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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ISU Fall SoTL Workshops & Funding

STATE_YourLearningA variety of funding and training opportunities exist for ISU faculty and students interested in SoTL this fall! Contact Jen Friberg (jfribe@ilstu.edu) with questions.

 

Workshops:

Intro to SoTL (Mon 9/25/17 from 12:30-3:30pm): Do you have an interest in studying your students’ learning as a way to improve your teaching? The scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) is a type of scholarship that can help you expand your research to include systematic study of teaching and/or learning. This workshop is 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. Examples of SoTL work will be provided. Resources to support SoTL work will be reviewed. These workshops have been designed for an audience with little to no prior experience with SoTL.

SoTL Forum: Changes to IRB Processes Coming in 2018 (Weds, 10/25/2017 from 1-2:30pm): The Office of the Cross Chair in SoTL is hosting an open forum for ISU faculty and students interested/engaged in SoTL research to discuss changes to federal policies and internal ISU procedures that will be implemented in January of 2018. John Baur (Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies), Kathy Spence (Director of Research and Ethics Compliance), and Jen Friberg (Cross Chair in SoTL) will facilitate this session and address your SoTL IRB questions.

CSI-SoTL: The Certificate of Specialized Instruction in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CSI-SoTL) was co-developed by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and the Graduate School at ISU to provide an opportunity 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. 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 to gain knowledge and skills in these areas. All participants will attend three seminars on SoTL then work with a mentor to plan a SoTL project.

 Funding:

SoTL Travel Grants: Applications are currently being accepted for the SoTL Travel Grant Program – FY18. 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 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 10-12 grants for FY18. Please note that faculty/staff are eligible for one travel grant (of any kind) per year. Awards of up to $700 will be available to those presenting SoTL research at disciplinary or other teaching/learning conferences. Special awards of up to $1000 will be available to those presenting at the 2017 International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSoTL) conference. There are 2 cycles for SoTL Travel Grants. Applications for the fall award cycle are currently being accepted and must be submitted by 5pm on October 2, 2017. Applications for the spring award cycle will open October 9, 2017 and must be submitted by 5pm on February 5, 2018.

SoTL Seed Grants for New SoTL Scholars: Applications for seed grant funding to get SoTL projects up and running will be accepted starting in early September, 2017. Grant funds will be awarded (in the form of a stipend) for work toward one of the following: writing an IRB or literature review for a SoTL project, gathering/collecting/analyzing data for a SoTL project, or applying SoTL to solve a teaching/learning issue in your classroom. Up to 10 SoTL Seed Grants in the amount of $250 will be awarded to faculty conducting their first SoTL project. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis from September 1, 2017 through May 15, 2018, with awards granted throughout the 2017-18 academic year until funds are exhausted.

 

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College Rankings, Student Learning, and SoTL : An Unlikely Trio?

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

ratingLast Friday (9/8/2017), the Chronicle of Higher Education published an interesting article written by Richard M. Freeland titled “Stop Looking at Rankings. Use Academe’s Own Measures Instead.” Ostensibly, this piece discusses the role and utility of college rankings such as those published annually by U.S. News and World Report. Freeland explains that there are some measures reported in these rankings that are “legitimate indicators of academic quality,” such as “graduation rates, faculty qualifications, and investment in academic programs.” He goes on to say that other rankings (the federal government’s College Scorecard, extant Integrated Postsecondary Education System data, and the Voluntary System of Accountability) have added important data to the conversation of what makes a college “good” in a world where it’s hard to determine institutional quality. He is undeniably correct. However, for years I have felt as though we have been missing the boat with our current reporting of college rankings, as we seem to in no way account for student learning as part of these metrics. Due in large part to my background in teaching and learning (and my status as the parent of a high school junior seeking a future university home!), this is very frustrating to me, for I want to know more about student learning outcomes at institutions than about many other data points. This is a huge void and something I’ve considered an opportunity for SoTL for a long, long time.

Freeland writes of a “deep resistance within academe to publishing data about what students learn,” providing a historical overview of various standardized measures of intellectual achievement that have been proposed – and rejected — as universal measurements of student learning. And, so, the void in the reporting of student learning as a important data point in college rankings remains. Freeland remarks:

While many colleges have developed programs to assess student learning (often because of accreditation requirements), few systematically collect and even fewer publish quantitative data that allow readers to compare student intellectual achievement across institutional lines. Until this gap is filled, higher education’s systems of accountability will continue to be data-rich but information-poor with respect to the quality to actual learning. The public will be left to rely on commercial rankings as indicators of institutional quality.

