The SoTL Advocate

Supporting efforts to make public the reflection and study of teaching and learning at Illinois State University and beyond…

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Announcing the publication of Applying the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning edited by Friberg and McKinney

Written by Kathleen McKinney, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL, Emeritus, Illinois State University

We have argued for some time that the findings and implications of SoTL work are insufficiently applied—beyond, and sometimes within, their original context–to other students, audiences/stakeholders, courses/modules, programs, disciplines, institutions, and so on. This volume provides representation of some efforts to make this leap of application to other and broader contexts. Of course, a book about the application of SoTL findings and implications to different and broader contexts is also a book about SoTL advocacy. Using SoTL in these ways to enhance teaching and learning increases awareness of SoTL, and promotes SoTL and what it can do for our students and institutions.

In this edited volume we explore scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) ‘projects’ and the applications of what is learned via those projects to levels beyond the individual classroom. In our Introduction, we discuss our SLaM framework about the application of SoTL including the Sources of SoTL findings and implications for application, the Levels at which SoTL results and implications can be applied, and the institutional and disciplinary Mechanisms which can be used to apply SoTL findings and implications. In addition, we offer concrete, specific examples of SoTL reflection/studies and applications providing lessons learned or suggestions for others. These examples include two brief illustrations from our institution and nine others in contributed chapters from authors at many institutions. Finally, Pat Hutchings wraps things up with a concise and thoughtful Conclusion.

This book is unusual in its truly international character with contributors from five nations (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Singapore, United States). It is also intentionally diverse in terms of emphasis on the SoTL project vs. the applications; foci of the SoTL project and applications; strategies for obtaining, and the nature of, evidence; the types of sources, levels and mechanisms of application; institutional culture; views of SoTL; and writing styles. Finally, our contributors represent numerous disciplines including business, communication, education/learning studies, English, faculty/educational development, family studies/human development, health sciences, informatics, philosophy, psychology, student support, and social work.

As discussed in the Introduction, our SoTL tent for this volume is quite expansive. Readers may even disagree whether some of the efforts to obtain evidence on teaching and learning for application as presented in this volume are, in fact, SoTL. This, we hope, will make for interesting conversations and collaborations, and encourage additional work with our SLaM model, and SoTL reflection/studies and applications around the globe.


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Walking Interviews in My Undergraduate Research

Written by Megan Herdt,recent Elon University graduate and current graduate student in the counseling psychology doctoral program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

As an undergraduate psychology student at Elon University, I performed a qualitative study with ten low-income students using sedentary and walking semi-structured interviews. My study was a strengths-based exploration of the ways in which my participants navigated through their mostly white, mostly affluent institution. My participants were first-generation and continuing generation students that identified as black, biracial, Latinx, Hispanic, and white. They also varied by affiliation with scholarship cohorts, gender, religiosity, sexuality, and year in school. I conducted one round of sedentary semi-structured interviews that focused on participants’ applications and acceptances to college, transitions to college, experiences while at college, and the influences of their identity dimensions on their experiences. In the next academic semester, I performed walking interviews with participants. Each participant brought me to between three and five places that played significant roles in their college experiences. The walking interviews focused on sense of belonging, development, and the salience and influence of participants’ identity dimensions.

My findings included various strategies that participants developed to help them navigate through their institution. These strategies and approaches include striving for authenticity, expanding one’s analysis of social categories, and becoming a social justice advocate. I also developed a list of suggestions that the university can implement to bridge the sociocultural incongruities between itself and its low-income and other minoritized students (Devlin, 2013).

As both a researcher and as a fellow student who shared the campus and many student experiences with my participants, I became a participant-observer during the walking interviews. My experiences as a student influenced my perceptions of and way of being in the places that participants brought me to, as well as the ways in which I asked interview questions and the ways in which I moved through participants’ interview guides. The flexibility of semi-structured interviewing gave me freedom to adapt my interviews, so I was able to respond to spontaneous conversations that naturally emerged as I strolled through my campus with my peers. Throughout the research process, I critically reflected on my positionality as both a researcher and a student and the influences of my positionality on my data collection and analysis — I took detailed field notes containing summary, analysis, and reflection within twenty-four hours of each interview.

Many strategic uses of place emerged through the walking interviews as participants brought me to the following types of places:

  • academic buildings that housed participants’ majors
  • racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious identity organizations
  • scholarship offices
  • outdoor on-campus locations such as lakes, fountains, benches, and even specific trees
  • on-campus residence halls.

