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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A New Approach (for me!) to the “Intro to SoTL” Experience

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Director of Scholarly Teaching and Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning for the Center for Integrated Professional Development and Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Illinois State University (jfribe@ilstu.edu).

I think one of the most challenging things to do as a SoTL-focused academic developer is to introduce course instructors to SoTL in a manner that truly engages them and creates a strong and enduring desire to “do” SoTL. Over time, I have developed many different approaches to the intro experience: 2-hour workshops, half day workshops, and so forth. In thinking about similarities across the intro experiences that I’ve designed, I have found one aspiration that I think is really critical: I have always had the primary objective that participants leave with an idea of what a SoTL project might look like for them in their own personal teaching/learning context. I believe that it’s wonderful for course instructors to know what SoTL is, but it’s far more important that they understand what SoTL might do and be for them personally. It’s when THAT connection is made that a new SoTL scholar is born.

(photo courtesy of Håkon Grimstad via Unsplash)

Over the last two years, I have served as the Interim Director for Illinois State University’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology. In this role, I worked with many Center staff to create a “Learn-Apply-Study” continuum for our programs. Across this continuum, we view “learn” opportunities as short workshops that introduce participants to content about teaching and learning, “apply” programs as those where participants learn something new *and* have a chance to apply new knowledge and skills to their own teaching/learning contexts, and “study” experiences as those where participants plan and engage in SoTL projects. I used the work we did with this continuum to inspire a wholesale change in an intro to SoTL experience that I designed for our 2022 Summer Institute, for if I wanted to go deeper than a surface-level intro experience I needed to carefully consider how to best engage participants in the “apply” stage of the continuum.

The first thing I adapted was the timeline for this intro experience. Rather than meeting for several hours in one day, I spread the intro experience out across four days, combining synchronous and asynchronous work that culminated in a fully planned project. This expanded structure was intended to build in time to explore *all* participants’ projects, provide peer review, and also allow time to reflect and revise plans as the week unfolded. Below is a summary of how each day was structured:

Day 1: This was the only day with SoTL content as part of the week’s programming. We spent two hours together in a synchronous session learning about what SoTL is, the ways in which it is conducted, and thinking about exemplar SoTL projects done. There was ample time allowed for questions, but I found that I spent far less time on minutiae than I have in the past. I focused on what I thought was the most important information to create a shared framework for what SoTL and how it is supported at Illinois State. Participants were tasked with answering four questions to prepare for Day 2:

  1. What is your topic of interest for your potential SoTL study? 
  2. Why is this topic important to YOU in terms of who you are as a teacher and your own teaching philosophy? 
  3. What data source(s) might help you address your SoTL question? 
  4. What will you do with those data?

Day 2: The second day of the intro experience consisted of a one hour, synchronous meeting followed by individual, asynchronous work time. During the synchronous meeting, the participants and I discussed the prior day’s content, expanding on areas where there was interest in more information and providing supportive resources in response to questions asked/supports requested. Independent work time followed, with each participant tasked with refining their answers to the prior night’s homework questions and answering four new questions:

  1. What is the audience for your study? Might there be more than one? 
  2. How might you share the outcomes of your work? 
  3. If you choose to submit your work to a disciplinary journal, what is your best option? Why?
  4. What resources do you need to support your work on this study? 

Day 3: This third day of the intro experiences consisted of individual work time and a one-on-one consultation. During consultations, each participant met with me for 15-30 minutes and walked me through their projects. They asked questions specific to their projects, refined their methods and data sources, and addressed any other individual needs they had regarding their projects. Personally, I found this to be *transformative* in this intro experience, but more about that below!

Day 4: The final day of the intro experience culminated in a “SoTL Showcase.” Participants were placed into small groups to give brief overviews of their projects and solicit peer feedback about their plans. I floated between groups, depending on which groups had questions or were curious about supports/resources for particular topics. Following the showcase, I reviewed an open funding program for SoTL on my campus and the group discussed how to parlay their work from the week into grant proposals.

In sum, 16 projects were planned during the intro experience. We finished up last Thursday and today (5 days later!) I already have seen five grant proposals submitted from participants in the intro experience. I was truly delighted with how this cohort worked together and how the experience seemed much more productive, in terms of participants having the time to carefully consider their topics and reflect on their projects over time.

Across this four day program, I have some lessons learned…with perhaps more to come as I continue to reflect on this recent intro experience:

  1. Expanding the intro experience into four, brief learn and apply days seemed to be very supportive of participant learning and project planning.
  2. The individual consultations were illuminating. They led to productive discussions that allowed for specificity that is not usually possible during large group experiences. I was able to find specific resources for participants and translate SoTL a bit differently, depending on their prior knowledge about disciplinary scholarship and the “fit” fo SoTL into their unique contexts. It seemed to be a sort of scaffolded advocacy and I plan to include this in any future intro experience. I do individual consultations all the time, but pairing these with new-to-SoTL faculty as they engaged in thinking about their first SoTL project was noted by many as being critical to their understanding of SoTL.
  3. “Uncovering” content appears to be effective as part of the intro experience. There seems to be a goldilocks balance between too much content/too little content and the just right amount of content. Questions that emerged after Day 1 did NOT reflect a lack of understanding about what SoTL is (i.e., too little content). Rather, questions were specific to project and individual disciplinary epistemologies — expansions on the content represented in Day 1. It would seem that we found that goldilocks balance.
  4. At least on my campus, it seems that having the intro experience away from an academic term was beneficial. I’ve typically offered intro experiences in the fall and spring semesters. However, doing this work in the summer session provided (at least for those not teaching in the summer) space and grace. They were able to consider their past semester in considering questions about teaching and learning and were less constrained by the pressures of the typical semester.
  5. The fact that there was an open grant program at the time of this intro experience was convenient happenstance. It provided a goal for participants who were serious about doing their projects and having funding to support their work. I will make sure that future intro experiences always aligns with an open grant program.


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A SoTL Fellows Program as a Form of Journal-Led Disciplinary Advocacy

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Interim Director for the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology, Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Illinois State University (jfribe@ilstu.edu).

Now in its sixth year in publication, Teaching and Learning in Communication Sciences & Disorders (TLCSD) is an open-access, peer-reviewed publication that showcases scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) projects conducted in the disciplines of speech-language pathology and audiology. While the primary mission of TLCSD is to publish traditional manuscripts, the Editorial Board has led various efforts to respond to critical teaching and learning needs in communication sciences and disorders (CSD). In doing so, three special topics issues have been published and a webinar series was developed to open conversations about addressing racism in CSD education. These efforts have been viewed by the Editorial Board as being focused forms of advocacy for CSD, helping to bring focus to topics that are critically important. TLCSD is now engaged in a different type of advocacy with it’s latest project: a SoTL Fellows program.

In full disclosure, I am a founding member of TLCSD‘s Editorial Board. My fellow Board members are long-time colleagues and friends. At our last annual Board meeting, across many conversations about the growth of SoTL in our field…and how to keep that momentum going…we realized that we had an opportunity to advocate for SoTL by mentoring new SoTL scholars. The idea of a SoTL Fellows program was born from our collectively strong desire to advocate for SoTL in CSD by helping bring new-to-SoTL scholars to this work. In doing so, we hypothesized that we could grow understanding of the enterprise of SoTL, support SoTL productivity, and (perhaps) expand our journal’s readership and reviewer pool. A call for applicants was developed and shared widely on TLCSD‘s social media platforms. In the call, the SoTL Fellows program was described as follows:

The editorial board at Teaching and Learning in Communication Sciences and Disorders (TLCSD) is excited to announce our SoTL Fellows program. The SoTL Fellows program is designed to help applicants move their scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) forward through mentored professional development facilitated by a member of TLCSD’s Board of Directors who will serve as assigned Mentors. Generally, we anticipate Fellows to be faculty/clinicians working in higher education who are new to SoTL research. SoTL Fellows will participate in a one-day webinar and then have virtual meetings throughout the year with an assigned Mentor. Mentors will also advise Fellows in disseminating their work, as appropriate. We invite applicants to participate in the program with a student-partner of your choosing (this is not required). In the context of working as a SoTL Fellow, a student would be your collaborator in the research project, rather than a participant.

TLCSD’s call for applicants

The SoTL Fellows program was not envisioned as a pipeline to publication in TLCSD, though that could be an outcome for those selected as Fellows. The Editorial Board is reviewing applications as this blog post is published. Those selected as Fellows will be notified shortly, with the program starting in early June 2022. While there will be no preference given to any applicant during the review process, the Board hopes that this program can eventually grow SoTL in CSD in underrepresented populations, specifically SoTL scholars who are students, those who represent the discipline of audiology, and scholars who are clinical educators. I’m looking forward to reporting the outcomes of this program in a future blog post and would welcome any others who have developed formal structures for SoTL mentorship to share those as a guest contributor to this blog!


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Jumping Back In!

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Interim Director for the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology, Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Illinois State University (jfribe@ilstu.edu).

Hello, fellow SoTLists! It has been a while since my last post, but it’s time to jump back into this blog! Greetings to you all. It’s been a long, hard, complex road the last (almost) two years. We have all had individual and collective hurdles to face. Undeniably these remain, though I sincerely hope that each of you are well.

I was talking to a SoTL colleague recently. She indicated that it’s been hard to “get back” to her SoTL work. She’s feeling as though she has not much left to give to extend or expand her SoTL work in this moment in time. Another colleague shared that she is ready to engage in new and different SoTL work to spark innovations in her teaching and scholarship. I suspect that these two perspectives might represent different ends of our shared SoTL spectrums right now. Grace is good and there’s plenty to give, in terms of the SoTL spaces we individually occupy. With that in mind, I offer the opportunities for those of you who might be looking for a new SoTL something and for any of you who might be interested in looking these over in the future!

Ideas to Engage in, Share, and Explore SoTL (early 2022 edition!)