Based on all of this, my overarching question is this: as advocates for the scholarship of teaching and learning – the very research that CAN help provide information about student learning in higher education to the public – is it important that we promote SoTL as a potential valuable contributor to the college rankings discussion?

I’ve struggled with this question all weekend. Here’s where my thinking is at this point:

  • I believe that SoTL does belong in the college ranking discussion. Student learning is our wheelhouse. We need a seat at this table to advocate for and honor outcomes of a diverse and rich field of scholarship on student learning. SoTLists cannot allow student learning to be assessed via a standardized test or any other “one look” measure of performance and expect to tell the whole story. Scholars of teaching and learning recognize this well and can advocate accordingly.
  • I don’t believe that student learning should be ranked. I can see dangers in how this could happen if we start talking about which school has better learning outcomes than others might. Student learning varies by context and discipline, creating a number of limitations on “best learning outcome” data that could be reported. There is no universal curriculum for higher education. As such, any ranking system of student learning would lack reliability and validity.
  • Years and years of research on teaching and learning has led to the understanding of high-impact practices for undergraduate education, and more such information is shared regularly in cross-disciplinary and discipline-specific publications.

So, then, perhaps what we are looking to capture in college rankings shouldn’t specifically focus on student learning outcomes. Every institution of higher education is looking to support student learning, but we must acknowledge that this is accomplished in a manner that honors contextual differences as well as institutional missions and ideologies. With this in mind, any comparison of student learning across institutions may well be akin to comparing apples to oranges.

That said, you CAN measure the use of evidence-based approaches in higher education (e.g., undergraduate research, service learning/community-based learning, internships, and first-year seminars and experiences; Kuh, 2008) to measure quality of instruction. SoTL scholars add to the evidence-based for scholarly learning daily. We have solid evidence that certain instructional methods work and data could be collected to reflect how often these pedagogies are used in college classrooms. That might be a metric of interest to various stakeholders. I’m confident there are others, as well. I’m still stewing on this and am curious what others are thinking. I think this is an important discussion and one that we, as SoTL advocates, should be a part of, to explore this idea some more. To that end, feel free to comment below or continue the discussion on social media (@ISU_SoTL).

Blog References:

Freeland, R. M., (2017, September 8). Stop looking at rankings. Use academe’s own measures instead. Chronicle of Higher Education. Downloaded from: http://www.chronicle.com/article/Stop-Looking-at-Rankings-Use/241140?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en&elqTrackId=4eadfa107c984352bd8664bf86cba24d&elq=869cd22487394fe88b84eb2d7904a1d2&elqaid=15516&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=6640#comments-anchor

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: Why they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: AAC&U.

McKinney, K. (n.d.). A sampling of what we know about learning from scholarship of teaching and learning and educational research. Downloaded from: http://sotl.illinoisstate.edu/downloads/materials/A%20Sampling%20of%20What%20We%20Know.pdf


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Direct vs. Indirect Evidence of Student Learning

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

measure2Later this week, I have the opportunity to facilitate a workshop on peer mentorship in SoTL at a nearby university. I solicited questions from mentor faculty as part of my workshop planning process. In doing so, one of the most interesting questions I received was the following: In studying student learning, how can teacher/learner perceptions be considered a reliable data source?

This question gets at an important consideration in the planning of a SoTL project. What is my source of evidence? Will I use data from focus groups, surveys, student reflections, or something else? Will this evidence focus on student self-reports/perceptions of learning or will the evidence be more objective? The best guidance is that your evidence should match the purpose of your SoTL study. If you are seeking to understand students’ perspectives on a learning experience, then the evidence you collect should align with this. If, however, you are seeking to measure student learning, other forms of data may be more advantageous.

When SoTL-ists talk about their data, they can generally ascribe one of two labels to their evidence: direct or indirect. Direct evidence comes from objective sources such as classroom artifacts (e.g., exams/quizzes, projects/assignments), systematic observations (e.g., video/in-person observations, photographs), or student reflections that tell the story of their own attitudes or beliefs. Indirect evidence is sourced from more subjective sources – student reports of their own learning, teacher reflections of student learning (Vanderbilt, 2013). So, to return to the excellent question posed to me above, teacher/learner perceptions CAN be a reliable data source if the SoTL work in question seeks to understand how teachers/learners feel about their learning. That said, if a researcher is seeking to identify changes in student learning, perceptions alone are not a strong form of evidence to study (see this blog post from 2015 for an expanded discussion of this notion).

