The SoTL Advocate

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

Timing is Everything: Working to Increase Disciplinary Acceptance of SoTL

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Written by: Jennifer Friberg, SoTL Scholar-Mentor at Illinois State University

Over the last several years, I have been one of many vocal advocates for SoTL in my professional discipline of speech-language pathology. Through this process, I’ve had the good fortune to meet and collaborate with a wonderful group of individuals interested in teaching and learning. While we have made progress with our pro-SoTL efforts, I have learned firsthand that change can be a slow moving endeavor, particularly in a profession governed by a variety of stakeholders representing several professional organizations and interests. That said, I have also learned that patience with the process can yield encouraging outcomes.

Over the course of the last year, I have been involved in the drafting of my profession’s first ever position paper on SoTL as a meritorious form of scholarship. Happily, recent conversations at my annual research conference indicated that this position paper has had influence in increasing the stature and acceptance of SoTL in my discipline. Understanding that more work is needed to build upon the foundation the adoption of this position paper has provided for my discipline, reflecting on the changes I’ve seen in my profession is an important first step for moving forward. Several ideas are prominent as considerations:

  • One person alone cannot (typically) affect important change in an organization. Advocacy must be shared amongst individuals who, together, can work to advance the profile and understanding of SoTL, its benefits and its uses. Thus, a shared and sustained interest in SoTL advocacy is critically important for pro-SoTL efforts to be successful.
  • There must be a clearly understood need for SoTL for a discipline. Perhaps the need for SoTL exists, but hasn’t been sufficiently expressed – or various stakeholders in a discipline conceive of SoTL so differently that confusion exists as to the nature and advantages of SoTL. Therefore, benefits of SoTL for a discipline must be presented cogently and comprehensively to stakeholders on a regular basis to sustain SoTL advocacy efforts.
  • The intersection of interest and need is the issue of timing: when an increasing interest in SoTL meets an expanding need for SoTL advocacy, the time is right to support pro-SoTL efforts.

Perhaps these reflections will resonate with others seeking to advocate for SoTL within their disciplines, or quite possibly others have had very different experiences. Either way, I am very interested in hearing from others who have had success in advocating for SoTL in their disciplines. What were the most successful practices you used? What victories have you experienced? How could support from and outside of your disciplines help with your advocacy efforts? Do you have examples of SoTL position statements from your discipline(s)? Please share your thoughts/ideas/input in the comments section below!


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