ISSOTL’s ICWG – Public program is seeking Group Facilitators. Building on the momentum of prior International Collaborative Writing Group (ICWG) efforts, ISSOTL has developed a new rotation of “types” of ICWGs, one of which encourages work that shares SoTL beyond conventional audiences for this type of work. Thus the ICWG – Public program will target the creation of works that bring the broader public into SoTL to share research or respond to a societal need. Facilitators will lead work in different topic areas before, during, and (likely) after the 2022 ISSOTL Conference in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada on the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia. The deadline to propose a topic as a potential facilitator is coming quickly: January 15, 2022.

ISSOTL is seeking blog posts from members of the Society. ISSOTL invites members to craft brief blog posts to share news from a board or committee, synthesize a SoTL project, showcase SoTL initiatives, describe SoTL innovations, and share SoTL resources that might benefit others engaged in SoTL. There is no deadline for submitting blogs, as this opportunity is open to Society members year-round.

Two 2022 SoTL conferences have open calls for papers:

  • The Midwest Conference on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning is scheduled for April 1, 2022 at Indiana University-South Bend in South Bend, Indiana, USA. Submissions related to the conference theme of “Authentic and Joyous Learning” will be accepted until February 1, 2022 at 5pm EST.
  • EuroSoTL 2022 is scheduled for June 16-17, 2022 in Manchester, England, UK. Submissions related to the conference theme of “Building Communities through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning” will be accepted until January 29, 2022.

Looking for something to read? There are also some exciting new options to dig more deeply into the work of other SoTL scholars on important and timely topics:

  • The Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning recently published a special issue on the topic of the Pedagogy of the Polarized. This special issue features a variety of papers engaged in “diagnosing, theorizing, and addressing the social forces and controversial topics that feed polarization.”
  • The Journal of Research and Practice in College Teaching published a special issue on the topic of Personal Narratives: After Innovating Teaching During Covid, What Will Stick? This issue explores the reflections of instructors from a variety of disciplines in an effort to understand best ways forward.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list! There are several more resources that I’ll share in upcoming blogs…so stay tuned. Until then, I wish you success in your teaching and learning adventures this new year.


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Pedagogical Triage, Parallel Universities, and Leading with SoTL

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Illinois State University (jfribe@ilstu.edu)

Just the other day, I was trying to type the phrase “parallel universe” in an email to a friend and colleague. Instead, I typed “parallel university.” That seems really quite perfect to describe where we are now in higher education, doesn’t it? So many things are so very different, yet our ultimate goal is unchanged: to challenge our students as thinkers and learners and facilitate growth and change through that process. Thus, we are headed toward the same destination, but on an unfamiliar trajectory. Parallel universities…one we expected, one we did not.

Back in March, when the world started changing so very quickly, I was invited by Nancy Chick (Director of Faculty Development at Rollins College) and Lee Skallerup Bessette (Learning Design Specialist at Georgetown University) to collaborate on a project that helped transform my thinking about Covid-19 and its impact on teaching and learning in higher education — then and now. Inspired by a need to make SoTL more public, we crafted a document titled “What the Research Tells Us about Higher Education’s Temporary Shift to Remote Teaching: What the Public Needs to Know from the SoTL Community,” which was shared and read widely. This work spoke to our faith in our colleagues engaged in pedagogical triage and our faith in SoTL to lead the way. Our main assertion in this document? Evidence exists that can lead us *now* to successfully support our students as learners and as human beings at a scary and stressful time.

We created an accompanying “Public Statement of Response to Higher Education’s Temporary Shift to Remote Instruction,” to invite others to support the need to think carefully about evidence-informed, student-centered teaching at this moment in time. The invitation to endorse this statement is still open, for anyone who wishes to be included!

We and our faculty colleagues around the world recognize–and acutely feel–the anxiety that students are feeling. Implementing effective learning practices wherever possible, while remaining flexible in doing so, is our best way forward. Every effort is being made to design activities based on the best of what we know about good teaching and learning. These are unprecedented and extraordinary times. Faculty are working tirelessly for their students, and this work is informed by decades of research. These are the conversations we are all having (and will continue to have) within our institutions, with our colleagues and students, and in a glocal academic community as we work together in the coming weeks and months. 

From Chick, Friberg, & Skallerup Bessette’s Public Statement

Why do I share these documents/processes here? They help me make what I think is a critical point about leading with SoTL in uncertain times. As asserted in the excerpt above, conversations about the future are ongoing. Most institutions are struggling with the balance between returning to campus and the need to protect the welfare of students, staff, and faculty. I would argue that as SoTLists, we have the potential to lead right now and contribute to the conversations being had about the future.

I would suggest that leading with SoTL in this moment may best be accomplished through the sharing of SoTL resources with decision-makers who stand to influence operations at societal, institutional, and/or single classroom levels. SoTL scholars are uniquely positioned with specialized understanding about teaching and learning that can help our institutions plan for the forthcoming weeks and months. To this end, the documents above make a case for SoTL’s role in thinking about priorities and possibilities in a higher education enterprise that is, without doubt, forever changed as a result of the current global pandemic.

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Upcoming SoTL Conferences – the Early 2020 Edition

Compiled by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at Illinois State University

In looking towards opportunites for SoTLists to attend and potentially contribute to upcoming SoTL or SoTL-friendly conferences, the list below provides links, locations, dates, and timelines for calls for proposals that are still open. 

