Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at Illinois State University
I’ve been back from the 2019 ISSOTL conference for a little over a week…and I’m *still* processing all that happened in Atlanta. There was a richness to this conference that was so very pleasing and I found that I was inspired by so many of the people I spoke with. I returned to Normal (that’s really the name of my institution’s town!) thinking about connections between formal sessions and informal conversations with colleagues and friends. There are many to be made, but one stands out quite prominently: we need to be purposeful in how we amplify our collective efforts in the SoTL community. While I could pick a number of conference moments to highlight to illustrate this notion, I have four that I’d like to focus on in this short blog post, as I feel they set the stage for the point I’m seeking to make. Questions/thoughts raised in my mind by each are asked in italics:
- The ISSOTL Advocacy and Outreach (A&O) committee sponsored a panel at the conference on the topic of “Grand Challenges” for SoTL, following the model some might be familiar with from the discipline of engineering. Grand Challenges are seen as wicked problems that define areas of need/focus for a discipline to move forward. Lauren Scharff (U.S. Air Force Academy) presented an overview of her analysis of data (collected over two years) from this project and identified several Grand Challenges specific to SoTL. One of three challenges identified was termed “challenges to SoTL as an enterprise,” and focused on the perceived lack of value/support for SoTL, questions of SoTL’s rigor, and questions about who is/should be engaged in this work. Essentially, data indicated that one of the major challenges facing those engaged in SoTL remains a need for advocacy for this type of scholarship — and for SoTL scholars, themselves.
- As part of an intriguing and thought-provoking panel, Lindsay Doukopoulos, Peter Felten, Mays Imad, and Huang Hoon Chng led a discussion focused on the importance of backstage conversations in SoTL as a mechanism for advocacy, engagement, and deriving forward momentum to realize progress (in whatever form or fashion). Backstage conversations help to develop networks that bring important work to the front (or public) stage, where broader impact for SoTL might be felt. Might we consider formal and informal encounters at and around ISSOTL each year to be one form of a backstage conversation? Are we networking together (and well!), but failing to move beyond our immediate social networks of SoTLists to advance our work? If so, what might we constitute as the front stage?
- In their presentation titled “Using SoTL to Advance Institutional Change: Exploring Student Success in Foundational Courses,” Wallace Lockhart and Brad Wuetherick shared their SoTL Impact Framework (at the time of the conference, this was in near-final draft status). This framework asked those in attendance to consider the potential impact of a SoTL project as part of its planning through the establishment of impact goals (why are you doing this project?), impact actions (what actions will you take to achieve your impact goals?), and impact results (how will you know if you have achieved your intended impact?). How might the discipline of SoTL change if we collectively considered impact planning as an integral part of disseminating our work? What types of impact are we seeking?
- Nancy Chick’s closing keynote strongly advocated for those engaged in SoTL to consider sharing work through more public forms of scholarship (e.g., social media, blogs, white papers). She challenged those in attendance to create a broader impact for their work by taking something that matters to individuals or small groups (your own SoTL work) and making it matter to others beyond the immediate SoTL community. How might the profile of SoTL grow in value if we worked purposeful together to accomplish this?
My take aways from these conference moments? Nancy Chick identified a new path for our our consideration in her conference keynote. The sessions I attended and conversations I had with colleagues in Atlanta strongly backed up her call to truly make our SoTL work public. SoTL advocacy work is still clearly needed. That work needs to move from the SoTL backstage to a more public front stage to purposefully amplify our SoTL work/findings/efforts. We, as a community of scholars, can plan systematically for this to happen. In doing so, we have the capacity to grow the SoTL in terms of value perceptions, stakeholder engagement, and broader societal impact.
Chick, N. (2019). SoTL as public scholarship. Keynote presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Doukoplulos, L. M., Felten, P., Imad, M., & Chng, H. H. (2019). Cultivating backstage conversations in SoTL. Panel presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Lockhart, W. & Wuetherick, B. (2019). Using SoTL to advance institutional change: Exploring student success in foundational courses. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Scharff, L., Draeger, J., Ahmad, A., Friberg, J., Hamshire, C., & Maurer, T. (2019). Grand challenges for the scholarship of teaching and learning, phase II. Panel presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.