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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Finding the “Sweet Spot” Across a Continuum of Student Roles/Voices in SoTL

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

Last week in her blog post, my colleague Phyllis McCluskey-Titus discussed the benefits for faculty who engage in SoTL work with students. She identified a variety of outcomes that make SoTL mentorship with students a reflective and productive endeavor, and explained each from her perspective as a mentor and facilitator of SoTL work with students. It was clear from her reflections that Dr. McCluskey-Titus’ work with students favored the establishment of strong connections with students through the development of collaborative research relationships. My read of this blog post led me to recall the continuum of the range of student voices developed by McKinney, Jarvis, Creasey and Herrmann (2010) which outlined the spectrum of possibilities for student voices to be heard in the context of SoTL work. This continuum is summarized in the following graphic:

continuum visual

As a Commons, we are seeking to increase student voices in SoTL – an initiative that I fully support! I think it’s necessary, timely, and right to engage students in SoTL in a similar manner as we do in our disciplinary inquiry. That said, it’s not always easy! The above continuum yields a host of potential stopping points for students engaged in SoTL, from acting as a research subject to helping with clerical work, to helping with analysis, to co-development/independent project development. All forms of engagement in SoTL can potentially be of benefit to students and faculty, but perhaps some more so than others. This continuum would suggest that to be the case.

In my experience, there are faculty-driven and student-driven contextual factors that influence the ability to involve students as more than just research subjects in any given SoTL project. The following represents a non-exhaustive list of questions/bottlenecks that I’ve pondered in terms of developing a faculty mindset for student inclusion in SoTL research:

  • Time – Does a student have ample, focused time to allocate to a SoTL project in the midst of a busy semester? If so, does a faculty member have the freedom to spend a great deal of time mentoring a student over the course of a project? Is this expenditure of time honored/valued as part of the teaching/research/service trifecta?
  • Timing – Is a student seeking involvement in a project right as a faculty member is in the process of developing one? Is it feasible for a student to be engaged with an entire SoTL project across multiple semesters in terms of his/her plan of study? Can a student contribute to a SoTL project on a short-term basis in a way that is meaningful to his/her learning and the aims of the faculty co-researcher?
  • Depth – What level of student involvement in SoTL work yields benefits for students and faculty?

These questions lead to more. Where is the “sweet spot” for student engagement in SoTL research? How do you find it? I would offer that perhaps the best fit for student involvement in SoTL is quite literally a moving target, dependent on contextual factors (considerations of time, timing, depth, etc.) that impact the ability to engage students across the continuum McKinney and colleagues describe above. There will be times where all the variables fall into place and a faculty/student research team can develop and study a teaching and learning question together collaboratively with complexity from start to finish. More often, there will be times where a student can work with a faculty member on a SoTL project in a more limited fashion, necessitating a need for less complex or active involvement in the work being done.

We know that students can benefit in a variety of ways from engagement in SoTL work. I would argue that knowing these potential benefits, we can work to adapt even short-term “lower continuum” involvement in a SoTL project to be a positive learning experience for students if we mediate the experience well. We need to talk to our students, explain the genesis of our research wonderments, describe the choices we made as researchers in terms of methods/analysis, and discuss what we might do with the outcomes of our SoTL work. In doing that, we have the opportunity to turn a less active/less complex student role in a SoTL project into one with a strong connection to the project and instructor, therein tying the student experience to both ends of the student voices/roles continuum and (hopefully) maximizing student learning/engagement in the process.

Blog Reference:

McKinney, K., Jarvis, P., Creasey, G., & Herrmann, D. (2010). In Werder, C. & Otis, M. M. (Eds). Engaging student voices in the student of teaching and learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

 


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Benefits to Faculty who Lead SoTL Research Teams with Students

Written by: Phyllis McCluskey-Titus, Professor of Educational Administration and Foundations at Illinois State University

Students can gain a number of important outcomes through participation in SoTL research teams with faculty. These outcomes include: enhanced research skills (Kardash, 2000); increased satisfaction with group learning (Panelli & Welch, 2005); helpful out-of-class contact between faculty and students (Cotten & Wilson, 2006); and increased connections between students and their discipline (Wayment & Dickson, 2008).

There are also significant benefits to faculty who facilitate SoTL research teams with students as co-researchers. As someone who has now led three different teams of students that studied teaching and learning, I can attest that there are some real benefits to faculty who invest time and energy into this process.

