The SoTL Advocate

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

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SoTL Funding Opportunities @ ISU

The Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at ISU is offering opportunities to secure funding via two different grant programs over the next weeks and months. Each of the funding mechanisms is described below:

SoTL Small Grants: This program provides scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) small grants to study the developmental and learning outcomes of ISU students. Research proposed may be quantitative or qualitative in nature and focus on class, course, program, department, cross-department, and co-curricular levels. All SoTL work must be made public and peer reviewed in some way via presentation, performance, juried show, web site, video, and/or publication. For 2016-2017, projects must focus on a teaching-learning issue(s) explicitly related to out-of-class learning opportunities experienced by ISU students. This would include, but is not limited to study abroad, civic engagement experiences, service learning, involvement in co- or extra-curricular activities, and so on. Grants of up to $5,000 are available. Funds may be used for any appropriate budget category (e.g., printing, commodities, contractual, travel, student help, and salary in FY17). We expect to award 4-5 grants. All awards, however, are subject to the availability of funds and to the actual offering of any course, study abroad program or other event needed to conduct the SoTL research. Additional information related to this opportunity can be found here.

SoTL Research Mini-AwardsThe Office of the Cross Endowed Chair is calling for applications for SoTL Research Mini-Awards for June of 2016. The purpose of these awards is to provide a small amount of funding to support work on SoTL projects (fitting the definition above) that are currently in progress (e.g., design stage, IRB stage, gathering or analyzing SoTL data, working on a creative or scholarly representation of the SoTL study/results, travel to present SoTL). Funding is limited but we expect to fund about 4-5 awards in the amount of $700 per project. Applicants must make a convincing case that a SoTL project about ISU students is on-going and that the award will be used for work/activities (at least some of which will take place in June, 2016) to further the project’s progress, completion, application, or visibility. Funding is in the form of an additional pay (salary) in June which recipients can then use for work on the project and as described in the application. More information on these awards can be found here.

As always, check the Cross Chair’s website for upcoming SoTL opportunities.

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TLI Update and Resources for Successful Publication of SoTL Work

The following is from the co-editors of Teaching & Learning Inquiry, Nancy Chick and Gary Poole:

Teaching & Learning Inquiry (TLI)—the journal of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL)—is now available online and open access at

On January 1, all issues of TLI went online under a CC-BY license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction of its materials as long as the original work is properly attributed. From now on, TLI will provide free, instant, and permanent access to all materials it publishes and has published to date.

This move makes the research and ideas published in the journal more readily available to an ever-expanding SoTL community, facilitating increased sharing, readership, and citation of TLI‘s authors. At the same time, TLI will continue to provide thorough and rigorous reviews, as well as careful editorial attention to submissions.

Visit to read all articles, submit manuscripts, and sign up for alerts of new content. Questions may be sent to

Looking back, we have published several resources to support the dissemination of SoTL work, in TLI or any other SoTL publication outlet. We hope you’ll find a review of these helpful:


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Supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Written by Kathleen McKinney, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL, Illinois State University

Are you a faculty developer or faculty member charged with encouraging and supporting the scholarship of teaching and learning on your campus? Are you a staff member or faculty member of a disciplinary association trying to encourage and support quality SoTL work in your field? Are you an officer or committee member of a SoTL professional organization?

If any of these apply, the list below, of ways to encourage and support SoTL will be of interest to you. The list offers 23 initiatives or activities that can be used to support SoTL as well as a brief description or elaboration of the idea. Neither the list nor the elaborations are exhaustive! The list is organized into some general but probably overlapping categories: grants, honors, educational opportunities, outlets for sharing and communication, events for special groups, and organizational level structures and collaborations.

Concrete examples or actual implementations of many of these initiatives can be found on the webpages of SoTL offices or teaching centers at many colleges/universities and on the webpages of disciplinary and SoTL societies. We hope blog readers will comment with additional ideas of SoTL support programs they know about or offer.


  • Research grants to conduct SoTL research projects as an individual or in teams, on set SoTL topics or using an open topic call, involving students as co-researchers.
  • Travel grants to conferences or workshops to learn about SoTL, work on SoTL projects, or share SoTL research.
  • Application/use grants to encourage the innovative use of the results from a SoTL study or the SoTL literature to make changes/improvements in teaching/learning at various levels.
  • Making SoTL Public grants to help support efforts to present or publish SoTL projects and the results.

Recognitions/honors possibly with funding

  • SoTL scholars funded to work on SoTL research, mentor others with SoTL projects, assist with other SoTL faculty development work, share and apply SoTL results on campus or in the discipline.
  • SoTL contests to encourage and reward some aspect of SoTL such as application, innovation, and/or connection to an organizational priority, etc.
  • SoTL awards to honor a SoTL project, SoTL publication, SoTL career, etc.

Educational opportunities/events

  • Workshops, institutes, or online tutorials on designing SoTL studies, SoTL and IRB/ethics, conducting SoTL, applying SoTL results, making SoTL public, etc.
  • SoTL Learning Communities, Reading Circles, Research Groups, or Writing Groups: small groups of faculty, staff, graduate students working as peers to educate self and each other on SoTL and to make progress on various aspects of SoTL projects.

