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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A Look Back at FY18 – SoTL Involvement at ISU

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


Looking back over the last fiscal year (FY 19 started at the beginning of July here in Normal), it is clear that student and faculty involvement in scholarship of teaching and learning via workshops, funding, consultations, and other opportunities is growing AND that those involved in SoTL are representing a wide array of colleges and disciplines across campus. Happily, the Office of the Cross Chair has had a hand in helping our campus live it’s motto of gladly learning and teaching…from an evidence-based perspective! Gladly we SoTL!

For faculty, a variety of supports were offered throughout the year:

  • Three different “Intro to SoTL” workshops were developed, with the final workshop in May based on establishing a cohort of faculty who intend to plan and execute SoTL projects in the coming year with continued support and scaffolding from my office.
  • An IRB workshop, co-hosted with folks from our Research Ethics and Compliance office, to review SoTL-focused issues related to IRB changes on our campus and at a national level.
  • An external speaker, Dr. David Pace, came to ISU in March to present two workshops on Decoding the Disciplines. A follow-up meeting of attendees was held in May to plan projects for the coming year.
  • $20,000 in University Research Grant monies were awarded to fund five faculty-student teams to complete SoTL projects across four colleges and four academic departments/schools.
  • Over $15,000 in travel grants (with awards ranging from $700-1000) were allocated to faculty to present SoTL findings at local, national, and international disciplinary and SoTL conferences. Awardees represented five colleges and six academic department/schools.
  • Individual $250 SoTL Seed Grants were awarded to fund work being done by 15 “new-to-SoTL” scholars hailing from five colleges and nine academic departments/schools.

In sum, faculty from 26 of the 35 departments/schools at ISU (74%) had faculty involved in one or more the SoTL opportunities described above. This represents an increase of 4 departments/schools from FY17 totals. The exact breakdown of FY18 SoTL involvement by college is represented below:


Not included in these data (yet) are individual faculty consultations or student-focused initiatives that engaged students from 7 departments and 4 colleges over the course of the year, through programs such as CSI-SoTL and individual consultations for dissertation and other research projects.

ISU faculty and students should watch their inboxes (campus mail and email!) for FY19 SoTL opportunities, including the establishment of work groups for “first-timers” conducting SoTL projects, SoTLists engaged in Decoding the Disciplines work, a half-day “how to manage qualitative data” workshop, a lunchtime brown bag series of discussion topics (the first is slated as advice and guidance on recruiting students as research co-inquirers)…and more!

Questions about SoTL at ISU? Email me anytime:


*Art credit for the “gladly we learn and teach” image above to Molly Friberg.

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SoTL as a Piece of the Accreditation Puzzle

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

puzzle.jpgI spent last week in the Washington D.C. area for a meeting of the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). I’ve served on the CAA for almost four years and currently serve as Chair of the Council. In that time, I’ve had ample opportunity to consider accreditation and the potential ways in which the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) might contribute to accreditation processes, evidence, and planning. I would argue that while accreditation is a complex endeavor, the use of systematic study and reflection of teaching and learning has the potential to strengthen an application for (re-)accreditation and highlight evidence-based ways in which programs are meeting their accreditation standards in ways meaningful to local academic contexts. SoTL can be used directly to gather data about a given phenomenon or indirectly to inform a scholarly approach to decision making. As a representative of an accrediting body, I believe that this sort of data – used well – can be used to verify compliance with various accreditation standards.

While requirements for academic accreditation vary widely based on disciplinary needs and differences, there are several unifying considerations for most disciplinary standards attached to accreditation. I’ve explored several of these below, and have provided examples of how SoTL might be operationalized to support accreditation efforts across disciplines.

SoTL can inform strategic planning. Most accredited programs are required to have a strategic plan that is shared with all relevant stakeholders. Some accreditors prescribe that strategic plans have measurable goals and objectives. I have argued that conducting new SoTL investigations could (and maybe should!) be a strategic goal/objective for most programs. In collecting data about a teaching/learning issue, a program systematically gathers data to plan or problem-solve, potentially across a curriculum. Additionally, outcomes from completed SoTL projects can help to identify successful teaching/learning practices that could be utilized across a program or less successful practices that might need to be revised or revisioned. In sum, SoTL included as a part of the strategic planning process can identify areas of need or areas of strength.

SoTL can help determine faculty sufficiency. It is typical that a program’s faculty sufficiency is included as a component of accreditation standards. One aspect of faculty sufficiency can be represented by how well the faculty in a program are able to meet institutional requirements for teaching, research, and/or scholarship. I see SoTL as being a boost to faculty in this manner. SoTL-active faculty generally practice as scholarly teachers, potentially impacting teaching effectiveness. SoTL-active faculty produce scholarly work, increasing their overall research productivity. Finally, SoTL-active faculty have opportunities to engage in service to local, national, and international SoTL groups/organizations, which improves service productivity. Depending on the mission of an institution, any or all of these types of endeavors could help support faculty meeting institutional expectations for all aspects of academic employment.