I am a huge fan of SoTL conferences. I find them to be professionally invigorating, providing new and fresh perspectives on a field that I am lucky to be a part of. Further, as Jennifer Meta Robinson eloquently shares below, SoTL conferences are rife with opportunities for attendees (Robinson, 2019, p. 146):

“A scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) conference, fully realized in its SoTLness, offers intriguing opportunities not only to disseminate scholarship and scholarly culture but also to reflect further on the practices of teaching, learning, and the field itself…A SoTL conference invites questions about how signature pedagogy, metamessages, theories, histories, goals, and measures contribute to its overall impact as a learning and teaching venue.” 

Add to this, the potential for networking and connections to be made at SoTL conferences. Draeger and Scharff (2019, p. 138) remind us that:

“Being physically surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals can provide energy and revitalization. In short, traditional conference participation can catalzye both individual development and broader cultural change.” 

Below are two separate lists of SoTL conferences in 2020. Links are provided to get further information. If you know of a conference that I’m missing on my list, let me know (jfribe@ilstu.edu)! I’m happy to edit and add to these offerings!

Conferences currently accepting registrations (CFP is closed):

Conferences currently accepting registrations and paper submissions:

Blog References

Draeger, J. & Scharff, L. (2019). Catalyzing the exchange and application of SoTL beyond the classroom. In J. Friberg and K. McKinnney (Eds.). Applying the scholarship of teaching and learning beyond the individual classroom level. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Robinson, J. M. (2019). The SoTL conference: Learning while professing. In N. Chick (Ed.). SoTL in Action. Sterling, VA: St


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Special (and super interesting!) issue of Art History Pedagogy and Practice published

My friend and colleague from ISSOTL’s Advocacy and Outreach committee, Virginia Spivey, is a co-founder of a peer-reviewed, open access e-journal titled Art History Pedagogy & Practice. This journal is devoted to scholarship of teaching and learning in art history. It is published by Art History Teaching Resources (AHTR), a peer-populated open educational resource, in partnership with the Office of Library Services of the City University of New York and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.

The following are links and abstracts from a recently published — and uber interesting — special issue of Art History Pedagogy & Practice, featuring seven explorations of teaching and learning across topics of interest beyond art history. Kudos to all involved, as this collaboration is (in my opinion!) really nicely done!

Medicine and the Museum: An Experiential Case Study in Art History Pedagogy and Practice

This article brings three scholarly and professional perspectives to bear on museum-based learning experiences for undergraduate pre-medical and STEM students. In the first section, Marcia Brennan describes the seminar on “Medicine and the Museum: Clinical Aesthetics and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston” that she teaches at Rice University. Brennan is a modernist art historian, and her discussion focuses on the ways in which classes such as this can contribute meaningfully to undergraduate pre-medical and STEM education. Brennan collaborated with Joshua Eyler, who served as Executive Director of Rice University’s Center for Teaching Excellence. In the second section, Eyler discusses the content and results of the accompanying questionnaires that were devised to assess the overall effectiveness of the pedagogical strategy. The tabulated data results are included for each of the measured sections, which encompass the students’ abilities to make detailed visual observations and to formulate descriptions of complex subjects; to gauge their sensitivity to ethical concerns and their level of empathy regarding the emotional issues involved in caregiving; and to assess their understanding of the ways in which museums can serve as tools for continual learning and self-care. The final section is by Kelley Magill, an art historian who serves as University Programs Specialist for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Writing from the perspective of the museum educator, Magill comments on Brennan’s seminar, and she provides a complementary perspective on the role and impact of the fine arts museum within higher education.

Addressing Visual Literacy in the Survey: Balancing Transdisciplinary Competencies and Course Content

Inspired by partnerships between medical schools and museums that produce measurable outcomes in the frequency and sophistication of diagnostic observations through limited art history-based interventions, this paper documents the re-orientation of a traditional art history survey course to explicitly address foundational visual literacy skills. This Spring 2019 pilot implemented a series of exercises and assessments designed to directly target transdisciplinary components of visual literacy and to highlight these competencies through student discussion and reflection with minimal disruption. This study employed content analysis and qualitative coding of pre- and post-tests to capture and characterize the number and types of observations made on descriptive, timed writings. This data was combined with participant reflections to assess whether students enhanced their skills of observation and description. The results suggest that minimally-invasive, low-stakes assignments, coupled with reflection exercises, produced increases in both the quantity and quality of student observations; students also demonstrated more awareness of their audience, adjusting the information as appropriate to the specific task and recognized connections between this practice and other fields of study. This suggests that art history could better communicate the transdisciplinary skills of visual literacy and promote their development within the survey course without a radical course redesign.