As a program coordinator as well as a faculty member, having willing student researchers allowed me to conduct a significant program evaluation that assessed student learning outcomes using national guidelines. The students developed and administered surveys, conducted interviews, and served as a review panel to rate and make recommendations from the information collected. Their assistance with writing the final report allowed the evaluation to be completed significantly faster than if I had been responsible for the entire process.

As a senior faculty member, conducting SoTL research with “learners” allowed me to keep the process fresh, and to examine different ways of conducting, publishing, and presenting research about teaching and learning with others who were not faculty. The students wanted to know why we used certain methods to collect or analyze data and forced me to reconsider and offer a rationale for what we were doing. One of the teams which was assessing learning outcomes contributed to the development of a survey instrument by asking not only what outcomes were achieved, but where and how students believed these outcomes were learned (class, graduate assistantship, volunteer experiences, professional associations) and this allowed our team to make stronger recommendations to faculty, supervisors, and other students about how to best direct their energies within the program to maximize their learning.

New faculty can certainly use a SoTL research team as “research support” when graduate research assistants are not available. For a small investment of time in teaching the team members, this group of student volunteers can be trained to help with any part of the SoTL research process. In exchange for authorship opportunities or presentation experience, even if funding is not available, SoTL research team members who are students can be more beneficial than finding a faculty mentor or partner to assist you. As the expert about SoTL and how to conduct research, you have to make sure you are very clear about the process and organization of your study in order to have students assist you. This forces you to be organized and prepared, and not put off research in favor of other responsibilities. Having the students involved will help you stay on task and on a specific timeline. By dividing the different tasks among the team members, everyone is able to contribute and learn in the process, and you may be able to be more productive and able to submit more research for publication or presentation.

Leading a SoTL research team is an important form of teaching, and a way to develop strong relationships with students outside the classroom. These relationships may allow a faculty member to better understand students in their program and classes and to adapt teaching methods accordingly. By conducting SoTL research with a team of students outside of class, faculty can learn about how students in their classes are making meaning of material covered and how they respond to teaching methods used. This information can assist in revising and updating syllabi, readings, assessments, and classroom activities to enhance the learning that students report or demonstrate.

Although the development of a SoTL research team takes time, the benefits to faculty in terms of possible enhanced productivity, nurturing relationships with students, developing new motivation and methods for teaching and conducting research, and being able to assess students’ learning are benefits that make this process worth it.

References

Cotton, S.R., & Wilson, B. (2006). Student-faculty interactions: Dynamics and determinants. Higher Education, 51(4), 487-519.

Kardash, C. M. (2000). Evaluation of an undergraduate research experience: Perceptions ofundergraduate interns and their faculty mentors. Journal of Educational Psychology,92(1), 191–201.

Panelli, R., & Welch, R.V. (2005). Teaching research through field studies: A cumulativeopportunity for teaching methodology to human geography undergraduates. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 29(2), 255– 277.

Wayment, H.A., & Dickson, K.L. (2008). Increasing student participation in undergraduateresearch benefits students, faculty, and department. Teaching of Psychology, 35(3), 194-197.


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One Idea for Introducing Graduate Students to SoTL: An Interactive Reading Circle

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

SoTL Reading Group 1

In May and June of this year, the Office of the Cross Chair in SoTL sponsored its second annual SoTL Reading Circle for graduate students. Eight students representing varied disciplines (special education, English, sociology, psychology, history, politics and government, geology, and women’s and gender studies) met to learn about the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) and to consider how scholarly teaching and/or SoTL might fit into their lives. The goal of this reading circle was to help students to understand SoTL and its contributions to classrooms, programs, institutions, and disciplines through:

  • exploration of the definitions of scholarly teaching and SoTL
  • identification of possible student roles in scholarly teaching and SoTL
  • discussion of how knowledge of SoTL can enhance teaching and learning
  • conversation centered around topical assigned readings.

