The SoTL Advocate

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

14 Years and 63 Projects Later: The SoTL Small Grant Program in Review

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Written by Michaelene Cox and Jessica Infelise, Department of Politics and Government at Illinois State University

To support scholarly inquiry into Illinois State University student learning and to advance the practice of teaching, the Office of the Cross Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning offered its first round of small grant awards in the academic year 2001-2002. The program provides up to $5000 for SoTL work that will be peer-reviewed and publically disseminated. An overview of funded proposals illustrates the varied nature of SoTL projects conducted at the University, and may stimulate submission of equally diverse and promising proposals down the road. It should be noted that requirements varied across the years in terms of team members (e.g., in recent years, a student member was required; some years, teams had to be interdisciplinary) and topic of the SoTL research (e.g., some years, it was an open call; other years, the general topic area was specified such as teaching and learning civic engagement). In addition, data for this brief report came from the required on-line reports or initial products from the projects submitted 18 months after the start of the research. Thus, the data is limited and does not yet include any follow-up data.

As of 2014-15, a total of 63 small grant proposals were awarded, with primary investigators representing 28 disciplines. Altogether these projects engaged 194 team members, including 41 student members. While a variety of research questions and findings emerged from the studies, they all succeeded in addressing one or more goals of the University’s strategic plan Educating Illinois with 40 percent of the projects, for example, involving Goal 2 (strengthening the University’s commitment to continuous improvement of educational effectiveness) and Goal 3 (increasing opportunities for students to engage in high-quality, high-impact educational experiences). Among the many disciplines represented, the largest share of funded proposals was led by a faculty member from Psychology although a good number also came from Educational Administration and Foundations and from Criminal Justice. Nearly all proposals listed between two to four researchers but there was one with 13 and another with 14 investigators! Most projects adopted qualitative approaches though many gathered both qualitative and quantitative data. Projects drew heavily on content analysis (64% of the projects), broadly defined to encompass any study that primarily relied on information from documents and artifacts, and systematically identified and categorized their properties, and questionnaires/survey data (33%). The majority of the projects used multiple methods. Finally, more than half of all systematic studies/reflections funded through the SoTL Small Grant Program were presented at professional conferences at the 18-month from project start date. For more information about SoTL funding opportunities, please see http://sotl.illinoisstate.edu/grants/funding/small.shtml.

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