Art History, Art Museums, and Power: A Critical Art History Curriculum

Engaging in the recent tradition of disciplinary and instructional self-critique by art historians teaching at the college level, this teaching practice reflection pursues the question of how an art history survey class can benefit from activities grounded in theoretical texts. In the format of scholarly personal narrative (SPN), a personal background and justification for incorporating critical theory-based lessons into the introductory art history curriculum, including narrative descriptions of four curricular areas and an example museum project, are detailed. The article paints a personal picture as well as extols the general benefits, based on the author’s perspective and experiences, of incorporating critical theory and critical pedagogical theory into art history courses. As SPN, the article focuses on personal teaching experiences and reflections organized in a scholarly structure, and demonstrates the possibilities of this method of scholarship on teaching and learning in art history.

Understanding the Student Perspective of Art History Survey Course Outcomes Through Game Development

This heuristic, design-based research study examines student perceptions of their learning experience in the art history survey course as manifested through a game design process. With the purpose of improving upon the lecture model of the standard art history survey, two sections of a capstone class of interdisciplinary art and design students—who had all taken the survey as part of their degree programs—selected learning objectives and designed games to accompany the introductory class. The researchers used the game design process to understand first how students perceived the survey class, its learning objectives, and the students’ experiences. Then the investigation addressed how these students designed games to aid learning of survey materials. The results offer survey course instructors significant insight into student perceptions of the structure and aims of art history’s foundational class.

Assessing Undergraduate Fashion History Research via Content Analysis

Undergraduate art history students are often asked to write research essays on specific artworks, but that research is rarely considered publishable or reliable. This article analyzes undergraduate student essays on fashion history to determine whether the research produced can be considered reliable according to generally accepted art historical standards. It employs content analysis to make those determinations in addition to the instructor’s own standards and those governing the Fashion History Timeline, an open-access hub of fashion history research. The article investigates the impact of a multi-stage writing and revision process on student writing outcomes and on student grades. Finally, it addresses the benefits of quantifying student research via content analysis for improving both teaching and student outcomes.

The Metacognitive and Exploratory Use of the Concept Map for Thematic Art History Papers in the Survey Course

This article examines how the introduction of pedagogical interventions in the art history survey class, made by using concept maps beyond an initial brainstorming phase and rather as an active-learning strategy in aid to developing thematic papers, impacts students’ perception of their usefulness. The qualitative and quantitative data gathered included two questionnaires, one submitted periodically throughout the semester and one after the concept map and term paper were completed. Additionally, this study presents a visual analysis of three sample sets of students’ concept maps to illustrate the levels of deep, surface, and non-learning. The results reveal that assigning students the task of developing the concept map and the paper in tandem throughout the semester presents some pros and cons. By using concept maps, students reflect more deeply on the nature of connections between two ideas, on the process of narrowing down the main theme, and on the overall structure of the concept map. However, students’ perception of the concept map’s usefulness beyond an initial brainstorming phase is diversified, and the sets of concept maps developed produce mixed results relative to surface learning, deep learning, and non-learning. The limitations of such use of concept maps include possible correlations between learning and motivation.

Understanding How Perceptions of Power and Identity Influence Student Engagement and Teaching in Undergraduate Art History Survey Courses

Student engagement in undergraduate art history survey courses has been a concern of art historians for decades. In this article I discuss my dissertation study in which I explored how perceptions of student and teacher identity, acting within classroom power dynamics, influence student engagement and pedagogy in undergraduate art history survey courses. Through concept mapping, interviews, and observations of three instructors and nine students in undergraduate art history survey courses at a public university in southeastern Texas, I explore perceptions of students and instructors regarding self, each other, course content, teaching style, and expectations of one another to understand how identity and power influence student engagement and pedagogy. I explored these perceptions through the theoretical lenses of power and identity. The results may offer insight as to how we address perceptions of declining student engagement in undergraduate art history survey courses.


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Reflecting on Reflection

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

I find it interesting that when I run across something in one part of my life, it often pops up in others. Perhaps it’s an enhanced awareness of a topic that makes me more sensitive…or not. Whatever it is, it’s happened again around the topic of reflection. You could call it contemplation, introspection, rumination, or even musing, but it’s been omnipresent at work and at home these days.

I had the good luck to do some professional reading that was based on individual reflections, some personal, some professional. Rhonda A. W. Breit wrote a reflective piece for the most recent publication of SoTL in the South, wherein she bravely detailed her experiences around work, life, illness, and the academy. This piece inspired me to think carefully about the fragility of professional identity and the contexts and conditions that, when changed, can modify how we see ourselves as teachers and learners across mere minutes, days, or weeks.

In talking with a colleague about SoTL, we had a discussion about the fact that some days, we’re simply “mourning for a story.” This is not a sad thing, but rather, we decided, human nature. Experiences tied to emotions are often those we recall most successfully. Conventional scholarship seeks to remove as much emotion from systematic study as possible, which can limit access to the story behind the work (caveat — if vignettes or case studies are used, this lack of story access can be mitigated!). You can be a passionate advocate for/of SoTL and still like to know the stories that inspired that work. To that end, my colleague and I agreed that reading about others’ thinking processes to solve teaching/learning problems often influenced us to think differently about our own teaching praxis. This recent special issue of the Journal for Research and Practice in College Teaching provides a perfect resource for this: a compendium of systematic reflections organized around a variety of topics, telling the stories of unique contexts and individuals.