I acted as the facilitator for the reading circle and worked to structure our meetings to invite discussion about teaching and learning. Adhering to Gutman, Sergison, Martin, and Berstein’s (2010, p. 36) conceptualization of ownership as a “linchpin for collaboration,” it was a priority for students to understand that SoTL was important to them as both students and as prospective faculty. We talked at length about their roles as scholarly teachers/learners and as scholars of teaching and learning and together generated the following lists of tips for both roles:

Tips for Scholarly Teaching and Learning

  • Find out if your discipline has its own pedagogical journal. Seek it out. Read articles of interest to you. Think about how the research on teaching and learning that you read about is similar to or different from “traditional” research in your discipline. Reflect on these similarities and differences.
  • Think about potential faculty mentors who engage in scholarship on teaching and learning. Set up opportunities to talk with them about their experiences. Ask them to be “meta” and walk you through their thought processes in terms of setting up or reading scholarship on teaching and learning.
  • Consider scholarship on teaching and learning with a “consumer’s mindset.” Even though SoTL is contextualized, reflect on outcomes from scholarship with an eye towards application to support your own teaching and/or learning efforts and use what you learn to improve your practices.

Tips for Scholars of Teaching and Learning

  • Think carefully about your teaching and learning wonderments. Look toward past inquiry to see what has been studied and consider how your research question(s) can be adapted to make new contributions.
  • Seek out mentors to help you structure your project. Invite them – or others – to collaborate with you.
  • Don’t feel as though your SoTL needs to look like the scholarship done by other individuals. Design a project that reflects your interests (in terms of your research question), methods that make sense within your discipline, and ways to share your outcomes that are appropriate to the work you’ve done.
  • Use the resources around you to work smarter and find support for your scholarship (we discussed specific resources here at ISU via the Office of the Cross Chair, including grants, trainings, blog, website).
  • Consider SoTL from a “producer’s mindset,” and think about strategic ways to share your work with others to improve teaching and learning on your campus and beyond.

We engaged in discussions across multiple shared readings from journal articles as well as from The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in and Across the Disciplines (McKinney, 2013). Students drafted possible research questions and collaborated to determine ways in which their questions could be studied. All in all, we spent five hours together having really interesting conversations about teaching and learning. Two students from this summer’s reading circle cohort are currently seeking disciplinary mentors for a SoTL project, to which I say, “hooray!”

Student interest in this past summer’s reading circle opportunity was immense and led to an upcoming collaboration with ISU’s Graduate School for the 2016-17 academic year. My office will be co-piloting a Certificate of Special Instruction in SoTL for graduate students, providing systematic study of scholarly teaching and SoTL as well as a guided experience in planning a SoTL project under the direction of a mentor (hopefully from the student’s discipline…stay tuned!). We are excited to have a new mechanism to introduce graduate students to SoTL and look forward to sharing outcomes from this endeavor in the not-too-distant future.

Blog References:

Gutman, E. E., Sergison, E. M., Martin, C. J., & Bernstein, J. L. (2010). Engaging students as scholars in teaching and learning: The role of ownership. In Werder, C. & Otis, M. (Eds.). Engaging student voices in the study of teaching and learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

McKinney, K. (2013). The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in and Across the Disciplines. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.


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Reflective Writing: Students’ Monitoring of Their Own Learning Goals

Written by: Sandra Osorio, Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Education at Illinois State University

Recently, I redesigned my science methods course to include instruction on working with students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, developing a unique out-of-class learning experience for students enrolled in this course. Upon completion of the redesign, I developed a SoTL research project to answer the following question: How do the experiences provided in my redesigned course affect pre-service teachers’ cultural awareness? This SoTL study took place in my science methods course with 26 students, all of whom were female. While the majority of participants were White, one student self-identified as Latina.  All were preservice teachers.

Participants were enrolled in this course during the final semester of classes before student teaching.  As part of the redesigned course and it’s out-of-class learning component, participants visited a local classroom which included Spanish-English bilingual students for a total of twelve times to teach science lessons. After each session in the classroom and at the end of the entire experience, participants completed weekly reflections. The focus of this blog will be on initial findings from the written reflections and final reflective papers with a focus on changes in cultural awareness as a result of this new learning experience.

At the beginning of the semester, participants set personal learning goals they were expected to use as a basis for their weekly reflections. Participants’ goals related to teaching science and working with students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.  Reflection on these goals allowed participants to connect their learning to their prior knowledge and monitor their own learning each week.

All participants’ goals related to working with students from culturally and linguistically diverse background were similar, reflecting aspirations such as:

  1. becoming more comfortable working with ELL students
  2. incorporating their cultures and previous knowledge into lessons
  3. using appropriate accommodations for those ELL learners
  4. connecting with culturally and linguistically diverse students to make them feel important and included

At the conclusion of all twelve clinical experiences, data were analyzed and interpreted. Initial reflections indicated that participants had some misconceptions related to working with bilingual students. Many of the pre-service teachers made the assumption that bilingual, really meant Spanish only, as can be seen from these student reflections:

  • “students might not be proficient in English, so when I was speaking I made sure to speak clearly and slowly enough so they could understand”
  • “being able to use my Spanish background if needed to assist them at any time”

In reality, participants were able to see that Spanish-English students were on a continuum between the languages with varying degrees of proficiency and that their assumptions about bilingual language use were not accurate.

