Written by Jen Friberg, SoTL Scholar-Mentor at Illinois State University
In the most recent issue of Teaching and Learning Inquiry, authors Janice Miller-Young and Michelle Yeo propose a framework for considering SoTL which “attempts to broadly delineate the available learning theories underlying and methodologies appropriate to studying teaching and learning while remaining hospitable to a broad range of diverse disciplines” represented in contemporary SoTL work (Miller-Young & Yeo, 2015, p. 37). This is no small undertaking. The framework described in this paper is thorough and advocates for SoTL researchers to make explicit — in ways central and important to their discipline(s) — not only the methodologies used to make sense of data, but also the theoretical approaches that informed the research in the first place.
The argument for this “meta-theoretical” approach to SoTL, in my mind, is one of cohesion. There is no doubt that SoTL enjoys space under a big tent, with a wide array of approaches to SoTL available to choose from. That said, perhaps a more meta-theoretical approach to SoTL could help the work we do across and between disciplines as SoTL researchers to share a commonality other than a strong desire to understand teaching and learning more deeply. Explicit recognition of the theoretical characteristics unifying our SoTL work might not always be necessary, though I would argue (and in doing so, agree with Miller-Young and Yeo’s suggested framework) that it should at least be considered as part of the process of designing a SoTL project.
In their article, Miller-Young and Yeo identify four categories of learning theories that might be applicable across a variety of disciplines. These are summarized in the figure below.
Take a look at these categories of learning theories and consider your own SoTL work. Would your research questions, methodology, findings, and/or reflections be strengthened by framing your SoTL projects in a more meta-theoretical manner? If so, how? If not, why? As always, your comments and insights are welcome!
Miller-Young, J. & Yeo, M. (2015). Conceptualizing and communicating SoTL: A framework for the field. Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 3(2), 37-53.