Finally, as an editorial board member for a disciplinary SoTL journal (Teaching and Learning in Communication Sciences & Disorders), I am working with three colleagues to establish a new framework for peer review of reflective manuscripts. We have been pondering various questions, such as: Who decides what reflections are valuable and worth sharing? Do all reflections that lead to change have merit? Does scale matter? How should decisions about what reflections are “publication-worthy” be made? What is a systematic approach to evaluating reflections for rigor, reader interest, and such? These aren’t all easy questions to balance, particularly in a discipline that has not conventionally published reflective pieces as scholarly work. I find the question of how to approach reflection systematically intriguing, and wonder if there’s any one approach that is better than another. Thus far, I have found a few resources in my early readings that touch on this topic, its components, and its considerations.

Shmuel Ellis, Bernd Crette, Frederik Anseel, and Filip Pievens published a paper in 2014 titled Systematic Reflection: Implications for Learning form Failures and Successes, detailing essential components of systematic reflection: self-explanation, data verification, and feedback. From this resource, we can learn possible components of systematic reflection, though perhaps these components won’t work on all types of reflection (abstract below):

Drawing on a growing stream of empirical findings that runs across different psychological domains, we demonstrated that systematic reflection stands out as a prominent tool for learning from experience. For decades, failed experiences have been considered the most powerful learning sources. Despite the theoretical and practical relevance, few researchers have investigated whether people can also learn from their successes. We showed that through systematic reflection, people can learn from both their successes and their failures. Studies have further shown that the effectiveness of systematic reflection depends on situational (e.g., reflection focus) and person-based (e.g., conscientiousness) factors.

The most recent issue of Teaching & Learning Inquiry features an article by Allison Cook-Sather, Sophia Abbott, and Peter Felten on the topic of legitimating reflective writing in SoTL. This article comes at exactly the right time for the work I’m doing with and for my disciplinary journal. This piece builds a case for reflective writing in SoTL to be embraced as meaningful and legitimate for four main reasons (tho I’d add to this, reflection tells the stories of teaching and learning, which is important to capture and celebrate!):

  1. The process of reflection is an essential component of learning.
  2. Reflective writing captures the complexity of learning.
  3. Reflection is an accessible form of writing for both new and experienced SoTL authors.
  4. Reflective writing is accessible to a wide range of readers.

So my next steps?

  • Keep reading, reflecting, and learning about this topic.
  • Consider ways in which systematic reflections might be best reviewed by peers as part of the publishing process for my disciplinary journal.
  • Listen closely to future discussions of reflection’s place in SoTL as a way of sharing perspectives and experiences across the broad variety of disciplines and institutions and individuals engaged in SoTL.
  • Advocate in support of reflective writings as necessary to tell the whole story of SoTL, teaching, and learning.

Blog References

Breit, R. A. W. (2019). Work, life, illness, and the academy: A personal reflection. SoTL in the South, 3(2), 121-126.

Cook-Sather, A., Abbot, S., & Felten, P. (2019). Legitimating reflective writing in SoTL: “Dysfunctional illusions of rigor” revisited. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 7(2).

Ellis, S., Carette, B., Anseel, F., & Lievens, F. (2014). Systematic reflection: Impolications for learning from failures and successes. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(1), 67-72.

Journal for Research and Practice in College Teaching, 3(2). Special issue, entire issue cited in blog.


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Roadblocks, opportunities, and a call for blog contributors across three topics

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

In informal conversations with friends and colleagues, I’ve heard from many that writing a blog post is a scary proposition, for what are very understandable reasons. Authoring a blog is new to many, represents a different form of writing, and are not (typically) recognized in most disciplines as a scholarly artifact. Folks have asked me why they should take on the work of writing a blog in the face of the challenges they perceive. My response? At their core, blogs represent a way to broaden the audience who knows about the work that you’re doing. Think about the narrowness with which our scholarly work is typically shared. We publish in journals and present at conferences with other people who do similar work to what we do. There’s tremendous value in that. However, looking beyond our expected professional audiences, publishing blog posts allows for an easy crossing of disciplinary, institutional, and/or social borders to engage more and different stakeholders in your work. There’s tremendous value in that form of publishing, too. That said, I’m biased. I really enjoy blogging and find it to be incredibly enriching both personally and professionally.

From my experiences as a co-creator, frequent contributor, and current editor of this blog, I want to offer two thoughts for your consideration. One focuses on the biggest roadblock to contributing to a blog (shared anecdotally with me by many) while the other focuses on the biggest opportunity.