As participants gained more experience with their bilingual students, I was able to see areas of growth and change with regard to cultural awareness. An example of such growth is Madison, who demonstrated that she was able to apply course content to her teaching experience:

“While I was working with two of the students, one asked me if he could describe the objects in Spanish.  I knew that it was important for the students to practice their English, but this activity wasn’t about the language, it was about exploring the properties of objects.  I told the student to try his best to use English, but if he couldn’t think of the word Spanish was okay.”

Similarly, Kacey wrote in the following in one of her reflections, applying the need to use active learning to facilitate vocabulary growth:

“Specifically, hands-on learning is critical for ELL students.  By providing ELL children with the opportunity to experience the learning and construct his or her own knowledge, he or she is more likely to comprehend and retain the information.  As teachers, it is important to allow ELL students various ways to learn.  By using a hands-on activity with Hannah and I’s lesson, we will be catering to the students’ needs.”

Data reflected that participants were constantly reflecting deeply on their experiences. Anna noticed that students were only using basic words such as colors to describe the objects they were given in the lesson. She said,

“Since majority of the students are ELLs they would have benefitted from explicit vocabulary instruction about how to describe and what words to use.  When working with the children I noticed that students didn’t use a variety of adjectives to describe objects.  Being able to critically reflect and think about this lesson will help me strive to reach the goals that I have set for myself.”

Anna’s reflection actually led to some changes when the lesson was retaught.  Participants decided that the first lesson of each unit would concentrate on a wider range of descriptive words. For subsequent lessons, one of the participants developed a reference word list for students which (based on participant reflections) supported not only ELL students, but all students in the classroom, as well.

The most important aspect of this redesigned course was the real world experience.  This allowed participants to change some of the common misconceptions they held and also put into practice what they were reading and learning.  This was expressed in one of Kacey’s final reflections,

“Throughout college I always felt very unprepared for having ELL students in my future classroom. I felt as though I was having a hard time comprehending the strategies without getting the chance to practice them. Therefore, getting the opportunity to be in classroom with ELL students every week was very beneficial for me. I was able to take all of the ELL teaching strategies that I have learned in my past courses and see them in action.”

Reading the reflections, I found participants still made some negative assumptions about ELL students, but they also made important strides towards their own personal learning goals and those of the course, in terms of increasing cultural awareness. These initial findings demonstrate the effectiveness of this activity within my course redesign.  Exposing participants to real-life scenarios working with culturally diverse students was an effective technique to encourage changes in thinking and application of learning.  Growth was likely facilitated by having participants write their own learning goals, so learning was differentiated to meet their individual needs.

Overall, data collected for this project helped inform changes for the next time I work with students in a similar fashion. By having students write about how they are working towards their goals and reflecting on their awareness of culture, I was able to see the connections students make to prior learning and how to better support them in the future.


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Knowing Who We Are

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University  

I have spent the last two decades of my life as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), working directly with children who have communication disorders, teaching/mentoring SLPs-in-training, and contributing to the evidence base for clinical practice and pedagogy in my profession. From the onset of my career as an SLP, I’ve answered the question, “what exactly do you do?” hundreds of times. As friends and family understood my professional life a bit better, this question was asked less frequently. That all changed this year, however, when I accepted the role of Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at ISU. I’ve been asked “what exactly do you do?” more often than ever…and I can completely understand the confusion! Providing a 35,000’ overview of my role is difficult, but this description is usually a good start:

I work with students and faculty who are interested in research and reflection on teaching and learning in higher education. I foster opportunities for networking, funding, completion, and dissemination of teaching and learning research at ISU and beyond.

I actually find it more difficult to explain my role to faculty and students, from my university or from others. This is likely due to the multitude of different approaches to/perceptions of educational development for SoTL across institutions. Timmermans and Ellis (2016) recently wrote of their work to reconceptualize SoTL programming/support at the University of Waterloo. The combination of a smaller scale needs assessment combined with a university-wide task force led these authors to support and (successfully) implement a broader view of scholarly teaching, rather than a narrower view of SoTL, to guide educational development efforts. Their data indicated that to be the “Goldilocks fit” for their institution —  not too big, not too small, but just right — to engage faculty and students in the study and reflection of teaching and learning.

