self-identify as living with a mental illness from across a variety of programs and at various stages of their training. Our objective is to better understand the experiences of participants living with mental illness as they considered options for postsecondary education in light of their future career goals. The findings can influence program and policy development in order to support students with mental illness as they make decisions regarding their training and education, and their future careers. This study will highlight systemic and structural barriers and opportunities to accessing post-secondary education and assistance with career development.

Authors: Rebecca Gewurtz, Bonny Jung, Shaminder Dhillon, Sue Baptiste, Louisa Chan, Rachel Martini, Beth Marquis , Tim Nolan

Understanding students’ experiences of inclusion and exclusion: Improving the classroom learning environment

In light of the increasing diversity of college and university students, the importance of creating inclusive and equitable educational experiences has been recognized frequently in recent years. In response to this imperative, this study seeks to gather qualitative data about students’ experiences of inclusion and exclusion in their educational programs at McMaster. Students from across the university, including women, LGBTT2SIQQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Two Spirit, Intersex, Questioning, Queer, Asexual)-identified students, students of diverse faith backgrounds, racialized students, First Nations, Métis and Inuit students, students with visible and invisible disabilities, international students, students from a range of socio-economic backgrounds and students of a diverse age range, were invited to participate in an interview or a focus group during Fall 2013 or Winter 2014. Participants were asked to share their perceptions and experiences of inclusion and exclusion in their courses and programs, and to offer any ideas they might have for enhancing the inclusivity of teaching and learning on campus. Data analysis is ongoing, and will be used to inform the development of teaching resources and professional development activities for instructors.

Authors: Anju Joshi, Beth Marquis, Marie Vander Kloet, Gary Dumbrill, Winnie Lo, Vilma Rossi