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 SoTL Contest Reception and Summary from 1 of 2 Winning Teams

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Written by Jen Friberg, Lisa Vinney, Jennine Harvey, and Heidi Harbers, CSD Faculty at Illinois State University

Next Wednesday, April 29, 2015, a reception will be held to honor two award winning teams from our contest for the best team or academic unit who applied SoTL research results/literature beyond the individual classroom to solve a problem, achieve a goal, or exploit an opportunity resulting in improved teaching or enhanced student learning at Illinois State University. Details for this reception can be found on the Cross Chair website.

A summary of each award-winning project will be featured in the next few weeks. Today’s blog highlights the work done by faculty in the Communication Sciences and Disorders department over the course of the last 18 months. This project, titled SoTL to Support Curricular Change in Communication Sciences & Disorders is summarized below:

What problem(s) did your team seek to solve using SoTL? 

Engagement in a wholesale revision of the graduate speech-language pathology (SLP) curriculum in the department of communication sciences and disorders (CSD) began in the 2012-13 academic year. As the initial curriculum redesign was conceptualized, separate advisory changes in the department organized students into cohorts, with specific courses offered in a planned sequence to address academic and clinical needs within the CSD department. Thus, the graduate curriculum redesign was the goal of the CSD department; the change in how students progressed through their graduate programs was an opportunity exploited to support the curriculum redesign process, as is explained below.

What strategies did your team devise to apply best practices from SoTL work to your problem/goal/opportunity? 

CSD faculty indicated a desire to remove courses from disorder-specific “silos” and move towards an integrated curriculum with a focus on the patient as a whole person. Thus, it was determined that any changes to the graduate curriculum needed to address this issue designing an integrated curriculum, as was successful in various other disciplines facing a similar issue (Booth, McLean, & Walker, 2009; Carruthers, 2013; Chase, Franson, & An, 2001). As part of their curriculum revision, CSD faculty adapted Sankowsky’s (1998) concepts to describe the ideal integration of learning experiences for students:

  • Discipline-based learning could be realized as disorder-based learning in CSD and would include academic content important to understanding the assessment and treatment of specific, individual communication disorders.
  • Development-based learning could be rebranded as intra-disciplinary learning, including knowledge and skills that are needed to understand the assessment and treatment of multiple communication disorders.

CSD faculty determined that both disorder-based and intra-disciplinary learning were critical to designing the optimal graduate curriculum. Efforts shifted to determine if this form of integrated curriculum was effective in supporting academic and clinical learning of our CSD students at ISU.

What SoTL research (your own, colleagues, or from the literature) did you use to support your strategies?

Our review of SoTL research indicated promise for each of the approaches outlined above; however, as none of these SoTL studies focused on CSD students, two separate projects were undertaken to explore whether these curricular/pedagogical approaches would be advantageous for our CSD students:

Project 1: Drs. Friberg and Harbers taught child-based SLP graduate classes in the fall of 2013 (CSD 412: Speech Sound Disorders and CSD 415: Preschool Language Disorders), developing a collaborative project for 34 students co-enrolled in both courses. Students participated in a case-based assessment and treatment project addressing a variety of clinical learning objectives. Students were surveyed at pre-project and post-project intervals to measure their perception of learning as a result of this project. Data analysis indicated that students perceived increases in learning as a result of this project, particularly in understanding the relationship between course material presented in CSD 412 and CSD 415. Students reported being able to better understand how disorders could co-occur and the impact one disorder could have upon a different disorder.

Project 2: Drs. Harvey and Vinney taught medically-based SLP graduate classes in the spring of 2014 (CSD 444: Motor Speech Disorders and CSD 419: Aphasia). Thirty-five graduate students were co-enrolled across these courses and were exposed to online modules, application activities, quizzes, and narrated lectures for topics including the brain, brainstem, spinal cord, the motor unit, and vascular system.  The modules were followed by in-class review discussion questions and activities. Students were surveyed about newly acquired knowledge following module completion (post-modules) and following both module completion and in-class review (post-foundational review). Data analysis indicated that the online modules, application question assignment, and in-class discussion helped them learn and apply knowledge important for both CSD 444 and CSD 419. Further, preliminary results from the clinical application activities indicated that students ability to explain and apply information about the the spinal cord, motor unit, and brainstem to clinical aphasia and motor speech cases improved.

Please briefly reflect on the impact of this experience upon your team; in particular consider the specific role of the SoTL literature on your outcomes or consequences. 

These experiences had a profound effect on our team. These impacts were realized on several fronts:

  • Faculty gained experience in planning and implementing intra-disciplinary learning experiences for students that were effective in supporting student learning.
  • Through the planning of these integrated experiences for students, faculty realized that they had been unknowingly supporting the “silo” mentality by operating independently of other teaching faculty within the department.
  • The experiences described within this application led the four co-applicants to collaborate as SoTL researchers and as department citizens to lead discussions about faculty priorities for curriculum redesign.
  • Overall, the most functional impact of these experiences led to a departmental-wide conclusion that intra-disciplinary learning experiences should be a greater focus in the SLP graduate curriculum.


Booth, A., McLean, M., & Walker, M. (2009). Self, others and society: A case study of university integrative learning. Studies in Higher Education, 34(8), 929-939.

Carruthers, B. (2013). Educating professional musicians: Lessons learned from school music. International Journal of Music Education, 26(2), 127-135.

Chase, P. A., Franson, K. L., & An, A. (2001). Disovery maps: A student-centered approach to reinforcing curriculum. American Journal of Pharmacological Education, 65, 74-77.

Sankowsky, D. (1998). Two pathways to instructional delivery: Distinguishing between the discipline-based and development-based paradigms. Journal of Management Education, 22(3), 269-284.


One thought on “Walk the Talk SoTL Contest Reception and Summary from 1 of 2 Winning Teams

  1. Pingback: Walk the Talk SoTL Contest Summary from 2nd Winning Team | The SoTL Advocate

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