The work of Timmermans and Ellis (2016) led me to think in a different yet focused way about SoTL at ISU. While SoTL support at the University of Waterloo is undertaken by the Center for Teaching Excellence, we have a different arrangement at ISU. I began to ponder the organizational structure for SoTL development and whether that might be the true driver in helping us understand and know who we are on our respective campuses. This, in turn, led me to consider the impact of the structure for teaching and learning at ISU on how SoTL support is sought and perceived.

At ISU, there is a great deal of support for teaching and learning. We have a robust Center for Teaching and Learning (CTLT) as well as a strong and growing influence in SoTL via the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL. These entities are completely separate (different reporting and funding structures) though few realize that there is purposeful separation between the two campus units. For me, it is critical that our campus units be perceived as different. Why? Oversight for the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair is provided by the Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, which legitimizes and supports SoTL as an accepted, valued, and important form of research for our campus. This differentiates SoTL, institutionally, in a hugely positive way. Knowing who we are in terms of SoTL at ISU begins here.

Collaborations with CTLT extend from this notion, allowing an interactive and productive relationship across the continuum of good teaching, scholarly teaching, and the SoTL (McKinney, 2007). Because I am a visual person, I tried to capture the work we do graphically:

CTLT v CC image

I am thankful that the organizational structure for educational development in teaching and learning at ISU has allowed us our “Goldilocks fit.” We have good and scholarly teaching encouraged by CTLT and scholarly teaching and SoTL encouraged by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL. It’s a balance, but one that is working at our institution. And, that’s really the key in a world where there is no one “right” approach to encouraging and supporting SoTL, isn’t it? The ability to support research and reflection on teaching and learning to honor the uniqueness of our institutions and their needs is critical. Thanks to Timmermans and Ellis for giving me the chance to reflect on this today!

 

Blog References:

McKinney, K. (2007). Enhancing learning though the scholarship of teaching and learning: The challenges and joys of juggling. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Timmermans, J. A. & Ellis, D. E. (2016). Reconceptualizing the scholarship of teaching and learning at the University of Waterloo: An account of influences and impact. New Directions of Teaching and Learning, 146, 71-78.


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Volume 4 (2016) of Gauisus is published!

 

Written by: Kathleen McKinney, former Cross Chair in SoTL and Professor of Sociology, Emeritus at Illinois State University

gauisusGauisus is the internal, blind peer-reviewed scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) publication at Illinois State University (ISU). At ISU we define the scholarship of teaching and learning as the “systematic reflection/study on teaching and learning [of our ISU students] made public.” The first volume of Gauisus appeared in 2009 in print and pdf form and contained 13 traditional scholarly articles or notes. The second and subsequent volumes are multi-media publications and appear on line every late spring. Each will contain several representations of SoTL work. Representations may be scholarly papers or notes, online posters, videos, wikis or blogs and so on.

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. Gauisus means glad, gladly, or joyful in Latin, as in the Illinois State University motto/logo, “Gladly we learn and teach.” Reviewers are volunteers from ISU, and sometimes beyond, who apply and are selected based on their experience with SoTL and reviewing scholarly work.

Volume 4, 2016 contains the following SoTL representations: 

Using Interrupted Video Case Studies to Teach Developmental Theory: A Pilot Study

J. W. Anderson • Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

Sarah Bradshaw • Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

Jennifer Banning • Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

This study was designed to determine the usefulness of interrupted video case studies in providing vicarious, but meaningful, application of classroom learning, in this case, foundational theories of the human development field. Participants were students in a graduate Human Development course where a pre-/post-test format was utilized. The effect was significant as all participants’ posttest score improved. Also, pattern-matching results indicated an increase in complex levels of thinking across students’ work, further validating post-test scores. Results here serve also to confirm Egleston’s (2013) idea that an interrupted video case-study, could address all limitations typically associated with case-based instruction.

Service Learning for Development of Undergraduate Practitioner Researchers

Karen Flint Stipp • School of Social Work

Kathryn Sheridan • School of Social Work

Ariana E. Postlethwait • Department of Social Work, Middle Tennessee State University

Social work has an ongoing challenge to help undergraduates identify as practitioner-researchers. In a one-semester research course for juniors, groups of students completed an agency-based proposal. The assignment used a service learning approach. Students worked with agencies to identify agency questions, and develop a proposal for finding answers to an agency question. The following year each student completed a two-semester practicum. This study asked graduating seniors to report whether elements of their junior year agency-based proposal informed their senior year field practicum work.