Outlets to make SoTL public and to find SoTL literature

  • SoTL publication/journal on campus, regionally, for a discipline; online or hardcopy; open access or not, discipline-based or multi-discipline.
  • SoTL conference for the sharing of SoTL projects/research at the local, regional, national or international levels; discipline or topic specific, or SoTL more generally.
  • SoTL sessions at disciplinary conferences or disciplinary SoTL conferences.

Outlets for sharing information, resources, examples, achievements

  • SoTL weblog to provide posts with tips, resources, examples, applications, connections to other support, and to encourage comments and conversations about SoTL. Also an outlet for SoTL researchers to share their projects/results in posts.
  • Web page with short and long term resources and assistance of all types related to helping people do SoTL, sharing SoTL results, posting opportunities, highlighting local initiatives, offering examples, linking to other useful pages, etc.
  • SoTL newsletter online and/or hard copy serving a variety of functions overlapping somewhat with a web page or blog.
  • Using social media for SoTL (FB and twitter to share ideas, achievements, or links to resources).

Special events for special audiences

  • SoTL sessions for graduate students including workshops, reading circles, ‘brownbag’ overviews, team meeting with faculty collaborators, etc. to help them learn about SoTL for the future or serve as a collaborator on a SoTL project.
  • SoTL sessions for Chairs, Directors, Deans, and other central administrators to help educate them about SoTL: purposes/functions, support for their faculty, fit in the institution reward system and strategic plan, and so on.
  • SoTL sessions for undergraduate and graduate students focusing on the results of SoTL in their discipline and the implications for their studying and learning.

Organizational level collaborations and structures

  • Collaborations between SoTL and other institutional units and/or institutional initiatives (e.g., teaching center, research office, assessment office, student affairs, strategic plan, accreditation, program reviews…).
  • Special offices or positions for SoTL in the institution or organization such as faculty positions, a SoTL support unit, taskforce, endowed chair, etc.
  • Value and reward for SoTL is explicit and fair in all organizational and institutional documents.
  • SoTL section or interest group in a disciplinary society.
  • Formal statements on SoTL in the mission, strategic plan, by-laws or similar documents of an organization or institution.

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A Bit of History of Centralized Support for SoTL at One Institution

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

This blog post is an effort to reconstruct the history of centralized support for the scholarship of teaching and learning at one public institution: Illinois State University. Of course, there may also have been support for such practioner research on student learning at the college, department, or discipline levels but the focus of this blog post is on support at the University level. I urge readers of this blog to consider the history of SoTL support on their campuses and to think about ways to increase or improve such support. (See August 3, 2015 post to this blog, “Become a Social Change Agent for SoTL”)

After offering a University-wide teaching workshop for graduate students for five years starting in 1990, in July of 1996 we opened the Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) at Illinois State University. Though the focus of this unit was on supporting exemplary teaching practices on campus to improve student learning, the center also moved quickly to support SoTL research and related efforts on campus. At this same time, in terms of other services and faculty development related to teaching and SoTL, there was a separate unit called Faculty Technology Support (FTS) and the precursor to the present day University Assessment Services, both of which also involved a small amount of indirect, centralized support for teaching and SoTL.

In 1998, CAT organized and sponsored the first annual ISU Teaching Symposium held in October. We had, maybe, 80 people attend or present that first year. Much of the work presented was teaching tips or scholarly teaching but a small was more formal SoTL. This event, of course, has evolved over the years into the amazing campus event we have now –the January ISU Teaching-Learning Symposium held in the uptown Normal Marriott with an external keynote speaker and usually about 400 people registered!

In 1998, we also began our work–lasting over a decade until 2012– with the, now defunct, American Association of Higher Education (AAHE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, working on teaching-learning issues, faculty development, and on the scholarship of teaching and learning. ISU became one of 12 institutional leaders around the US and Canada in one phase of this work (2003-2006) and was very involved in all phases of this institutional SoTL initiative. Some of that work and products are documented at

At CAT, over the years, we offered and supported many teaching support initiatives but, also, supported scholarly teaching and SoTL via consulting on projects, a library, the symposium, an occasional internal publication for making local SoTL public, and an early version of a SoTL small grant program. In about 2006, CAT was combined with Faculty Technology Support (FTS) to form the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT). CTLT continues to support outstanding teaching practices, scholarly teaching, and to a lesser degree, SoTL.

In 2002, Dr. K. Patricia Cross provided a gift to Illinois State University to endow a University Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. The Provost created the Office of the Cross Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. CTLT continued(s) to offer some support for SoTL but most centralized SoTL support comes from the Office of the Endowed Chair. In 2003-2004, the Endowed Chair in SoTL was selected as a Carnegie Foundation SoTL scholar and was able to spend time in residence at Carnegie working on a SoTL project and bring back what she learned to campus. A wide range of SoTL support has been offered through the Office of the Endowed Chair over the last fourteen years including, for example, workshops on doing SoTL, consulting, SoTL books, this blog, grants to travel to present SoTL projects, SoTL university research grants, an internal SoTL publication, a university-wide SoTL award, a newsletter and web page with resources, incentives for sharing SoTL projects external to the campus, a faculty SoTL Scholar-Mentor program, teaching graduate students about SoTL, and much more.

