The SoTL Advocate

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

Graduate Students and SoTL: Informing, Encouraging, and Supporting

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By Kathleen McKinney, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL, Illinois State University

Many campuses work to involve graduate students in reading, assisting, conducting, and applying scholarship of teaching and learning projects/research. At Illinois State University, through the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, we also do this via several mechanisms. We believe it is critically important for graduate students to learn about and have the opportunity to participate in SoTL as both an opportunity for more research experience and as a way of understanding and improving their teaching as graduate students and/or future faculty members. In this brief blog post, I summarize some of the mechanisms we have used. I encourage blog readers to comment and add ideas for other readers.

SoTL Reading Circle

We offer a SoTL reading circle to graduate students. We provide a book on SoTL (and sometimes other readings). In the past, we have used The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in and Across the Disciplines (McKinney, 2013, IU Press). Students do reading ahead of attending two required, facilitated group discussion meetings. At those meetings, particpants explore ideas about SoTL research, understand the value of SoTL in the role of professor, and consider opportunities that exist at ISU to support scholarly productivity as a SoTL researcher.  Generally, we limit each reading circle to 8-10 students. Participating students also earn a $150 stipend for reading the text and for active participation in both sessions. The stipend is applied to their student account at ISU (any funds remaining in a student’s account after account is paid in full are refunded to the student). And, of course, we feed the students as well!

SoTL Toolbox Session via Graduate School Toolbox Program

Our Graduate School offers regular professional development sessions, one hour in duration, on a wide range of topics to graduate students on campus. This year, we were able to add a SoTL Toolbox session to that list of offerings. About a dozen graduate students signed up for the session. We created a power point presentation about SoTL, its uses, making it public, and support on campus. We shared some SoTL related handouts. There was no monetary compensation for the graduate students but we did feed them!

Require Student Co-researcher on SoTL Grants

We offer a variety of SoTL related grants during the year for faculty members and academic staff. These include travel grants, mini-grants, and SoTL University Research Grants (URGs up to $5,000). For many of these grants, but especially the URGs, faculty/staff applicants must include at least one student (can be an undergraduate but is most often a graduate student) in meaningful roles on their research team. Doing so and outlining the non-trivial research duties in which the student will engage is one criterion for funding. This often leads to SoTL research presentations and papers co-authored by the PI and the student. Students have also presented on their experience working on the SoTL grant.

Selected SoTL Development Events Open to Graduate Students or Special SoTL Workshop for Graduate Students

Sometimes our office is able to offer space in SoTL workshops or other opportunities to graduate students. This depends, however, on the purpose of the workshop or opportunity, funding issues, timing, demand from faculty and staff, etc. Occasionally, we will offer a SoTL workshop just for graduate students and are able to target their interests, needs, and experience.

Opportunities for Involvement in SoTL Support Work by Our Office

A few years ago, when ISU was a leader in the Carnegie Foundation CASTLE Program, 2-4 graduate students were involved on the campus teams for these initiatives including traveling to CASTLE events and co-authoring chapters in a book on student voices in SoTL. More recently, graduate students in Art, English, and Communication have been hired to use their professional skills in our SoTL support efforts including designing the original cover of Gauisus (our online, multimedia SoTL journal), copyediting and formatting papers for Gauisus, designing PR material for events, and planning a major on-campus SoTL event.

Encourage/remind Graduate Students how to Make their SoTL Public Locally

Finally, we offer a variety of ways anyone on campus, including graduate students, can share their individual or team SoTL research and products locally. We inform graduate students about these opportunities via fliers, information to Chairs/Directors, FaceBook, Twitter, the graduate school, and so on.  The opportunities include writing very brief ‘articles’ for the SoTL at ISU Newsletter or The SoTL Advocate Blog, submitting a representation of their SoTL work to Gauisus, presenting at the annual Teaching-Learning Symposium, or having a poster at the annual University Research Symposium.

 

 

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