  • Roadblock? It seems as though the most difficult thing for contributors to find is their “blog voice.” Ideally, blogs are accessible, jargon-free, and provide a high level summary of a process, idea, or project. I usually tell people that writing a blog is not like writing a paper for peer review. Instead, it’s like writing a letter to folks who have different experiences, priorities, or levels of understanding of your topic than you might. I firmly believe that while it may be initially challenging to develop a less regimented style of professional communication, engaging new audiences with your work makes it a worthy endeavor. How do you overcome this roadblock? Read the blog(s) you wish to write for. Examine the tone, format, and general feel of the already published posts to inform your choices as a potential blog contributor.
  • Opportunity! I wrote recently about purposeful amplification of SoTL work being a major conference theme at #ISSOTL19. One of the ideas I reported on in that blog came from a session presented by Lockhart and Wuetherick (citation below), who discussed planning for the eventual impact of your work when you engage in initial planning of a SoTL project. Writing a blog post tied to your SoTL work is an excellent way of planning for impact. And, while impact can mean a variety of things (e.g., impact across an institution, a discipline, across disciplines, in the public space), the bottom line is that if more and different people are exposed to your work, the greater the chance at increasing its impact. This blog, for example, has had over 12,000 views in over three dozen countries this year alone. Trust me when I say that a broader audience exists for your work. Blogging can help you access that audience.

The information shared above is not coincidental! I share it because I am seeking to represent the voices of more and different SoTL stakeholders on this blog. There are several topics I’d like to propose as a foundation for potential contributors to build upon:

What DOESN’T work? We routinely talk about, publish, and present information related to what does work in our SoTL. Rarely (almost never, actually) do we talk about what didn’t work well at all. There’s value in sharing reflections on things we wish we had done differently, outcomes that weren’t positive, or lessons we have learned from errors made in the process of SoTLing. There’s no shame in learning and growing, and that’s what happens when things just don’t work. Consider sharing those experiences!

What am I reading? Share a link to a site, blog, article, book…anything you’re reading. Create a blog post that briefly summarizes the subject of your reading and share how it can be used/applied in a learning context. Or, share how you/your practice as a teacher or learner evolved as a result of that reading. Another option might be to speak to how you’ve shared or translated that work to other stakeholder groups of personal or professional interest. There is SO MUCH out there to digest that isn’t brought to a wide audience. This call is a chance to make that happen!

Topic of your choice! What are you thinking about in terms of SoTL? Power, voice, partnerships, outcomes, roadblocks, methods, community… Chances are, SoTL Advocate readers would like to hear more! Summarize a project you’ve completed. Give us a think-aloud (okay…write-aloud) about how you plan a SoTL project. Talk about how you’ve developed SoTl networks or provide examples of SoTL advocacy. The only restriction on topic is that needs to relate to SoTL. From there, the sky is the limit!

Please consider contributing a blog post. Share the opportunity with others, and please feel free to contact me (jfribe@ilstu.edu) with questions or to brainstorm ideas or thoughts that might become a future blog topic!

Blog references

Lockhart, W. & Wuetherick, B. (2019). Using SoTL to advance institutional change: Exploring student success in foundational courses. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


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SoTL as Public Scholarship: Call for Chapter Proposals

Shared by: Nancy Chick & Jennifer Friberg, Project Editors     

Proposals due Dec 15, 2019

The ISSOTL19 conference theme, “SoTL Without Borders: Engaged Practices for Social Change,” was a field-changer that foregrounded intentional conversations that have only popped up here and there at previous conferences.   It challenged some to view SoTL in new ways, and invited others to bring their backstage SoTL goals into the spotlight. This moment helped us more fully consider SoTL’s potential to effect change. The conference ended with a closing plenary that called for an amplification of the field by exploring how we might conceive of “SoTL as Public Scholarship,” how we might extend its purpose toward advocacy, its audiences toward a broader public, its products toward more public forms of communication, and its influence beyond courses and academic programs.

ISSOTL19 participants left Atlanta committed to continuing the conversation and, more importantly, making things happen.  ISSOTL is “building on the ideas and optimism” of the conference by sponsoring a new “public SoTL” model of its International Collaborative Writing Groups (see here) to support the development and capacity for this work among SoTL practitioners and supporters. 

We are also eager to “build on the ideas and optimism shared in Atlanta” by more fully articulating the vision of SoTL as public scholarship.  We are editing a book under contract with Stylus Publishing to feature innovative, forward-thinking, field-amplifying work that guides SoTL in its potential for reaching “the public.”  

We here call for proposals for two key chapters in SoTL as Public ScholarshipSee below for the description of each.

  1. SoTL and traditional media:  Though platforms such as weblogs and social media are used to publicly share various aspects of SoTL, it is unknown to what extent SoTL scholars are using more traditional media such as radio, newspapers, magazines, or television to share work publicly.  These are among the most public-facing ways of reaching a large, non-academic audience, yet they are also among the most challenging for SoTL scholars. We seek proposals for a thoughtful and useful chapter that both address the significance of this type of media for SoTL and guide readers in communicating through these less familiar venues.  The chapter will be 4,000 words.
  2. The international contexts of SoTL in considering the influence of geography, culture, and politics in public sharing: While this project might appear to presume that public scholarship is accessible to all potential stakeholders equally, we acknowledge that is likely untrue. Various social media platforms are inaccessible to citizens in certain countries, and some socio-cultural practices and political influences also impact how scholarship can be made public. This chapter will explore ways in which public factors such as these might impact the work of creating SoTL as public scholarship. The chapter will be 4,000 words.