One of the best resources I’ve found to explain the difference in various evidence types in SoTL was published by Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching. This resource, Gathering Evidence: Making Student Learning Visible, outlines the difference between direct and indirect evidence clearly and cogently, providing examples and brief explanations to understand these concepts well. For my upcoming workshop, I adapted and converted the information shared on this resource (giving ample credit to Vanderbilt!) into a decision tree to share with the SoTL mentors I’ll be working with. As SoTL mentors, they will need to be well informed as to the pros and cons of direct and indirect evidence. I’m hopeful this visual will give us a good starting point for that discussion!

Direct vs indirect decision tree

As a plug for upcoming blogs, additional information is coming in October and November on methods to consider evidence in new and different ways…stay tuned! I am certain that most of the methods that will be covered will apply predominantly to analysis of direct evidence in the study of teaching and learning.

Blog Reference

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. (2013). Gathering evidence: Making student learning visible. Available at: https://my.vanderbilt.edu/sotl/files/2013/09/4SoTLEvidence.pdf

 

 

 


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Outside the Box Pedagogies Supported by Emerging Evidence

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

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 11.04.16 AM.pngIt’s back…syllabus construction season! I have spent the last several weeks considering various instructional approaches for a class I’m teaching for the first time. My class — Assessment Across the Lifespan — is a clinically-based course intended to round out ISU’s two-year speech-language pathology graduate program. I’ve been planning the semester carefully these last several weeks, focusing on important “take aways” for students. As I matched instructional approaches with various course topics, I struggled to find a pedagogy that would allow me to facilitate the development of high-caliber observation skills — a critical tool in any clinical toolbox — in my students. To figure this out, I started looking toward relevant evidence to see what types of strategies/pedagogies were being used effectively to teach observational skills.

While I learned of varied evidence-based approaches to students learn to be better observers, there was one that resonated strongly with me. Jasani and Saks (2013) studied the impact of using visual art to help enhance the observational skills of medical students at their institution. Their study used a pre/post-test design to evaluate student observations before and after a three-hour visual observation strategy module that focused on using art to sharpen visual observation skills. While the number of observations did not differ from pre- to post- measures, students perceived they developed stronger clinical skills (content understanding and clinical mindfulness) as a result of this activity. I’m thinking I may use this approach to help my students sharpen their observational skills this term…and perhaps evaluate the impact of this pedagogy on student learning in speech-language pathology.

As I was reading about the arts-based approach for clinical teaching, I came across a blog that detailed the use of one of my favorite TV shows, the Amazing Race, to teach cultural geography to students. Sarah Smiley reflected on the use of this approach in a recent issue of the Journal of Geography (2017). In great detail, Smiley explained her reasoning for selecting various shows (e.g., to teach about language or religion) and discussed how her course structure allowed for active in- and out-of-class learning experiences. She identified student learning barriers and work-arounds for subsequent applications of this pedagogy. Overall, while no learning data was provided, Smiley allowed for a very honest look into the development of and reflection on an “out of the box” pedagogy. A bit of digging turned up a similar type of course autopsy by Smiley and Post (2014) in which the use of popular music to engage students in the study of introductory geography is studied.

Thinking about one more, evidence-based, “out of the box” approach to teaching, I was reminded of the work my ISU colleagues Bill Anderson, Sarah Bradshaw, and Jennifer Banning (2017). They studied a “twist” on case-based learning that yielded interesting possibilities for course instructors focused on change or development over time. This pedagogy, the interrupted case study (ICS), allows for case studies to unfold over time, with course instructors releasing selected and organized parts of each case progressively to disclose important aspects of the case as a sort of problem-based learning experience over time (Anderson et al, 2017). For this investigation, researchers used a video case study in a human development course to follow a cohort of individuals through their lifetimes for a period of 50 years. Segments of the video case study were played over the course of the semester. In between video segments, students were tasked with applying, discussing, and comparing/contrasting relevant developmental theories germane to the videos they watched. Students were also asked to make predictions of what they might see during the next video segment that was released. Student reflections from across the semester were studied systematically to understand the impact of ICS. Preliminary findings indicated that the use of ICS has the potential to create the “need to know” in students, to connect theory to practice, and to raise students’ levels of critical thinking.

