Nicole A. Strombom

PhD Student, Public Health Sciences
SoTL Seminar Participant in Spring 2023


Many aspects of everyday life impact the public’s health. Often, these aspects are thought about in a framework called the social determinants of health. One social determinant of health is the education an individual receives. Education plays a direct role, in the United States, on employment, insurance status, and individual’s economic stability. Therefore, the field of public health is directly linked to concepts discussed in educational development and carried out through universities’ Centers for Teaching and Learning.

In 2023, to better understand how teaching and learning are researched in multiple disciplines, I joined the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) seminar offered every spring to postdocs and graduate students. Through this seminar, students are offered a step-by-step research methods training on how to perform a SoTL project. Additionally, students are provided insights into the field of SoTL. SoTL is a field where researchers can study student’s learning habits and develop knowledge about teaching best practices.

Through the seminar, I wrote a research proposal on understanding international students’ perspectives on writing assignments within the Brown School’s Master of Public Health degree. Public health touches every corner of our world, and the Brown School currently boasts enrollment that is 41% international students. These students come from diverse backgrounds with differing language traditions, educational traditions, and cultures. Working with the Brown School, I performed a pilot study to help gain information on barriers to equity, for international students, in writing assignments. This study sought to understand:

  1. Does United States academia overburden international students by providing inequitable writing assignments (in terms of time spent) to nonnative English speakers?
  2. How can equity be provided in writing assignments without nonnative English speakers losing educational experiences?
Nicole presenting her SoTL project at the recent Graduate Research Symposium.

During the fall 2023 semester, Master of Public Health students were surveyed regarding their writing assignment experience. The survey was designed to garner information from students and specifically international students on their writing experience and potential barriers students face. A limited response rate occurred. A definitive answer regarding if equity is achieved for international students in public health courses with writing assignment could not be established.

Center for Teaching and Learning staff mentored me through this research journey and offered helpful insights both during the drafting of the research proposal and in the final research deliverables. The SoTL seminar is offered each spring and is a great way to learn more about how to understand the impact your teaching has on students. Amy Eyler, PhD, CHES, Professor at the Brown School partnered with me for this research.  Amy guided me through the process of taking a formalized research proposal and implementing the research project.