These strategic uses of place often revolved around the mentoring relationships that participants had developed from people in specific locations. Academic buildings and support from the professors within enhanced participants’ academic, scholarly, and student identities. For example, one participant called her academic major building “a fortress that has no little gate, nothing out there that can change who I am as a person…while I’m here I make it so I don’t think about any of that stuff and I only focus on what I need to be focusing on and going to professors.” The racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious organizations that participants belong to, along with the friends, peers, and staff affiliated with those organizations, fostered participants’ development related to that specific dimension of identity. From the time another participant spent in a campus-designated space for Hispanic students with his friend group, he learned to integrate his “real self with being Hispanic and being a [university] student…We aren’t just [university] students and we aren’t just Hispanic. We’re Hispanic, [university] students.” Scholarship offices, cohorts, and affiliated staff were tremendous forms of support for participants receiving those scholarships. Many participants who were affiliated with scholarship programs described those program spaces, along with their staff and peers, as places and people that provided complete acceptance and freedom for self-expression.

Outdoor locations on campus functioned as neutral spaces that participants were able to adapt and appropriate for their own personal needs. These places were often locations that were free from the marginalization and isolation that participants encountered in campus-sanctioned spaces. One participant regularly visited an on-campus water fountain because of her personal connection to water, and she related the essentiality of water to the essentiality of herself: “Just the meaning of water and how it’s essential to life and how humans are essential to life and people are essential to life and then I am essential to my life. And I have a place on this campus and I’m going to make a big impact one day…”.  Lastly, on-campus residence halls functioned as cues for participants’ reflections on past experiences, inspired participants to share meaningful stories, aided participants in constructing narratives, and stored both memories and past selves.

Blog Reference

Devlin, M. (2013). Bridging socio-cultural incongruity: Conceptualising the success of students from low socio-economic status backgrounds in Australian higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 38(6), 939–949.

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Introduction to Walking Interviews: A Potential SoTL methodology?

Written by Megan Herdt, recent Elon University graduate and current graduate student in the counseling psychology doctoral program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Walking interviews, also referred to as place-based or walk-along interviews, are becoming an increasingly popular methodology across the social sciences (Evans & Jones, 2011; Kinney, 2017). This methodology originated in the fields of ethnography, geography, anthropology, and mobility studies, but today it is being used in fields as diverse as environmental studies and the health sciences (King & Woodrooffe, 2017). Walking interviews are a semi-structured interviewing technique in which a researcher and participant walk together while the researcher interviews the participant (Kinney, 2017). This methodology can be used in several ways, such as to elucidate participants’ relationships to specific places, to spatially locate research encounters, and to explore the geographies of specific populations (Holton, 2015; Holton & Riley, 2014). In a recent issue of the Social Research Update, Kinney (2017) briefly reviews four types of walking interviews: the docent walking interview, the go-along interview, the participatory walking interview, and the bimbling interview.

Walking interviews offer several unique advantages to researchers. Walking interviews equalize the relationship between the participant and researcher, giving the participant power to lead the interview both physically along the chosen route and verbally through the occurrence of natural, spontaneous interactions (Holton & Riley, 2014). Flipping the power dynamic of a typical research encounter makes walking interviews more accessible, more inclusive, and less intimidating than traditional semi-structured interviews (King & Woodrooffe, 2017; Kinney, 2017). Through a shared mobility between the researcher and participant, walking interviews open up previously inaccessible channels into the participant’s perspective (Holton & Riley, 2014). Walking interviews are more flexible and adaptable than sedentary interviews, and they allow for a more collaborative meaning-making process between the researcher and participant (King & Woodrooffee, 2017). Each place within a walking interview functions as a cue to the participant, acts as a physical representation of experiences, and affects the salience of the participant’s identity dimensions (Holton & Riley, 2014).

Because of their mobile nature, walking interviews offer windows into a participant’s sense of belonging and sense of self in addition to concepts such as place attachment, environmental pasts, and place-identities (Prince, 2014). Place attachment can be defined as “a phenomenon that incorporates several aspects of people–place bonding, including behaviour, affect and cognition” (Chow & Healey, 2008, p. 363). A person’s environmental past is composed of the memories and attitudes related to personally significant places (Proshansky, Fabian, & Kaminoff, 1983). Environmental pasts are the foundations for place-identities, defined as subsets of one’s identity which hold attitudes, feelings, beliefs, and other cognitions about the physical world in which they are located (Proshansky, Fabian, & Kaminoff, 1983). Places can also represent past selves, which allows a person to make self-comparisons at various points in time and maintain a consistent sense of self (Twigger-Ross & Uzzell, 1996). Characteristics of places, even their physical appearances, also communicate messages about belonging or not belonging (Bufton, 2003).