The instructional approaches discussed in this blog certainly are “outside the box” and have presented emerging evidence for their efficacy which provide a foundation for future inquiry to understand the comprehensive impacts of these pedagogies. I am appreciative of the work of innovators in teaching and learning such as those featured above. Their efforts often change my perspective and provide new ways of thinking about my teaching and my students’ learning, which is always a good thing, particularly at the start of a new semester! Happy fall term to all!

Blog References

Anderson, J. W., Bradshaw, S., & Banning, J. (2017). Using interrupted video case studies to teach developmental theory: A pilot study. Gauisus, 4.

Jasani, S. K. & Saks, N. S. (2013). Using visual art to enhance the clinical observation skills of medical students. Medical Teacher, 35(7). dx.doi.org/10.3109/0142159X.2013.770131

Smiley, S. L. (2017). Teaching cultural geography with the Amazing Race. Journal of Geography, 116(3), 109-118.

Smiley, S. L. & Post, C. W. (2014). Using popular music to teach the geography of the United States and Canada. Journal of Geography, 113(6), 238-246.


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Class Discussions – Ideas for Use and Study

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

At EuroSoTL in June, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop session titled “Construction as a tool for reflection – A LEGO workshop,” developed by Dr. Staffan Andersson and Dr. J. Andersson Chronholm of Uppsala University in Sweden. The workshop allowed attendees to use LEGO Serious Play in exploring and discussing issues related to SoTL. I can certainly say we did discuss issues that are important in the SoTL world. But in doing so, we had FUN meaningfully engaging with each other as we told our SoTL stories (stay tuned – Dr. Andersson has agreed to write a blog on the experience with photos of our LEGO work in an upcoming SoTL Advocate blog!). On my plane ride home from the conference, I pondered the LEGO workshop, wondering how I could similarly engage my students in thinking about important disciplinary issues in unexpected ways.

Discussion bookBack in my office, I recalled a book I had purchased recently by Stephen Brooksfield and Stephen Preskill titled The Discussion Book: 50 Great Ways to Get People Talking – and sat down to read. Different from more familiar teaching/learning handbooks and resources, this book focuses exclusively on engaging in discussions across a variety of contexts for a wide range of purposes – a topic with an appeal to both public and private sector stakeholders: managers, employees, volunteers, teachers, and students. Looking at the techniques explained in the book, I noted some overlap (e.g., Think-Pair-Share or Critical Debate) with popular teaching/learning books such as Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty (Barkley, Cross, & Major, 2005); however, plenty of “new to me” ideas also were set forth by the authors.

In terms of organization, Brookfield and Preskill’s book includes ideas to accomplish the following:

  • Get discussion going with new groups
  • Promote good questioning
  • Foster active listening
  • Hold discussions without speaking
  • Get people out of their comfort zone
  • Engage in a text-based discussion
  • Democratize participation
  • Transition from small to large groups
  • Building group cohesion
  • Making group decisions

Each technique is presented in a formulaic manner within its own chapter in the book. Each chapter contains the following sections:

  • Purpose of technique
  • How it works
  • Where and when it works well
  • What users appreciate
  • What to watch out for
  • Questions that fit the technique

While I found several techniques that look promising for use with my classes and students this term (particularly a technique termed “single word sum-ups” to help my students speak briefly, concicely, and find themes across classmates), I was struck by the lack of any real evidence presented to accompany these. Great ideas? The book has many. Evidence to suggest that the techniques explained are effective? That was most definitely lacking.

What does that mean for us as SoTL enthusiasts? Well, thinking specifically of McKinney’s (2007) teaching continuum, this book could appeal to good teachers who apply these techniques with thought and care, scholarly teachers who seek evidence elsewhere to support the use of these strategies prior to applying them, and scholars of teaching and learning who take the opportunity to engage in classroom-based SoTL to systematically study the effectiveness of the techniques they choose to apply. From a teaching and learning standpoint, it is the case that this book offers potential benefit to many (students, teachers, scholars). So perhaps it truly does offer something for everyone. However, I DO hope that some instructors are tempted to study the outcomes of using any techniques they try! Such a study might be the perfect opportunity for a student or faculty member looking to engage in their first (or 50th!) SoTL experience.