Can Grammar Graphics Impact Grammar Knowledge and Collegiate Writing?

Mark Zablocki • Department of Special Education

Christy Borders • Department of Special Education

Carrie Anna Courtad • Department of Special Education

Stacey Jones Bock • Department of Special Education

Grammar Graphics is a visual system for teaching English syntax. It has the potential to influence ways in which teacher candidates may teach grammar to their K-12 students in the future as well impact their own syntactic knowledge. This system teaches visual symbols for each part of speech with rationale for the symbol itself. We investigated the impact of explicit instruction in grammar with Grammar Graphics on teacher candidate knowledge of syntax as well as their confidence to instruct their future K-12 students in grammar. We further assessed the impact of explicit instruction in grammar with Grammar Graphics on collegiate writing.

How Do Science Undergraduate Students Benefit from Conducting Educational Research?

Rebekka Darner Gougis • School of Biological Sciences

Janet F. Stomberg • School of Biological Sciences

Alicia T. OHare • School of Biological Sciences

This project engaged two science graduate students as members of an educational research team to examine the progression of their experiences as student-researchers and their ideas about qualitative research. Their participation provides a unique context in which we can examine how future science educators come to understand the process and value of educational research, particularly qualitative research. This study can inform future studies that examine how to prepare educators in applying educational research to their practice and ultimately strengthen the quality of post-secondary science education.


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Might the 4M Framework Support SoTL Advocacy?

Written by: Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University

Within SoTL, there are as many similarities as differences. As SoTL scholars, we are alternately inter- and intra-disciplinary in our focus. We operate within different areas of our big tent. We disseminate our work locally, but often seek national and global audiences. SoTL is diverse and different and context-specific but also uniformly focused on improving teaching and learning.

This dynamic orientation for SoTL impacts how we share and advocate for SoTL. With the work I have been doing the last several years, I have found that I advocate differently for SoTL based on my immediate audience: individual researchers, students, department chairs, university administration, disciplinary leaders and organizations. This is likely true for many of us, as we seek support for the important work we do with SoTL. I have often wished for a more organized – or perhaps more efficient – way to conceptualize my SoTL advocacy strategy. In my readings today, I may have found one.

Wuetherick and Yu (2016) recently shared their study exploring the state of SoTL in Canada, reporting input on practices and trends from the perspective of 140 respondents, each SoTL scholars in Canada.  Input from these individuals (gathered via survey) was organized across a four-level framework, which I will term the 4Ms for efficiency: mega, macro, meso, and micro. Use of this 4M framework allowed interpretation of data important to understanding SoTL from a variety of viewpoints, representing individuals and groups. Each of these levels is defined below:

Capture

Data from the Wuetherick and Yu (2016) study provided focused perspectives on each of these levels of influence, alerting readers of interesting trends such as these:

  • While SoTL research influenced 99% of respondents to change the design and implementation of their course, only 52% worked in institutions where SoTL is encouraged via promotion and tenure policies.
  • Different academic/disciplinary departments/units valued SoTL inconsistently, with 50% of respondents indicating that their departmental culture encouraged participation in SoTL.
  • Two-thirds of respondents felt as though there have been increases in the quality and quantity of venues for sharing SoTL work, but only 35% reported adequate campus-level funding for SoTL work.

While these data (and the rest contained within the study) help to inform the state of SoTL in Canada, they also provide a very solid foundation for SoTL advocacy in that country. There is a clear starting point in terms of where attention could be drawn to benefit the micro level (increase funding for SoTL work), the meso level (encourage meaningful changes in departmental culture for greater support of SoTL), the macro level (adapt promotion and tenure policies to support the work of SoTL scholars), and the mega level (continue to increase the profile of dissemination outlets for SoTL work).

Others could use a similar model. Single institutions could survey faculty or others could band together in a more collaborative effort (as was seen in Canada) to outline regional or national priorities for advocacy based on available data. All in all, it would seem as though the 4M framework might give an important starting place for purposeful and strategic advocacy across shareholders to advance and grow SoTL.

Blog Reference:

Wuetherick, B. & Yu, S. (2016). The Canadian teaching commons: The scholarship of teaching and learning in Canadian higher education. New Directions in Teaching &

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