The SoTL Advocate

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

The SoTL Grant Program and A Sample of Ongoing SoTL Projects at Illinois State University

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A wide range of SoTL work in various disciplines takes place on campuses around the nation and the globe. This is true, as well, for Illinois State University. SoTL occurs with and without internal or external funding. The primary internal program that funds SoTL work on our campus is the annual Cross Chair SoTL Small Grant Program open to ISU faculty and staff. Blog readers, both within ISU and beyond ISU, will be interested in the characteristics of this program and some of the work done under this program.

Our grant program (the FY16 Call for Proposals is now available at with proposals due May 18) funds 4 to 6 grants per year up to $5,000 per grant. Some years the Call for Proposals is open in terms of SoTL area or topic or research question; other years we require a general (e.g., the study must be directly related to one or more goals and strategies in the University’s strategic plan) or specific (e.g., the study must focus on student outcomes from civic engagement experiences). Every year, one requirement is that the research team includes at least one graduate or undergraduate student involved in meaningful, nontrivial research roles. In addition, recipients must, if appropriate, receive IRB approval for their project, present their project at our annual teaching-learning symposium, make the work public in another way through submission of a product from their project to a conference, journal, edited book, juried show, video competition, etc., and submit a ‘report’ (paper, power point slides, video, poster…) for the ISU SoTL website. Readers of this blog can see such reports for the various funded SoTL research projects from 2001-2002 to 2013-2014 by clicking on the yearly links at

Anecdotally, these funded projects have occurred in a wide range of disciplines housed on our campus but more come from fields in education and the social sciences than in other disciplines. Most focus on course/class level SoTL questions. Some use multiple methods but, more often, one method –usually of actual learning—is used. But, of course, we need to go beyond the anecdotal! Thus, currently, SoTL Scholar-Mentor, Dr. Michaelene Cox (Politics and Government) and a student researcher are working on creating a database and summary/synthesis of the funded SoTL projects from 2001 to 2015. They will be coding research topics, methods used, discipline, main findings, and similar variables. It will be interesting to see what they find and report, and how we might use any common results/themes to improve teaching and learning on campus.

Finally, for those interested, the Small Grant project titles and recipients for 2014–2015 are listed below. Reports from these projects will be online in December of 2016. For 2014-2015, grant projects were required to focus on learning and other outcomes from student involvement in professional and/or disciplinary research, scholarship, or creative activity.

A Future Teacher and a Graduate Student’s Differential Benefits of Participation as a Member of an Educational Research Team: A Comparative Case Study – Rebekka Darner Gougis and Janet Stomberg, Biological Sciences.

Historians and History Teachers: Collaborative Conversations – Richard Hughes and graduate student to be named, History.

Student Involvement in the Production of Scholarly Publications: Practices, Challenges, and Lessons Learned from Faculty Research Mentorships and Collaborations – Lydia Kyei-Blankson and Parul Gupta, Educational Administration and Foundations.

How Participation in Out-of-Class Research and Assessment Projects Contributed to Learning Outcomes in a Student Affairs Graduate Program – Phyllis McCluskey-Titus and team of current and past graduate students, Educational Administration and Foundations.

Experiential Learning through Creation of a Performance Piece about YouthBuild – Kevin Rich and student to be named, School of Theatre and Dance.

An Examination of Psychology Students’ Beliefs about the Nature of Science: The Role of Research Experience 
- Corinne Zimmerman, Thomas Critchfield, and Emilio Lobato, Psychology


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