Of course, walking interviews also come with several important considerations. Situation-specific considerations include issues regarding weather, the walkability of possible routes, and the extent of participants’ mobility (Kinney, 2017). Confidentiality and privacy are also more limited in walking interviews, as the majority of a research encounter usually takes place in public or semi-public areas (Kinney, 2017). In spite of the more collaborative and social nature of walking interviews, the researcher still has power over the participant, and it is important that the researcher still reflexively engage with issues of positionality and power in the research encounter (King & Woodrooffe, 2017).

Blog References

Bufton, S. (2003). The lifeworld of the university student: Habitus and social class. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 34(2), 207–234.

Chow, K., & Healey, M. (2008). Place attachment and place identity: First-year undergraduates making the transition from home to university. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28(4), 362–372.

Evans, J., & Jones, P. (2011). The walking interview: Methodology, mobility, and place. Applied Geography, 31(2), 849-858.

Holton, M. (2015). Adapting relationships with place: Investigating the evolving place attachment and ‘sense of place’ of UK higher education students during a period of intense transition. Geoforum, 59, 21-29.

Holton, M., & Riley, M. (2014). Talking on the move: Place-based interviewing with undergraduate students. Area, 46(1), 59–65.

King A.C., Woodroffe J. (2017) Walking Interviews. In: Liamputtong P. (eds) Handbook of Research Methods in Health Social Sciences. Springer, Singapore.

Kinney, P. (2017). Walking interviews. Social Research Update, (67), 1-4. Retrieved July 1, 2019, from  

Prince, D. (2014). What about place? Considering the role of physical environment on youth imagining of future possible selves. Journal of Youth Studies, 17(6), 697–716.

Proshansky, H. M., Fabian, A. K., & Kaminoff, R. (1983). Place-identity: Physical world socialization of the self. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 3, 57–83.

Twigger-Ross, C. L., & Uzzell, D. L. (1996). Place and identity processes. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 16(3), 205–220. 

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Digging out from the summer!

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University

The fall semester has officially started at Illinois State, so it’s time to return to regular blogging and shake off the dust from my summer blog-writing hiatus! Regular posts will begin again next week, with a 2-part series written by a student/guest blogger who will share a really unique methodology she used for a SoTL research study while a student at Elon University.

In the meantime, what’s going on in the SoTL world that might be interesting?

  • An article, What One Teacher Learned from an Informal Teaching Experiment, was published this week in the Teaching section of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Interestingly, this work described a SoTL study that was deemed unsuccessful by the researcher because he felt learning couldn’t be measured under the conditions described. I disagree…and wonder what your thoughts are about this! The author, Dan Berrett, asked that readers respond to his post and offer examples of how learning can be measured. Over 100 submissions were received. Here’s to hoping they illustrate great examples of SoTL for the Chronicle’s readership!
  • Nicola Simmons and Ann Singh have just published a co-edited volume titled Critical Collaborative Communities on the topic of writing partnerships. ISSOTL’s International Collaborative Writing Groups inspired two chapters in this text!
  • The SoTL Commons conference’s call for papers for the 2020 conference is open through October 1, 2019.
  • Kathleen McKinney and I have a co-edited volume that is available now for pre-order (should be officially published this weekend!) titled Applying the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning beyond the Individual Classroom, which features descriptions of individuals and groups using SoTL work to inform changes in meso, macro, and mega contexts.
  • One of my favorite blogs, Improve with Metacognition, has recently published a short piece authored by Patrick Cunningham: How do you know you know what you know. It’s full of great advice on teaching specific strategies to students in an effort to encourage reflection on learning.

See you back here again regularly! Happy reading, and for folks in the USA, enjoy your long Labor Day weekend!

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Call for papers focused on simulations as a learning tool

Special Topic Issue: Simulation and Learning

Teaching and Learning in Communication Sciences & Disorders (TLCSD), an open access, peer reviewed journal focused on the scholarship of teaching and learning in the disciplines of speech-language pathology and audiology, is seeking submissions for a Special Topics Issue on simulation and learning.

Submissions for this issue may reflect current trends in the use of simulations for student education and professional development. Evidence-based educational content may focus on pedagogical and/or technical aspects of the use of simulations. The editors invite manuscripts that have not been previously published and include original quantitative or qualitative SoTL work, reports of scholarly teaching, pilot studies, reflections on SoTL, and student voices.

