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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CSI-SoTL: Helping Graduate Students Learn about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

 

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

Last week, I identified several opportunities for ISU faculty, staff, and students in my blog post. This week, in an effort to define and explain a new program at ISU this fall, I will focus on one specific initiative: the Certificate of Specialized Instruction in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CSI-SoTL). The CSI-SoTL program was developed following two successful SoTL Reading Circles in the summers of 2015 and 2016. Students indicated a need for expanded programming, which I have endeavored to provide.

This program was co-developed by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and the Graduate School at ISU to provide expanded opportunities for graduate students to engage in study and reflection of research on teaching and learning to facilitate successful work as students and as future faculty.

The following provides a bit more information about why the CSI-SoTL program was developed, who might benefit from participating, and what the program will look like as it unfolds this academic year:

Program Benefits

Through a focus on understanding SoTL, learning about how to apply SoTL and thinking about conducting SoTL research, the CSI-SoTL program is aimed at helping participants succeed as students, teachers, and researchers. As many future college/university teachers lack opportunities for purposeful study and reflection on teaching and learning as part of their graduate school experience, this program provides a unique opportunity for participants to gain knowledge and skills in these areas.

All students who complete the certificate program will be provided a certificate and letter of completion for the program that can be appended to professional vitas/resumes in the future to indicate their focused study and reflection in the area of SoTL.

Aims

Participants the CSI-SoTL program will develop a thorough understanding of the purpose, definition and applications of the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) to support current and future teaching, learning, and research efforts. Specifically, through in-depth discussions and reflection on SoTL, participants in this program will:

  • Conceptualize SoTL as a form of action, practitioner, classroom-based research
  • Understand the impact of SoTL upon their own teaching and learning
  • Apply SoTL to improve their own teaching and learning
  • Become familiar with resources that facilitate scholarly teaching and SoTL
  • Develop/plan a SoTL research project to conduct in the future

Process

Throughout the year, participants in the CSI-SoTL program are expected to:

  1. Attend a series of three fall seminars*, including:
    • SoTL and My Teaching and Learning 
    • Planning a SoTL Project A (Methods)
    • Sharing a SoTL Project B (Dissemination) 
  2. Develop a SoTL research project in consultation with a faculty SoTL research mentor. Research plans will include research questions, methods, and a plan for dissemination (please note that participants do NOT have to complete their research project, they simply need to outline a plan for a potential SoTL project). Participants will be matched with a faculty member as close to their disciplinary field as possible. Times will be arranged individually for each participant for this part of the CSI-SoTL program in January and February of 2017.
  3. Systematically reflect on their experiences in learning about SoTL while completing the CSI-SoTL program, focusing on the impact of the program on future teaching, learning, and research endeavors. A specific format will be provided as a starting place for all reflections. Reflections will be submitted in April/May 2017.

*Please note that participants will be asked to prepare for each session with a brief reading assignment and a brief written reflection.

Current Program Status

Happily, I can report that over a dozen graduate students are enrolled and are set to begin the CSI-SoTL program in early October. Careful study of this program is planned with outcomes shared here on this blog in the summer of 2017.


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Fall SoTL Offerings @ ISU

Redbirds, there are a bevy of SoTL opportunities for you this fall supported by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University. Please direct questions about these offerings to Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL (jfribe@ilstu.edu).

SoTL Workshops & Trainings

Interested in learning about SoTL? The 2-workshop Introduction to SoTL series (9/29 and 11/10 from 12:30-2pm) is just the thing for you. Designed to introduce attendees to SoTL, describe ways to engage in SoTL inquiry, and examine the benefits of SoTL as part of a productive research agenda, these sessions are intended for faculty/staff/students with little to no prior experience with SoTL. These workshops will be facilitated by Jen Friberg and are open to attendees from all disciplines represented at ISU.

For those with SoTL experience, a workshop called “Measuring Out-of-Class Learning” (11/8 from 1-3pm) was designed to help faculty evaluate student learning via opportunities such as study abroad, service learning and other civic engagement experiences. This workshop will be facilitated by Erin Mikulec (TCH) and Jen Friberg. Faculty from all disciplines are welcome to attend.

Certificate for Specialized Training in SoTL for Graduate Students

The Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL has partnered with ISU’s Graduate School in developing the Certificate for Specialized Training in SoTL (CSI-SoTL) for graduate students to engage in study and reflection of research on teaching and learning to facilitate successful work as students and as future faculty. All students who complete the certificate program will be provided a certificate and letter of completion for the program that can be appended to professional vitas/resumes in the future to indicate their focused study and reflection in the area of SoTL. The CSI-SoTL program will feature a series of workshops, opportunities to plan a SoTL project with a faculty mentor, and systematic reflection on learning across the experience.