SoTL can aid in curriculum development. A key component of many standards for academic accreditation is the idea that a curriculum must be offered to students that supports the emergence of competence, professionalism, and understanding of core disciplinary concepts. SoTL inquiry can be designed to examine part of a class or an entire course for impact. Findings can be used to tailor curriculum tweaks or (in the case of coordinated SoTL study across a program) inform wholesale curricular re-design and change. Programs can also apply extant SoTL to make curricular changes, as well, implementing practices such as service learning, study abroad, or research experiences – all evidence-based pedagogies – to design and plan innovations across the curriculum.

SoTL can be an integral component in formative and summative assessment of student learning. Accreditors might ask for ways in which a program uses or conducts formative and summative assessments of student learning to improve the program on a continual basis. SoTL is, in some ways, a true measure of formative or summative assessment, depending on how it’s designed and carried out. SoTL can help to identify aspects of a course that are impactful (or not) or whether a whole course truly meets its learning objectives. In a similar fashion, SoTL inquiry can provide data as one component of a program’s assessment agenda.

SoTL can be used to better understand reported student outcome measures. Many accrediting bodies require programs to report some sort of student outcome data as part of their regular processes. CAA standards require that programs report on time program completion rates, pass rates for our national certification exam, and employment rate of graduates one year post-graduation. High percentages on these outcome data can indicate that a program is strong and performing well. However, lower percentages might indicate that a problem exists with some aspect of the program. A well-designed SoTL investigation can help identify areas of strength and weakness in a program that might be impacting student outcome data. This might be closely tied to programmatic assessment, something most accreditors require evidence of as part of continued quality improvement efforts.


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Cool SoTL Stuff to Peruse…

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

Through suggestions from friends and via email notifications from various groups and organizations, I’ve been privy to quite a bit of really interesting SoTL stuff lately. Some of my favorites are shared below with relevant links and attributions provided!

Teaching with Metacognition


One of my favorite blogs, Improve with Metacognition, has just released its second issue of Teaching with Metacognition. Arranged in two categories (Applying Metacognition Practices Beyond the Classroom and Developing Metacognition Skills in our Students), the issue features six articles from a variety of SoTL-ists with interesting perspectives.

SoTL in the South

SotlSouthAt the end of May, the Volume 2, Issue 1 of SoTL South, a journal dedicated to the scholarship of teaching and learning in the “global south.” This special issue was born from work presented at the first ever SoTL in the South Conference in South Africa in July, 2017. This issue presents 10 articles with investigations and reflection topics relevant on a global scale (e.g., decolonizing the classroom, pedagogy, and educational development).

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Annotated Literature Database


Nicola Simmons has done a wonderful job designing and sharing a SoTL-focused annotated literature database with references for a wide array of topics — as of this morning, 99 individual topics are features. This is a resource I share with faculty at my university and others constantly! New content has been popping up here routinely. Readers are encouraged to email Nicola at with suggestions for topics, annotations, etc.

Let’s Talk Teaching

ISU’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology hosts a podcast series called Let’s Talk Teaching. In the most recent podcast, Dr. Bill Anderson, an associate professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences (and 2017 Outstanding University Teaching Award winner) explores the power of interrupted case studies as an evidence-based way to foster students’ creative thinking by giving them structured opportunities to engage in inference and prediction.

The Contemplative Mind in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning


I’ve just stared reading a new text from IU Press’ SoTL Series. Authored by Patricia Own-Smith, the Contemplative Mind in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning discusses the potential space contemplative practices and research might have in higher education. I’m especially enjoying the fourth chapter (titled “Contemplative Research”) and it’s review of common SoTL methods through a new lens.

ISSoTL Opportunities

ISSoTL is seeking co-leaders for the International Collaborative Writing Group (ICWG) for 2019. With aims to build the capacity of participants to work and write in international collaborative groups and contribute to the literature of a range of SoTL topics from an international perspective, this program seeks to extend the successes of two prior ICWGs, with an initial meeting planned in Atlanta, GA, prior to the 2019 ISSoTL Conference. Expressions of Interest outlining applicants fit to the ICWG criteria (viewable via link above) and timeline in no more than 2 pages should be emailed to Kelly Matthews ( by July 31, 2018 along with a brief CV (5 pages) for each applicant.

Additionally, the call for student applications to ISSoTL’s Emerging Scholars Fund is open. This Fund provides conference fee waivers to students attending the ISSoTL conference. Students must be registered for the 2018 ISSoTL conference to apply. Questions should be directed to Sam L Dvorakova, ISSOTL Student Representative, using the Contact Form and selecting Student Representative VPs from the Area of FocusTo apply, please complete the online application form by August 1st, 2018.