To submit a manuscript for this special topic issue, please go to Please note your interest in having your work appear in the special topic issue in the abstract or cover letter. Complete submissions for this special topic issue are due 12/31/19.

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Help Identify SoTL’s “Grand Challenges”

Posted by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University and co-chair of ISSoTL’s Advocacy and Outreach Committee

What do you perceive SoTL’s grand challenges to be?

The Advocacy and Outreach Committee for the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSoTL) is working to create a list of the Grand Challenges to SoTL. These teaching and learning challenges represent the wicked problems of teaching and learning that exist across institutions and disciplines. Solving these challenges should provide benefits to learners around the world.

Identification of Grand Challenges can promote greater concentration of research efforts and far-reaching collaborations, as well as increasing the likelihood of impact on policies and creation of new funding opportunities.

This survey will ask you for your ideas of what should be identified as a grand challenge for teaching and learning. You will also be asked two demographic questions. This survey is entirely voluntary and there is no penalty for not completing all or any specific questions. The entire survey will take approximately 5 minutes.

Click this link to take the survey 

By completing and submitting this survey, you are indicating your consent for participation in this project. The study is anonymous with no identifying information being collected. If you have any questions, please contact John Draeger at If you are unable to contact the researcher or have general questions about your rights as a participant, please contact Gina Game, IRB Administrator, Sponsored Programs Office/SUNY Buffalo State

Please forward this survey to colleagues, friends, and anyone interested in improving the state of higher education.

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Blogging in the SoTLsphere — A bit of reflection and a call for folks contribute!

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Chair in SoTL and Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at Illinois State University (

Almost 5 years ago, while working with Kathleen McKinney (who was then ISU’s Cross Chair) as a SoTL Scholar-Mentor, one of my duties was to establish a blog to share information related to SoTL with campus stakeholders. Though it felt like a reach, we also hoped to engage folks from outside ISU as blog readers and contributors, but we were unsure that would happen. I had blogged before, but solely as a personal endeavor…a diary of sorts that was only shared with a handful of people. Kathleen was completely new to blogging. We knew we had much to learn. Despite all this, and with hope in our hearts, we sallied forth and the SoTL Advocate was born in October 2014.

Our aim was to create a space to encourage discussions about SoTL and highlight interesting SoTL work, varying our content to appeal to a wide variety of stakeholders. We weren’t sure what sort of impact our content had, in terms of reader interest, but our numbers of views continued to increase steadily as you can see from the table below.

Year Number of Views Number of Visitors
(blog launched 10/31/14)
835 493
2015 4306 2202
2016 5869 3764
2017 6692 4501
2018 7633 5154
2019 (through May 1) 3493 2350
Total for life of blog 25,678 18,464

Happily, these views have come from all over the globe, with 250+ views from ten different countries across four continents.

As viewership continues to grow for the SoTL Advocate, so does my desire to not just increase views and viewers. I want to increase stakeholders’ engagement with the blog. If SoTL is a Commons, then blogging about SoTL should be, too. While guest bloggers are featured in this blog from time, to time, my current goal for the SoTL Advocate is to feature the work of a broader number of contributors, representing varied cultural, geographical, personal, and institutional perspectives. Please consider this blog post an invitation to contribute your thoughts about any aspect of SoTL: a project, a reflection, a failed attempt at SoTL, methods that are new or different (to you or to the world!), or advocacy/outreach ideas or case studies. Tell us how you’ve applied SoTL to your teaching/learning contexts. Share what you’re reading. Present point and counterpoint about a hot topic. Let your voice be heard in a new and different way.

Here are the guidelines I offer prospective contributors, in case you — or someone you know — might be interested in contributing a post:

Prospective blog authors should submit blog manuscripts to Jennifer Friberg (, SoTL Advocate editor. Blogs should be approximately 750-1000 words. Blogs should be written in a friendly and accessible manner, absent unneeded disciplinary jargon that might make a general SoTL readership unable to benefit from accessing the content of the post. Visuals (e.g., open source pictures, photos, videos) are encouraged, as more people will “click” on a blog link if a visual is attached!

Submission of a blog does not guarantee acceptance for publication. All blog submissions are reviewed by the SoTL Advocate editor for content and form prior to notification of acceptance status. Blog posts may be conditionally accepted for publication pending revision/clarification. Blogs accepted for posting will be published as soon as possible following acceptance.

Thanks to those of you who have been so very supportive of this blog and the work Kathleen and I started here together. Sustaining a blog isn’t an easy task, but my work here has been and remains one of my favorite SoTL advocacy-type tasks.

Please do consider joining the ranks of SoTL Advocate contributors. Let me know if you have questions!