Travel Grants (FY 17)

Applications are currently being accepted for ISU’s SoTL Travel Grant Program – FY17. The program is designed to encourage public sharing of SoTL work related to the teaching and/or learning of ISU students. The program provides partial funding for travel to present SoTL work. Funds up to $700 per application/conference will be awarded. Funds may be used toward conference registration and/or travel costs. This applies to a trip already taken (and not fully reimbursed) or to be taken, to present SoTL work this fiscal year. We expect to award 8-10 grants for FY17. Please note that faculty/staff are eligible for one travel grant (of any kind) per year. Applications are due by October 3, 2016 OR February 6, 2017.

Gauisus

Submissions for Gauisus, ISU’s internal, multimedia SoTL publication are invited at this time (Submission deadline: January 16, 2017). Faculty, staff, and/or students at ISU are invited to submit SoTL work to Gauisus. All scholarly submissions will be peer reviewed in a manner appropriate to the format of the work submitted. Those interested in submitting SoTL work can use a variety of formats for publication in GAUISUS, any of which could demonstrate a scholarly study of the teaching or learning of our students:

  • Research paper/note (15-30 double-spaced page manuscript, 12 point font, APA format)
  • Electronic poster
  • Any of the following, accompanied by a 1-2 page written summary to contextualize content, situation, and impact of your work: photo essay, video essay/documentary, website, blog, wiki. Other representations will be considered, as well.

We are also looking for faculty, staff, and/or students who are interested in serving as reviewers for this issue of GAUISUS. Reviewers will be asked to review 1-2 submissions between December 2016 (early submissions) and late February 2017 and will have their names listed within the publication as members of the review board. Reviewers may be asked to review resubmissions, if necessary. To volunteer, interested individuals should submit, electronically, a current curriculum vita/resume, highlighting editorial reviewer experience and/or SoTL work or relevant sections from a CV to  Jennifer Friberg, (jfribe@ilstu.edu) by 4:00 pm on Monday, November 7, 2015.

 


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New Issue of JoSoTL Available

The most recent issue of the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (Editor-in-Chief: Michael Morrone, Indiana University) has been published, featuring seven articles focused on diverse topics such as the impact of gratitude on focus and resilience in learning, in-class vs. out-of-class learning, assessment, and attitudes toward technology. Articles have been linked below with abstracts excerpted directly from the JoSoTL website. Happy reading!

Brightening the Mind: The Impact of Practicing Gratitude on Focus and Resilience in Learning

Author: Jane Taylor Wilson

A growing body of groundbreaking research shows that gratitude has the power to heal, energize, and transform lives by enhancing people psychologically, spiritually, physically, and cognitively. This study contributes to the study of gratitude by exploring its impact on focus and resilience in learning. Specifically, this study examines the impact that practicing gratitude has on college students’ ability to focus in class and remain resilient in the face of difficulties while learning.

An Investigation of the Relationship between In-Class and Out-of-Class Efforts on Student Learning: Empirical Evidence and Strategy Suggestion

Author: Tin-Chun Lin

In this paper we explore and discuss an important research question in higher education – is there a trade-off relationship between in-class and out-of-class efforts for students? We used an empirical model to test the trade-off hypothesis between these two efforts. We identified a trade-off between in-class and out-of-class efforts, especially for those students who do not perform well on examinations. We clarified possible reasons for this relationship in a lower-performing student group and noted potentially harmful implications for higher education. We recommended that instructors work individually with students in setting appropriate goals for each exam and frequently offering feedback. Doing so can strengthen rapport between students and faculty, thereby enhancing students’ motivation to learn and confidence in utilizing faculty as a learning resource. We also recommended a classroom-based game play strategy to promote students’ motivation to learn and encourage their participation.

You Can Lead Students to Water, but You Can’t Make Them Think: An Assessment of Student Engagement and Learning though Student-Centered Teaching

Authors: Jennifer Bradford, Denise Mowder, & Joy Bohte

The current project conducted an assessment of three student-centered teaching techniques in a criminal justice and criminology research methods class: Team-Based Learning, Incentive-Based Learning, and Flipped Classroom. The project sought to ascertain to what extent these techniques improved or impacted student learning outcomes and engagement in this traditionally difficult course. Results provide empirical evidence that students were significantly engaged with the course and benefited from these pedagogical techniques.

