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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Knowing Who We Are

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University  

I have spent the last two decades of my life as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), working directly with children who have communication disorders, teaching/mentoring SLPs-in-training, and contributing to the evidence base for clinical practice and pedagogy in my profession. From the onset of my career as an SLP, I’ve answered the question, “what exactly do you do?” hundreds of times. As friends and family understood my professional life a bit better, this question was asked less frequently. That all changed this year, however, when I accepted the role of Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at ISU. I’ve been asked “what exactly do you do?” more often than ever…and I can completely understand the confusion! Providing a 35,000’ overview of my role is difficult, but this description is usually a good start:

I work with students and faculty who are interested in research and reflection on teaching and learning in higher education. I foster opportunities for networking, funding, completion, and dissemination of teaching and learning research at ISU and beyond.

I actually find it more difficult to explain my role to faculty and students, from my university or from others. This is likely due to the multitude of different approaches to/perceptions of educational development for SoTL across institutions. Timmermans and Ellis (2016) recently wrote of their work to reconceptualize SoTL programming/support at the University of Waterloo. The combination of a smaller scale needs assessment combined with a university-wide task force led these authors to support and (successfully) implement a broader view of scholarly teaching, rather than a narrower view of SoTL, to guide educational development efforts. Their data indicated that to be the “Goldilocks fit” for their institution —  not too big, not too small, but just right — to engage faculty and students in the study and reflection of teaching and learning.

The work of Timmermans and Ellis (2016) led me to think in a different yet focused way about SoTL at ISU. While SoTL support at the University of Waterloo is undertaken by the Center for Teaching Excellence, we have a different arrangement at ISU. I began to ponder the organizational structure for SoTL development and whether that might be the true driver in helping us understand and know who we are on our respective campuses. This, in turn, led me to consider the impact of the structure for teaching and learning at ISU on how SoTL support is sought and perceived.

At ISU, there is a great deal of support for teaching and learning. We have a robust Center for Teaching and Learning (CTLT) as well as a strong and growing influence in SoTL via the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL. These entities are completely separate (different reporting and funding structures) though few realize that there is purposeful separation between the two campus units. For me, it is critical that our campus units be perceived as different. Why? Oversight for the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair is provided by the Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, which legitimizes and supports SoTL as an accepted, valued, and important form of research for our campus. This differentiates SoTL, institutionally, in a hugely positive way. Knowing who we are in terms of SoTL at ISU begins here.

Collaborations with CTLT extend from this notion, allowing an interactive and productive relationship across the continuum of good teaching, scholarly teaching, and the SoTL (McKinney, 2007). Because I am a visual person, I tried to capture the work we do graphically:

CTLT v CC image

I am thankful that the organizational structure for educational development in teaching and learning at ISU has allowed us our “Goldilocks fit.” We have good and scholarly teaching encouraged by CTLT and scholarly teaching and SoTL encouraged by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL. It’s a balance, but one that is working at our institution. And, that’s really the key in a world where there is no one “right” approach to encouraging and supporting SoTL, isn’t it? The ability to support research and reflection on teaching and learning to honor the uniqueness of our institutions and their needs is critical. Thanks to Timmermans and Ellis for giving me the chance to reflect on this today!

 

Blog References:

McKinney, K. (2007). Enhancing learning though the scholarship of teaching and learning: The challenges and joys of juggling. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Timmermans, J. A. & Ellis, D. E. (2016). Reconceptualizing the scholarship of teaching and learning at the University of Waterloo: An account of influences and impact. New Directions of Teaching and Learning, 146, 71-78.

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Volume 4 (2016) of Gauisus is published!

 

Written by: Kathleen McKinney, former Cross Chair in SoTL and Professor of Sociology, Emeritus at Illinois State University

gauisusGauisus is the internal, blind peer-reviewed scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) publication at Illinois State University (ISU). At ISU we define the scholarship of teaching and learning as the “systematic reflection/study on teaching and learning [of our ISU students] made public.” The first volume of Gauisus appeared in 2009 in print and pdf form and contained 13 traditional scholarly articles or notes. The second and subsequent volumes are multi-media publications and appear on line every late spring. Each will contain several representations of SoTL work. Representations may be scholarly papers or notes, online posters, videos, wikis or blogs and so on.

The purposes of Gauisus are the following: 1) to provide instructors writing about their teaching and learning a local but peer reviewed outlet to share what they and their students have done and learned and 2) to offer other instructors and students an accessible publication to read to obtain a sense of, and learn from, some of the scholarly teaching and SoTL projects conducted by their colleagues on our campus. Gauisus means glad, gladly, or joyful in Latin, as in the Illinois State University motto/logo, “Gladly we learn and teach.” Reviewers are volunteers from ISU, and sometimes beyond, who apply and are selected based on their experience with SoTL and reviewing scholarly work.

Volume 4, 2016 contains the following SoTL representations: 

Using Interrupted Video Case Studies to Teach Developmental Theory: A Pilot Study

J. W. Anderson • Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

Sarah Bradshaw • Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

Jennifer Banning • Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

This study was designed to determine the usefulness of interrupted video case studies in providing vicarious, but meaningful, application of classroom learning, in this case, foundational theories of the human development field. Participants were students in a graduate Human Development course where a pre-/post-test format was utilized. The effect was significant as all participants’ posttest score improved. Also, pattern-matching results indicated an increase in complex levels of thinking across students’ work, further validating post-test scores. Results here serve also to confirm Egleston’s (2013) idea that an interrupted video case-study, could address all limitations typically associated with case-based instruction.