We continue to offer such support today (! What is your institution doing to support SoTL to enhance student learning and development on your campus and in your discipline? What more could be done?



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Students Learning Research Skills Outside of Class: Benefits of Working on Research Teams

Written by: Phyllis McCluskey-Titus and Anne McDowell, Illinois State University (Department of Educational Administration and Foundations)

Dr. McCluskey-Titus and her student, Anne McDowell describe a SoTL study to track student learning as a result of out-of-class research experiences:

Introduction to the research study

This SoTL grant-funded study was undertaken to understand what type of learning occurs when graduate students participate with classmates in faculty-led research or assessment projects outside their structured curriculum. According to Jiang and Roberts (2011), graduate students who engaged in research opportunities outside of class reported learning more about conducting research and research methods, increased content knowledge about the topics being studied, and that learning research by actually doing it was active and engaging. This study involved ten master’s program alumni from two previous research teams and four current students as a part of the third research team, all directed by the same faculty member, who reflected on their experiences in writing and in one-on-one interviews about what they learned from conducting and presenting research with a team of their classmates. Some of the early findings about what students reported learning from their research experiences with teams are presented here.

Structure of the research team process

Students volunteered to be a part of an out-of-class SoTL research project that would allow them to write and edit a grant proposal and be trained on writing an IRB and completing CITI training. Students also learned how to:

  • develop appropriate research methodologies (including interview protocols and survey instruments)
  • conduct interviews
  • analyze quantitative and qualitative data
  • write proposals
  • present programs for conferences
  • write articles to be submitted for publication.

The teams met regularly (weekly or bi-weekly) over a year’s time for training and to complete work associated with the research projects. In between the meetings, everyone had assignments to be completed including literature searches, data collection, data analysis, writing and sharing drafts of the grant/IRB/surveys/interview questions/program proposal/article.

Learning outcomes reported by students working on research teams

For graduate students engaged in SoTL, there is compelling evidence that exposure to research experiences can enhance learning and other beneficial outcomes when the content is specifically designed to educate learners about scholarship or research. According to Schram and Allendoerfer (2012), SoTL “has the potential to train graduate students to be reflective teachers, gain research experiences, and integrate their teaching and research skills” (p.8). Many of the participants involved expressed that their learning expectations were met or exceeded as a result of participation in the research project teams.

“I hadn’t had any grant writing experience, but I knew that grants are important to education” (Adam, pg. 1). He goes on to state, “My expectations for learning were high to be totally honest, but those high expectations were met and exceeded as I got farther and farther into the project and I was able to articulate better what I had learned, what I was researching, the process that we were doing and the methodology that we used” (Adam, pg. 5).

Another student reflected,

“I’m really glad I participated in the project and had the opportunity to work with a professor and my cohort members on something that wasn’t required for a class assignment, but just for the sake of learning and experience” (Kaitlin, pg. 4).

Insights such as these support other research related to the relevance of engaging students in SoTL projects as part of a research team. According to McKinney, Jarvis, Creasy and Herrmann (2010), “When students seize such opportunities, they tend to find these experiences highly motivating and often demonstrate improvements in basic research and scholarly skills (p. 83).

Benefits reported by students working on research teams

In addition to the practical learning outcomes gained by the participants in this study, every participant in all three projects discussed the perceived benefits from participating in the out-of-class research opportunities. These included understanding the process of conducting assessment and research, having an opportunity to work closely with and redefine relationships with faculty and peers outside of the classroom, and the opportunity to give back or contribute to the profession.

For many, the experience also transformed their views about research as a valuable skill set.

“This project has definitely changed my view on research as a whole…Being part of this team has sparked an interest in research for me that I plan to continue” (Sean, p. 4).

Another member of the team stated,

“I never saw myself as one who would engage in research opportunities because I thought it was something only clinicians and professors pursued. After this experience I know this is not the case” (Anne, p. 3).

One of the unexpected discoveries realized by participants was the impact of research on the student affairs profession and their role in influencing work in the field. Using research in their day-to-day work was mentioned by members of the research team.

“I learned that, when done correctly, research data could be used to greatly improve parts of my job, said (Jeff, p. 4), and “I have gained such a large appreciation for research and assessment and hope to continue to give back to the field in these ways” (Janelle, p. 5).

The value of these findings solidifies the importance of exploring and engaging students in research for the betterment of themselves now, as well as their future work in their chosen profession.


Blog References

Jiang, F. & Roberts, P. J. (2011). An investigation of the impact of research-led education on student learning and understandings of research. Journal of University Teaching & Learning

Practice, 8(2). Available at:

McKinney, K., Jarvis, P., Creasy, G., Herrmann, D. (2010). A range of student voices in the scholarship of teaching and learning. In C. Werder & M. Otis (Eds.), Engaging student voices in the study of teaching and learning. (pp. 82-95). Sterling (VA): Stylus.

Schram, L.N.& Allendoerfer, M.G. (2012). Graduate student development through the scholarship of teaching and learning. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 12(1), 8-22.