The SoTL Advocate

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

Making the Case for SoTL Self-Advocacy in Academic Job Searches

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Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and Associate Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders at Illinois State University

Two close friends are currently on the job market. Presently employed as associate professors (or close to that rank!) each has chosen to seek novel adventures elsewhere in academia. Thus, they are in the process of sifting through position descriptions and polishing their teaching and research statements to submit in the coming weeks, following a course familiar to many in higher education.

search1Each of my friends have been successful disciplinary researchers as well as productive SoTL scholars, though they both represent disciplines that do not consistently value SoTL. As they contemplate phone interviews and campus visits in the near future, they have wondered aloud about how they might contextualize their SoTL work in a way that positions them well in their job searches. While it’s disappointing to me that they have to consider this issue (SoTL should be uniformly valued!), I recognize it’s likely very necessary and, in fact, is smart preparation for their respective job searches.

With that in mind, the contextualization my friends seek as a framework for their SoTL work could actually be a form of SoTL self-advocacy, which I’d define as anything a person does to describe the value of their SoTL work to relevant stakeholders. SoTL self-advocacy might look different across contexts, but in the milieu of a job search, there are definitely steps my friends could take to share the appeal and impact of their SoTL work. Specifically, I would advise each (and would tell others!) that they might do the following to engage in SoTL self-advocacy:

  • Closely examine the mission/vision statements for any institution of interest. Mine these statements for alignment with past and current SoTL projects. Prepare an explanation for how your own SoTL work meshes with or could advance the mission/vision of the institution of interest.
  • Read the strategic plan carefully, noting where your SoTL work matches with current initiatives/efforts being undertaken by your institution of interest. Seek out mentions of student involvement in research, evidence-based instruction, or broad definitions of scholarship. Use these to frame your SoTL work and plans for the future in the interview process.
  • Reflect on the impact of your SoTL work. Many classroom-based SoTL studies lead to changes in curriculum, teaching methods, course design, etc. Be prepared to discuss how SoTL has impacted your teaching or your students’ learning. Have there been impacts to your current department (e.g., curricular changes) that resulted from your SoTL work? These would be important to describe.
  • Closely examine the vitas (hopefully archived online!) of faculty in the department/school/unit you might be looking to join. Determine if any individuals are SoTL-active or could serve as collaborators in the future. Be prepared to talk about how you would engage colleagues in institution-relevant collaborative projects.
  • Visit websites for the teaching and learning center, provost’s office, and/or any other important campus units affiliated with your institution of interest. Look for prompts that support SoTL and precedents for SoTL engagement. Identify individuals on campus who might be in the position to discuss SoTL opportunities at the institution and (if appropriate) attempt to have them included in your on campus interview (or express interest in meeting them if they are not in your interview).

Other ideas for SoTL self-advocacy on the job search? Please post below in the comments section!

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