USask researchers Dirk Morrison, Dr. Elizabeth Quinlan (PhD), and Dr. Veronika Makarova (PhD). (Photos: Submitted)

USask researchers to examine AI in education, Canada’s labour movement, and ESL student writing

Three University of Saskatchewan (USask) researchers have been awarded federal funding to examine how artificial intelligence (AI) will transform higher education, how one major event transformed the modern Canadian labour movement, and how new tools can help English-as-a-second-language students excel in academic writing.

By USask Research Profile and Impact

The funding—Insight Development Grants awarded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)is intended to support research in its initial stages for up to two years. 

“USask social sciences and humanities research helps provide the foundation for a vibrant and prosperous society,” said USask Vice-President Research Karen Chad. As these innovative projects demonstrate, this federal investment enables our researchers to contribute fresh thinking about critical social, cultural, economic, and technological issues.”  

The projects, awarded a total of more than $187,000, are: 

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) in education: mapping a new frontier — $60,000  

USask curriculum studies researcher Dirk Morrison will examine how artificial intelligence is poised to transform higher education. As part of an in-depth review of the available evidence on positive developments and applications for AI in education, he will conduct an online national survey and online focus groups with faculty at five Canadian universities to investigate their perceptions of AI in teaching and learning 

The results could help instructors bring this powerful technology into classrooms, shaping research into design and development of innovations such as AI-based tutoring systems and self-directed learning apps. 

  • Labour’s lessons: the strike of 1958 — $68,700 

USask sociologist Dr. Elizabeth Quinlan (PhD) will conduct a case study of the 1958 strike of 17,000 mine workers in Sudbury and Port Colborne, Ont. —a particularly important labour strike that marked a turning point in Canada’s labour movement. By capturing firsthand accounts from 1958 strike participants, many of whom are now over 80, Quinlan will make a major contribution to the historical record.  

The project will help establish a basis for further research into strike activities during the post-war period, and shed light on what led to labour’s present-day perceived status as a conservative defender of a few privileged workers.  

  • Improving international students’ academic writing — $58,400 

USask linguistics professors Dr. Veronika Makarova (PhD) and Dr. Zhi Li (PhD), collaborating with University of Victoria education professor Dr. Tim Anderson (PhD), will lead one of the few studies assessing challenges international graduate students in Canada experience with academic writing, particularly with literature reviews. Due to cultural differences in educational systems abroad, international students are often unaware of the requirements of Canadian academic writing.  

The aim is to improve English as a Second Language (ESL) writing support for international students using online collaborative writing tools, which will help international students work in a global economy and nationally Almost 60 per cent of international students decide to remain permanently in Canada.