Service Learning for Development of Undergraduate Practitioner Researchers

Karen Flint Stipp • School of Social Work

Kathryn Sheridan • School of Social Work

Ariana E. Postlethwait • Department of Social Work, Middle Tennessee State University

Social work has an ongoing challenge to help undergraduates identify as practitioner-researchers. In a one-semester research course for juniors, groups of students completed an agency-based proposal. The assignment used a service learning approach. Students worked with agencies to identify agency questions, and develop a proposal for finding answers to an agency question. The following year each student completed a two-semester practicum. This study asked graduating seniors to report whether elements of their junior year agency-based proposal informed their senior year field practicum work.

Can Grammar Graphics Impact Grammar Knowledge and Collegiate Writing?

Mark Zablocki • Department of Special Education

Christy Borders • Department of Special Education

Carrie Anna Courtad • Department of Special Education

Stacey Jones Bock • Department of Special Education

Grammar Graphics is a visual system for teaching English syntax. It has the potential to influence ways in which teacher candidates may teach grammar to their K-12 students in the future as well impact their own syntactic knowledge. This system teaches visual symbols for each part of speech with rationale for the symbol itself. We investigated the impact of explicit instruction in grammar with Grammar Graphics on teacher candidate knowledge of syntax as well as their confidence to instruct their future K-12 students in grammar. We further assessed the impact of explicit instruction in grammar with Grammar Graphics on collegiate writing.

How Do Science Undergraduate Students Benefit from Conducting Educational Research?

Rebekka Darner Gougis • School of Biological Sciences

Janet F. Stomberg • School of Biological Sciences

Alicia T. OHare • School of Biological Sciences

This project engaged two science graduate students as members of an educational research team to examine the progression of their experiences as student-researchers and their ideas about qualitative research. Their participation provides a unique context in which we can examine how future science educators come to understand the process and value of educational research, particularly qualitative research. This study can inform future studies that examine how to prepare educators in applying educational research to their practice and ultimately strengthen the quality of post-secondary science education.


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Might the 4M Framework Support SoTL Advocacy?

Written by: Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University

Within SoTL, there are as many similarities as differences. As SoTL scholars, we are alternately inter- and intra-disciplinary in our focus. We operate within different areas of our big tent. We disseminate our work locally, but often seek national and global audiences. SoTL is diverse and different and context-specific but also uniformly focused on improving teaching and learning.

This dynamic orientation for SoTL impacts how we share and advocate for SoTL. With the work I have been doing the last several years, I have found that I advocate differently for SoTL based on my immediate audience: individual researchers, students, department chairs, university administration, disciplinary leaders and organizations. This is likely true for many of us, as we seek support for the important work we do with SoTL. I have often wished for a more organized – or perhaps more efficient – way to conceptualize my SoTL advocacy strategy. In my readings today, I may have found one.

Wuetherick and Yu (2016) recently shared their study exploring the state of SoTL in Canada, reporting input on practices and trends from the perspective of 140 respondents, each SoTL scholars in Canada.  Input from these individuals (gathered via survey) was organized across a four-level framework, which I will term the 4Ms for efficiency: mega, macro, meso, and micro. Use of this 4M framework allowed interpretation of data important to understanding SoTL from a variety of viewpoints, representing individuals and groups. Each of these levels is defined below:

Capture

Data from the Wuetherick and Yu (2016) study provided focused perspectives on each of these levels of influence, alerting readers of interesting trends such as these:

  • While SoTL research influenced 99% of respondents to change the design and implementation of their course, only 52% worked in institutions where SoTL is encouraged via promotion and tenure policies.
  • Different academic/disciplinary departments/units valued SoTL inconsistently, with 50% of respondents indicating that their departmental culture encouraged participation in SoTL.
  • Two-thirds of respondents felt as though there have been increases in the quality and quantity of venues for sharing SoTL work, but only 35% reported adequate campus-level funding for SoTL work.

While these data (and the rest contained within the study) help to inform the state of SoTL in Canada, they also provide a very solid foundation for SoTL advocacy in that country. There is a clear starting point in terms of where attention could be drawn to benefit the micro level (increase funding for SoTL work), the meso level (encourage meaningful changes in departmental culture for greater support of SoTL), the macro level (adapt promotion and tenure policies to support the work of SoTL scholars), and the mega level (continue to increase the profile of dissemination outlets for SoTL work).

Others could use a similar model. Single institutions could survey faculty or others could band together in a more collaborative effort (as was seen in Canada) to outline regional or national priorities for advocacy based on available data. All in all, it would seem as though the 4M framework might give an important starting place for purposeful and strategic advocacy across shareholders to advance and grow SoTL.

Blog Reference:

Wuetherick, B. & Yu, S. (2016). The Canadian teaching commons: The scholarship of teaching and learning in Canadian higher education. New Directions in Teaching &