750-word proposals are due on December 15. Please include CVs with relevant experiences highlighted for all authors.  Submit materials to both editors at nchick@rollins.edu  & jfribe@ilstu.edu.

The first full drafts of these two chapters will be due by April 1, 2020.  The timeline for the book’s publication process is as follows:

  • Early April, 2020: Feedback on first drafts
  • June 1: Final drafts due
  • July 1: Manuscript submitted to Stylus
  • February 2021: Book publication

Share this CFP with this shortened URL: bit.ly/SoTL-trad-media


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Hot off the presses: Gauisus, Volume 7

Gauisus is the internal, peer-reviewed scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) publication at Illinois State University (ISU). Each published volume (except the first, which was published in pdf and print formats) are multi-media publications which contain varied representations of SoTL work. Representations may be scholarly papers or notes, online posters, videos, wikis or blogs and so on. The seventh volume of Gauisus was published this week, featuring four works by ISU faculty engaged in SoTL work. Abstracts are copied here, with links to each work:

Transition to Standards-Based Grading: Six Steps to Implement Badging in College Courses
Mandy White • Department of Special Education
Tara Kaczorowski • Department of Special Education
Robyn Seglem • School of Teaching and Learning

Traditional university courses assign points, which translate into letter grades, but those points earned do not always reflect the mastery of the intended learning outcomes for the course.  This becomes problematic because students seem more concerned about points and grades rather than learning. We transitioned to Standards-Based Grading over several semesters and identified six steps for implementing badging in college courses: (a) familiarize and redefine course outcomes, (b) evaluate and align assignments and activities, (c) create rubrics, (d) establish a recording system for badges, (e) initiate the communication cycle, and (f) define final course grades.

Perspectives of Non-Tenured Track Faculty Members and Doctoral Students Included in Mentorship and Professional Development
Allison Kroesch • Department of Special Education
Yojanna Cuenca-Carlino • Department of Special Education
Luminita Hartle • Department of Special Education
Sara Porter • Department of Special Education
Lauralyn Randles • Department of Special Education
Samuel Whitley • Department of Special Education
Mandy White • Department of Special Education
Adrianne Locke • Department of Special Education
Jamillah Gilbert • Department of Special Education
Ashley Wolinski-Norton • Department of Special Education
Krystal Lewis-Pratt • Department of Special Education

Non-tenured track faculty (NTTF) members and doctoral students (DS) often do not have the same opportunities to collaborate and participate in professional development with a variety of tenured-track faculty (TTF) members within a department. To increase collaboration, an Associate Professor in the Department of Special Education at Illinois State designed and implemented the GROWTH Mentoring Program. This program, in its fourth semester of implementation, encourages teams of faculty members (NTTF, TTF, and DS) to reflect on taught lessons with a peer, learn from various workshops, and participate in organized writing days. The purpose of this manuscript is to share the perspectives of the benefits and challenges of this mentorship program through the lenses of NTTF and DS who have participated in the program for the past year.

The Role of Universities in Workforce Development
Jennifer Peterson, Ph.D. • Department of Health Sciences
The purpose of higher education in the United States has been an issue of much debate.  Although higher education was originally developed as a method of producing upstanding young men for society, in recent years, many have argued that higher education should be preparing young adults for careers and jobs needed for a successful economy.  Traditionally, workforce development education has been the in the realm of community colleges.  However, as the price of education has increased, the demand for more highly educated workers has increased, and the value of higher education has been questioned, many feel that all levels of higher education should focus on workforce development.  This article identifies four major themes from the literature in this area, discusses current mental models that prevent universities from entering the workforce development realm, and provides recommendations for needed investigation and change if universities are to play an active role in workforce development.

Outcomes from a SoTL Certificate Program for Graduate Students
Jennifer Friberg, Ed.D. • Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
This power point set was presented at the 2019 meeting of EuroSoTL in Bilbao, Spain, and describes data collected from the first three cohorts of students to complete the Certificate of Specialized Instruction in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CSI-SoTL) at Illinois State University. These slides describe the genesis of the CSI-SoTL program, the annual timeline for student participants, and explores data collected from the first two cohorts of enrollees. Overwhelmingly, CSI-SoTL student participants indicated that the program enhanced their interest and understanding of SoTL, provided an enhanced view of professional opportunities post-degree completion, and helped them to better understand research as a whole. Implications for future iterations of the CSI-SoTL program are presented, as well.

The purposes of Gauisus are the following: 1) to provide instructors writing about their teaching and learning a local but peer reviewed outlet to share what they and their students have done and learned and 2) to offer other instructors and students an accessible publication to read to obtain a sense of, and learn from, some of the scholarly teaching and SoTL projects conducted by their colleagues on our campus.

The name of the volume, Gauisus: Selected scholarship on teaching and learning at Illinois State University, stems from a “name the publication” contest in 2008. Pete Juvinall’s entry was chosen. Gauisus means glad, gladly, or joyful in Latin, as in the Illinois State motto/logo, “Gladly we learn and teach.” Reviewers are volunteers from ISU, and sometimes beyond, who must apply and are selected based on their experience with SoTL and reviewing scholarly work.