The SoTL Advocate

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

WALK THE TALK: A Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Contest for best application of SoTL knowledge beyond the individual classroom

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Written by Kathleen McKinney, Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Illinois State University

SoTL has a number of purposes or types of value. Most important is its impact on teaching and student learning via application of SoTL data and results. I have been interested, for many years, in the application/use of SoTL work at the classroom level but, also, beyond…at the program, department, institutional, and disciplinary levels. I have published essays on the topic, given keynote presentations about this issue, worked in my disciplinary organization to encourage and reward such application, served for several years on the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning’s Advocacy and Outreach Committee, prepared and discussed ideas with our Provost about using SoTL within the institutional culture, and created faculty development events and opportunities to encourage application. This interest and all of these experiences led to my most recent idea—a contest to recognize the best example of an application of SoTL beyond the classroom at our institution.

I knew I needed help so I turned the idea over to Department of Communication faculty member and past ISU SoTL Scholar-Mentor, Dr. Maria Moore. She took the lead on naming the contest, creating the Call for Applications and the application questions, developing public relations materials, and (later this spring) planning the public recognition event. In the spirit of good teaching-learning practice and SoTL, Maria involved a Public Relations student, Tyler Eilts, and a Graphic Design student, Kelsy Brewer, to assist her.

Though this contest is limited to teams at Illinois State University, I thought those from other institutions might find the idea of interest. The purpose of the ‘Walk the Talk’ contest is “to recognize and encourage systematic and specific application of best practices discovered through SoTL research/literature to the teaching and learning of ISU students beyond an individual classroom.” And “is intended to recognize the best team or academic unit that applied SoTL research beyond the individual classroom to solve a problem, achieve a goal, or exploit an opportunity resulting in improved teaching or enhanced student learning.” Interdisciplinary teams or academic units are also welcome to apply.

Given the goals of the contest and to provide sufficient detail for selection of award recipients, as well as to have consistent information across applications, we decided to ask teams to complete a series of specific questions ( These application questions then align with our selection criteria:

  • Clear description of significant application/impact of SoTL work on teaching and student learning or development to solve a problem, achieve a goal, or exploit an opportunity. The SoTL work may be work by the members of the team and/or SoTL from existing literature.
  • Concrete and appropriate evidence linking successful student attitudinal, learning or developmental outcomes to the specific SoTL work/literature.
  • Impact of the application of SoTL work is beyond the individual classroom level.

The selected award recipients (first place and honorable mention) will be recognized in a variety of ways including monetary awards, a plaque, a public celebration event, and visibility in University websites and/or publications. Recipients, however, will also be expected to help us share their application success story by writing a brief report or reconfiguring their application materials for our SoTL at ISU newsletter and The SoTL Advocate Blog.

For the complete call for applications, go to


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