The SoTL Advocate

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

SoTL as Women’s Work

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

This post consists of edited excerpts from the following article:

McKinney, Kathleen and Chick, Nancy L. (2010) “SoTL as Women’s Work: What Do Existing Data Tell Us?,” International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Vol. 4: No. 2, Article 16.

In this essay on the field of SoTL, we reported on an exploratory, descriptive study of the levels of participation of men and women in various types of scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) activities. For the purposes of the study, we defined SoTL
as the evidence-informed study of teaching and learning by disciplinary specialists that is made public. Anecdotally, we had both noticed what appears to be disproportionate involvement of women in most SoTL activities. In addition, both of us have had other people express to us their curiosity about this apparent fact. Thus, in an exploratory and descriptive study, we looked at some existing data relevant to this issue. While we acknowledged that other factors (e.g., discipline, institutional context, and academic rank) may also affect participation in SoTL research and other activities, we focused on the gender of SoTL participants.

We considered various ideas in hypothesizing about our results: gender role socialization and structures and opportunities in disciplines and institutions (e.g., representation of women and men in various academic positions or institutions, discrimination, status and power). We expected the data to show a pattern of women being disproportionately involved in most SoTL opportunities relative to their actual representation among those who could participate in SoTL and other SoTL activities. More specifically, we believed that disproportionately larger percentages of women than men would be involved in self-selected SoTL activities, as well as in activities that are primarily self-selected but also involve some appointment or confirmation by others. We also believed the representation of men and women would be closer to proportional for the higher-status or higher-prestige SoTL opportunities that are primarily awarded or invited by others.

We began by finding existing data to help us estimate the representation of women and men with doctoral degrees and in various higher education academic faculty/staff positions in multiple nations as ‘baseline’ data. We then found and coded 25 other forms of existing data on the representation of women and men national and international SoTL activities. These activities included membership in a SoTL professional organization, holding leadership positions in SoTL organizations, presenting at a SoTL conference or event, serving on the editorial board for or publishing in a SoTL journal, and winning a SoTL award or being selected as a SoTL fellow or scholar.

Using that data, we found the following patterns:

  • Women are over-represented, relative to the numbers of men and women faculty/academic staff in higher education, in both ‘self-selected’ SoTL activities and in ‘primarily self-selected with other approval or confirmation’ activities.
  • The involvement of women and men was more representative to their numbers for activities in the ‘primarily invited, awarded, or selected by others’ SoTL category.

We noted the limitations to the research (it was a descriptive and exploratory look at the issue with some methodological weaknesses). Finally, we discussed some possible implications of these results for women and men, for the field of SoTL, and for the value and reward for SoTL. We wonder whether our findings would still hold today, many years after our existing data was found and coded. We welcome comments by blog readers on the full study and our ideas.



One thought on “SoTL as Women’s Work

  1. Pingback: Reflections on ISU SoTL Scholar-Mentor Program | The SoTL Advocate

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