 

Blog references:

Anderson, S. & Anderson Chronholm, J. (2017, June). Construction as a tool for reflection: A LEGO workshop. Presentation at EuroSoTL in Lund, Sweden.

Barkley, E. F., Cross, K. P., & Major, C. H. (2005). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S. D. & Preskill, S. (2016). The discussion book: 50 great ways to get people talking. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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


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Call for University-Wide SoTL Award Open

Applications are sought for the 2018 Dr. John Chizamr & Dr. Anthony Ostrosky Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award. This award recognizes faculty and academic staff at ISU who have contributed to the field of SoTL, the SoTL body of knowledge, improved teaching, and enhanced learning.

Applications should be submitted by Monday, November 13, 2017. Requirements for application are detailed below. Information about past award recipients and application procedures can be found on the Cross Chair website, as well. Please contact Jen Friberg (jfribe@ilstu.edu) with questions about this award.

SoTL Award18

 


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Business and Cultural Experiences in Peru

Written by: Dr. Aysen Bakir, Professor of Marketing at Illinois State University

Editor’s note: Dr. Bakir received a “Going Global with SoTL” Mini-grant in the 2015-16 academic year. Here, Dr. Bakir reports on the project she designed for her students, with feedback from several students as to their perceptions of learning as part of their short-term study abroad experience.

redbirdperuAs we become more connected in the world, it also becomes more important to our students to have good understanding of different cultures and have the skills that would help them to function successfully in the workplace. Accordingly, it is important that our students have the skills and the experiences to differentiate them in the global marketplace. Studying abroad (whether short term or long term) can be one of those experiences that can help our students to have better understanding of the different cultures. Study abroad can also help the students to gain the skills and knowledge needed in their development as global citizens. In fact, business schools recognized the importance of globalization and have been implementing more global curriculum in the last two decades (Toncar and Cudmore, 2000; Lamont and Friedman, 1997). Studies also show that business-study abroad programs can lead to meaningful changes in students’ intercultural development (Payan, Svensson and Hogevold 2012). I developed a short-term study abroad program to address some of these issues. The study abroad experience included company visits and cultural excursions. These activities aimed to provide exposure to how businesses operate in different cultures, types of challenges they have, and the strategies companies implement in Peru. Additionally, students were exposed to Peru’s very rich history providing a great exposure to a culture that is significantly different from that of the United States.

Students who participated in the program reported learning in disciplinary content as well as in cultural knowledge. Requirements for the study abroad experience included several elements, notably a presentation assignment that have the students reflect on some of their experiences. The following excerpts from presentations of the study abroad participants provided some perspectives regarding to their professional and personal experiences:

  • “This trip has helped me learn a lot of how business is affected by culture.”
  • “The Inca Market allowed me apply my sales strategies I have been learning in the classroom to a real life situation. It was interesting to apply these skills and see how they are similar across the world. Although it might vary due to language barrier, sales practices are almost universal.”
  • “Being in a country that did not predominantly speak English was an eye opening experience. There were many times where I relied on hand motions and body language to communicate what I was trying to say. It’s amazing how we can still communicate with people without speaking”
  • “… Peru taught me a lot of life lessons… I loved becoming more culturally aware of how Americans can actually be different and can benefit from seeing how other people live… I have learned that I need to travel more and put myself outside of my comfort zone because that is how an individual grows.”

Overall, this short-term study abroad program seemed successful in enhancing students’ professional and personal knowledge by exposing them to a different culture than they are familiar with and engaging them in new learning opportunities beyond the classroom. This out-of-class experience helped students gain business, historical and geographical knowledge to enhance their intercultural skills for more agile professional functioning in their professional futures.

References Cited

Lamont, Lawrence M. and Ke Friedman (1997), “Meeting the Challenges to Undergraduate Marketing education,” Journal of Marketing Education, 19 (Fall), 17-30.

Payan, Janice M., Goran Svensson and Nils M. Hogevold (2012), “The Effect of Attributes of Study Abroad and Risk aversion on the Future Likelihood to Study Abroad: A Study Of U.S. and Norwegian Undergraduate Marketing Students,” Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education, 20 (3), 70-81.

Toncar, Mark F. and Brian V. Cudmore (2000), “The Overseas Internship Experience,” Journal of Marketing Education, 22 (1), 54-63.