Moving Beyond Assessment to Improving Students’ Critical Thinking Skills: A Model for Implementing Change

Authors: Ada Haynes, Elizabeth Lisic, Michele Goltz, Barry Stein, & Kevin Harris

This research examines how the use of the CAT (Critical thinking Assessment Test) and involvement in CAT-Apps (CAT Applications within the discipline) training can serve as an important part of a faculty development model that assists faculty in the assessment of students’ critical thinking skills and in the development of these skills within their courses. Seventy-five percent of faculty participating in a CAT scoring workshop at their institution reported greater understanding of students’ strengths and weaknesses in critical thinking and 45% reported that CAT scoring had changed their teaching practices and/or assessment. In addition, participants attending a training session on CAT-Apps reported a greater willingness to place more emphasis on critical thinking assessments and less on factual knowledge assessments in their courses as a result of participation in training.

Assessing Public Health Majors thought the Use of e-Portfolios

Authors: Tara L. Crowell & Elizabeth Calamidas

When assessing an entire academic program, there are various possibilities; most require students to reflect holistically on knowledge learned. Final presentations, internships, theses, and dissertations all require the students to recall the entirety of their learning experience. These are more traditional ways to assess the student as well as the program as a whole. However, with advancement in technology, the use of electronic portfolios (e-Portfolios) has been advocated to highlight student accomplishments as well as to document program and course outcomes. The following project illustrates the use of e-portfolios and develops specific rubrics in order to measure both student learning and program assessment. The use of e-Portfolios as an assessment measure was developed and implemented into the Public Health Program. All graduating students, upon completing their internships, create an ePortfolio. These portfolios are used by faculty for both student and program assessment purposes. Data collected over the 7 semesters provides valuable insight into both students’ level of competencies and program outcomes for both Pubic Health core goals and objectives.

Using Indirect vs. Direct Measures in the Summative Assessment of Student Learning in Higher Education

Authors: Christine Luce & Jean P. Kirnan

Contradictory results have been reported regarding the accuracy of various methods used to assess student learning in higher education. The current study examined student learning outcomes across a multi-section and multi-instructor psychology research course with both indirect and direct assessments in a sample of 67 undergraduate students. The indirect method measured student perceived knowledge and abilities on course topics, while the direct method measured actual knowledge where students answered test questions or solved problems reflecting course content. Both measures independently demonstrated increases from pretest to post-test; however the indirect measure did not correlate with final course grades. Results also showed respondents scoring lower on the direct measure were overconfident (as measured by indirect score) in their perceived knowledge and ability, the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Based on our findings, we concluded that the indirect method was not an accurate measure of student learning, but may have benefits as an instructional tool.

“I Tolerate Technology – I Don’t Embrace It”: Instructor Surprise and Sensemaking in a Technology-Rich Learning Environment

Authors: Jennifer Fairchild, Eric B. Meiners, & Jayne Violette

Assuming a dialectical approach to technology and pedagogy, this study explores sensemaking processes for instructors teaching in a technologically enhanced college classroom environment. Through a series of semi-structured individual and group interviews, seven instructors provided narrative accounts of the problems encountered with progressive instructional technology and their emergent strategies to make sense of and manage it. Three primary dialectical tensions were described: freedom vs. confinement, connectedness vs. fragmentation, and change vs. stability. Two related modes of sensemaking in response to these tensions were also uncovered: adaptation, involving day-to-day adjustments to non-routine failures, and reframing, entailing gradual reflection upon the instructors’ roles in the classroom. Implications for the current findings are discussed.


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Making Global Learning Connections: Sydney, Australia and Illinois State University

Written by Judith Briggs, Associate Professor in the School of Art at Illinois State University

briggs blogI received SoTL travel funds from the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL to present a best practice lecture at the National Art Education Association Convention that was held in Chicago, Illinois in March 2016 in conjunction Karen Profilio, Head Visual Arts Teacher, North Sydney Girls High School (NSGHS), Sydney, Australia, and Sarah Schmidt an Illinois State University (ISU) art teacher alumnus who participated in in the 2015 ISU Art Education in Australia summer course that I taught. This presentation is summarized below.

Students’ Out-of-Class Learning Opportunities

Within this course ISU art teacher candidates (TCs) visited the visual arts departments of nine New South Wales (NSW) secondary schools, attended a Visual Arts and Design Educators Association workshop that focused on educating students about Aboriginal art, attended a graduate visual arts education class at the University of NSW, visited galleries and places of interest, and reflected on the effective manner in which NSW visual arts educators incorporated art historical and critical study and contemporary artists’ practice into their art classrooms. NSW visual arts educators demonstrated techniques for analyzing and asking in-depth questions about artwork, writing informed reflections, and developing guided student inquiry within art production. They shared curriculum and teaching practices. Profilio tutored the ISU TCs in recognizing big ideas within contemporary artwork and in seeing art as a transformative medium that can address social issues. ISU TCs watched North Sydney girls in action within lectures, digital media performances, and artwork critiques. TCs viewed student work and student visual arts process diaries. Profilio suggested ways that U.S. art educators could work collaboratively to explore new art forms, such as installation and relational aesthetics.

