The SoTL Advocate

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

Supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

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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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