The SoTL Advocate

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

SoTL Graduate Student Reading Circle at Illinois State

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

Last week, the office of the Cross Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University hosted its first SoTL Reading Circle for graduate students. Nine students representing five academic disciplines participated to understand the contributions SoTL can make in and across disciplines. Jen Friberg organized and facilitated this reading circle.

The reading circle was organized in two sessions over the course of one week. Sessions were organized as follows:

  • Session 1 served as an introduction to SoTL for graduate students. ISU’s definition of SoTL and several foundational readings were discussed to assist students in understanding the difference between scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Resources were presented to help students find disciplinary and cross disciplinary SoTL research to support their pedagogical choices. Students brainstormed possible SoTL research questions based on their own teaching experiences and talked about ways to develop relationships with SoTL research mentors.
  • Session 2 focused on readings from The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in and Across the Disciplines (edited by Kathleen McKinney). Students read 4 chapters of the text and discussed issues facing SoTL scholars, including acceptance of varied research methods and the need for both disciplinary and cross-disciplinary SoTL research. Students drafted an informal action plan for how they could move towards scholarly teaching and build capacity towards SoTL research involvement.

Student reactions to the reading circle experience were overwhelmingly positive. Comments indicated that all participants felt that it was a good “crash course” in SoTL and scholarly teaching and appreciated constructive discussion and problem solving. Many indicated an interest in establishing a SoTL research project over the next academic year. The Office of the Cross Chair in SoTL at ISU hopes to repeat this experience for a new cohort of graduate students in the fall of 2015 or spring of 2016.


One thought on “SoTL Graduate Student Reading Circle at Illinois State

  1. It’s great that graduate students responded positively and that more reading circles are planned. In a book called Rethinking Doctoral Education for the 21st Century: The Formation of Scholars ( Walker, Golde, Hutchings, Smith, and Bueshcel, 2006) that recounts the insights developed during a 5 year Carnegie Foundation sponsored project, the writers argue strongly that doctoral education needs to be studied jointly by its participants. The writers don’t go so far as to suggest SoTL, but stop just shy. SoTL hadn’t started up yet. SoTL as a form of ‘ongoing renewal’ aimed directly at the program would both enhance and transform doctoral education.

    My point, that graduate students could also turn the lens of SoTL on their own doctoral program. Graduate education is the last frontier, the wild west, from whose bourne many a soujourner does not return. Graduate education neglected to revise its own methodology for far too long, and now a considerable deficit of knowledge and standards exists. Graduate programs take license with student time and money, and discard students like flies to wonton boys.


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