Within the conference lecture Profilio detailed a Year 7 unit “The Artic Pops!” that asked the overarching question, “Is art transformative?” to highlight the qualities of resilience, connection, and innovation, which shape aware, effective global citizens. The ISU TCs saw all elements of this unit in progress when they visited North Sydney Girls School in 2015, and came to understand that a unit of lesson plans should have depth, discuss the meaning behind artists’ work, connect this meaning to the world, include writing and reflection, and enable a class to work collaboratively to develop ideas. Profilio shared unit materials with the ISU TCs, and TCs recorded their observations in visual process diaries and through photographs.

Students’ Reflections

When TCS returned to ISU, they reflected on their experiences and collaboratively developed the following observations concerning the NSGHS approach to visual arts education:

  • The NSGHS visual arts teachers collaborate to create rich, multi-layered units, especially for older students.
  • At NSGHS there is an emphasis on the transformative nature of art and on its ability to speak to wider social and cultural concerns outside of the art classroom.
  • At NSGHS there is an emphasis on student research and on an understanding of the concerns that drive the artists whom the students are studying.
  • At NSGHS there is a push to move outside of the classroom and into the wider world through the study of diverse artistic practices, such as installation art and relational aesthetics.
  • At NSGHS there is a focus on student empowerment, especially concerning girls.
  • The NSGHS visual arts educators use innovative artistic practices, such as time-based work, that are inspired by contemporary artists’ practices.

My students and I concluded that the NSGHS visual arts educators and students practiced arts-based research (Marshall & D’Adamo, 2011; Rolling, 2011) that stressed the creative process, rigor, concept, research, and technical skills. This research has student autonomy as its goal and encourages interdisciplinary thinking and making connections across disciplines. Arts-based research encourages critical thinking while engendering a range of experiences, and it depends upon visual arts teachers, who act as guides, to channel students’ interests.

Operationalizing Students’ Reflections

I incorporated the following ideas from student reflections of their NSGHS experience into the curriculum of the ISU art education methods courses that I taught the subsequent semester:

  • I changed the curriculum from being theme-based to one that stressed the big idea.
  • I stressed that TCs could convey the message that art can be empowering and transformative.
  • My curriculum stressed that investigating artists and artwork was a way to interpret and to understand contemporary society.
  • I emphasized that artistic practice was an intellectual practice that taught students to think.
  • The curriculum drew attention to the fact that TCs and their students could be both artists and researchers, and emphasized researching artists and their practice to ask critical questions for higher-level understanding.

These changes to my approach to this class led to a curriculum development project for students emphasizing research-based approaches to pedagogy. ISU TCs, consequently, created art education curriculum units that:

  • encouraged transformative thought by questioning racial stereotypes, using the artwork of Kara Walker and Kehinde Wiley as examples
  • used a NSGHS unit of study to explore the painting of artist Marlene Dumas, who questioned societal notions of race and appearance
  • engaged students with the community via message boards, post-it notes, sidewalk chalking, and house painting and led her students out of the art classroom in the process, following the work of Candy Chang
  • focused on girls’ and women’s empowerment and taught a unit based on the work of artist Verimus who altered public magazine advertisements of models to question the media ideal of perfection
  • featured the work of artist Nina Katchadourian and helped students decode artifacts for their cultural resonance.

All ISU TCs created curriculum, using constructs from the NSW Visual Arts Syllabi, the Frames and the Conceptual Framework, along with the U.S. National Visual Arts Standards that promote creating, presenting, responding and connecting, to guide question creation and investigation of artists’ practice.

Overall, the conference lecture emphasized that global teaching and learning connections could be forged over continents to broaden teaching and learning possibilities. NSW visual arts educators’ practices informed those of ISU and helped to broaden teaching practices through reflection, integration of in- and out-of-classroom learning, and collaboration.

Blog References:

Board of Studies NSW. (2013). Visual arts stage 6 syllabus. Retrieved from             http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/syllabus_hsc/visual-arts.html

Marshall, J., & D’Adamo. (2011). Art practice as research in the classroom: A new paradigm in art education. Art Education, 64(5), 12-18.

National Art Education Association. 2016. Convention resources. Retrieved from https://www.arteducators.org/learn-tools/convention-resources

North Sydney Girls High School. (2015). Year 7: The artic pops!

