The SoTL Advocate

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

SoTL Think Tank: Fostering Cross-Program Collaboration Within a Discipline

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Written by Jerry K. Hoepner, Associate Professor (hoepnejk@uwec.edu) and Abby Hemmerich, Assistant Professor (hemmeral@uwec.edu) at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire

The American Speech Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) Academic Affairs Board (AAB) released a report on the role of undergraduate education in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) in June of 2015. Among the concerns addressed by this report is the need to align curriculum and pedagogy across programs. A lack of consistency across programs constrains the portability of a CSD degree to other undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as the generalizability to related educational and healthcare professions.

While this is a discipline-specific example, it is a challenge which faces many disciplines. The reality of today’s educational context affirms that students increasingly seek flexibility in how they assemble their education and the programs that deliver it. This blog addresses one program’s attempt to foster collaboration across institutions operating in the same state university system.

The University of Wisconsin Systems SoTL Think Tank sought to initiate a consortium of faculty from six state programs in CSD. The program was initiated in the spring of 2015 through a UW Systems conference development grant by the Office of Professional Instruction and Development (OPID). The initial intent of the consortium was to share information about current teaching strategies, develop a network of faculty interested in incorporating SoTL research in their programs, encourage sharing of resources and content expertise, foster research and teaching collaboration between programs, increase SoTL and pedagogical knowledge across system programs, and conjointly develop plans for future collaboration (see figure 1).

Figure 1. Purpose and goals of the UW Systems SoTL Think Tank.

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Prior to the one-day seminar, attendees responded to a Qualtrics survey about their previous and current perspectives and experiences with SoTL and pedagogy. Most respondents indicated that collaboration happened within their own departments on their own campuses but less across the campus or with similar programs on other campuses (see figure 2). Most attendees felt their home departments valued discussions of SoTL and encouraged research in this area, but implementation of teaching observations was less common (see figure 3).

Figure 2. Pre-conference collaboration data.

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Figure 3. Perceived value of SoTL at home institution.

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A moderator from the host university’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning guided discussions following the framework below:

  • Meet and greet. An informal discussion paired with refreshments allowed the attendees to get to know one another prior to deeper discussions of pedagogy.
  • Discussion of selected readings from disciplinary SoTL text (Ginsberg, Friberg, & Visconti, 2012). Initial discussions of the text allowed attendees to share pedagogical philosophies and connect academic and clinical teaching. Attendees worked within small groups to share experiences and insights related to instruction.
  • What is SoTL and where are people at the outset? Reflecting upon previous experiences with teaching and learning, under the lens of readings within the Ginsberg et al. text, attendees identified the aspects of SoTL that matched their current understanding and where they hoped to be. As you see in the images below (see figure 4), attendees’ conceptualization of the intersection between teaching and SoTL migrated throughout the day from a focus on teacher-learner interactions and pedagogical content knowledge towards evidence-based education and SoTL.

Figure 4. Attendee conceptualizations of the teaching, pedagogy, and SoTL continuum.

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  • SoTL and pedagogy in the discipline. Discussions of the role of SoTL in the discipline, implementation of evidence-based pedagogies, and signature pedagogies within the discipline took place as attendee conceptualization evolved.
  • Action Plans. Following a framework designed by the hosts of the think tank, we worked to assemble dreams (i.e., what would you do if time, money, and other resources were not a limiting factor), goals (e.g., what specific steps will you take next), and potential collaboration surrounding research and teaching interests and needs (see figure 5). Each attendee defined a plan for implementing SoTL at some level into his/her teaching or research for the following academic year.

Figure 5. Action plan (left) and examples of lessons to share (right).

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  • Brag N’ Steal. Attendees brought an innovative lesson to share and discuss. As they presented their lesson plans, it fostered a discussion of how others may draw upon those principles for lessons in their content areas (e.g., a lesson for an adult neurogenic disorders class and how that could be modified for a child language development course). Examples are shown in figure 5 above.

Several projects and plans for follow-up were initiated. This included:

  1. A survivor speaker series exchange which has already hosted its first speaker
  2. A faculty speaker-exchange
  3. A presentation at our disciplinary annual conference in November 2015
  4. A presentation at the UW Systems conference in April 2016
  5. A plan to meet again the following spring, hosted by another program within the system

The program was intended to foster inter-program pedagogical and research collaborations. The conference included one, full-day interaction, intended to foster review of a framework for SoTL research and pedagogical enhancement in CSD. Faculty with expertise in similar content areas were able to connect for future collaboration in teaching resources, as well as research. Further, commonalities across program curriculums provided a basis for initiating discussions of inter-program curricular consistency and compatibility. This could enable students to move seamlessly between system programs (i.e., undergraduate to undergraduate program, undergraduate to graduate school).

Implications & Potential Extensions

This program attempted to initiate a collaboration of disciplinary programs across a system. While not all universities are a part of a state system, as the programs we have described, most programs will have state and regional affiliates in their discipline with whom they may wish to collaborate. As you can see, this is not a process that is quick to implement. Our work thus far is merely a few steps towards our ultimate goals of producing portable curricula, shared standards, cross-program collaboration, and shared expertise. Achieving those lofty goals begins with those initial connections and conversations.

Blog References:

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2015). Academic Affairs Board, “The Role of Undergraduate Education in Communication Sciences and Disorders”, Final Report. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/AAB-Report-Role-Undergrad-Ed-CSD.pdf

Ginsberg, S., Friberg, J., & Visconti, C. (2012). Scholarship of teaching and learning in speech-language pathology and audiology: Evidence-based education. San Diego: Plural Publishing.

 

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