Rolling, J. (2011). Art education as a network for curriculum innovation and adaptable          learning. (National Art Education Association Advocacy White Paper for Art Eduation). Retrieved from National Art Education Association website:         http://www.arteducators.org/advocacy/whitepapers

 


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It all started with a SoTL small grant: National recognition for global engagement

Written by Susan A. Hildebrandt, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics & Spanish, Illinois State University

hild awardThe teacher education program in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures (LAN) at Illinois State University was one of 11 language programs from across the nation recently recognized by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages’ (ACTFL) inaugural Global Engagement Initiative. ACTFL is the flagship organization for K-16 language teachers in the United States, and the recognition is good for four years.

 

LAN teacher candidates, as part of their clinical experiences for LAN 320 World Language Teaching in K-12 Settings, spend 25 hours at Unity Community Center getting to know Unity youth the first half of the semester and teach them beginning language the second half. As the area has few local public elementary schools with language programs, teacher candidates in the class may have little experience teaching younger learners a language other than English. Unity Community Center is located two miles north of Illinois State and serves as multicultural “Out of School Time site” for 5- to 18-year olds from “families with limited resources” (Unity website).

hild1The goals for the language program at Unity are multifaceted. The first is to teach language and cultures to K-5th graders, allowing ISU teacher candidates to put into practice what they learn in their teacher education classes. The second goal is to give teacher candidates experiences interacting with younger learners and their families, which they wouldn’t otherwise get. The third is to provide high quality programming for Unity. And the fourth goal is to assist the monolingual Unity directors in communicating with parents whose first language is French or Spanish. Teacher candidates work at Unity throughout the semester and get to know the Unity youth before teaching seven weeks of language lessons the second half of the semester. At times, they also interpret meetings between native speaking parents of Spanish or French and the monolingual Unity personnel. Valuable experiences with Unity youth, parents, and classmates open teacher candidates’ eyes to a variety of perspectives that they wouldn’t otherwise get in their educational preparation. Unity youth, families, and personnel gain quality early language instruction that they would not have without the program.

hild 2Teaching language to K-5th grade Unity youth allows teacher candidates to learn how to co-teach with each other, construct standards-based and learner-centered lessons, create meaningful performance assessments, and learn how to use 90+ percent of the target language in their instruction in a real world setting. They learn how to integrate cultural perspectives into each lesson, to manage a classroom of wiggly, young learners, and to communicate with parents. Teacher candidates expand their linguistic and cultural competence when they interact with parents of Unity youth, while Unity youth’s linguistic and cultural competence grows with each lesson. Finally, teacher candidates immediately debrief with classmates after lessons at Unity and alone in writing for the next week, which helps teacher candidates learn how to offer colleagues constructive criticism and to help everyone do better the next week.

The program began in the spring of 2012 and has occurred nearly every semester since, for at least 7 weeks a semester. It was initially funded by a SoTL small grant in 2011 and further supported by an American Democracy Project course redesign in 2014. Unity has expressed its appreciation for the program by recognizing it with Distinguished Program Awards the last three years. This multiyear collaboration with Unity has transformed the LAN teacher education program.

A new group of teacher candidates will continue teaching languages to Unity youth each fall for the foreseeable future. An exciting development in the program is that it is now expanding to spring semesters, with the help of the ISU language clubs, including the Spanish Club, Sigma Delta Pi (Spanish Honor Society), and Pi Delta Phi (French Honor Society). We were recently awarded a grant from the ISU Senior Professionals and the American Democracy Project to complement the language teaching done in the fall by the LAN 320 class. “ISU Language Clubs and Unity Youth Read Spanish and French” will feature members of the language clubs reading Spanish- and French-language children’s books to Unity youth and their parents, as well as working one-on-one with Unity youth on bilingual puzzles and games.

The original SoTL grant investigated the benefits and challenges to language teacher candidates as they volunteered at a community center. Using data gathered from existing class assignments and recursive qualitative data analysis, a clearer picture of ISU students’ language teaching beliefs emerged, along with Unity youth and personnel’s characteristics, strengths, and needs. That feedback allowed me to create a better learning environment for both ISU students and Unity youth, as the content of the practicum course evolved to support ISU students in their new teaching role at the center. That work at Unity features as a prominent aspect of my own ongoing scholarship, with a 2014 article entitled “Mutually beneficial service learning: Language teacher candidates in a local community center” published in a regional language teaching journal. The initial project begun with the 2011 SoTL small grant enabled the program to develop into a nationally recognized program, and I anticipate continuing this research in the upcoming months and years, as my students continue working with Unity youth.

 


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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.