The SoTL Advocate

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


Leave a comment

SoTL University Research Grants Awarded for FY19

sotl-sealAt Illinois State University, University Research Grants (URGs) are awarded by each of our seven colleges and by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL. On average, five projects are awarded funding of up to $5000 to study the developmental and learning outcomes of ISU students.

At Illinois State University, we define SoTL as the “systematic study/reflection on teaching and learning [of our ISU students] made public.” This definition allows for research in any discipline and the use of various methodologies. The work may be quantitative or qualitative in nature and focus on class, course, program, department, cross-department, and co-curricular levels. Specific criteria for this award can be found on the Cross Chair website. All funded SoTL URG work must be made public and peer reviewed in some way via presentation, performance, juried show, web site, video, and/or publication.

Outcomes of past SoTL URG-funded projects have been archived here.

This year’s call for proposals was highly competitive, with 17 team applications submitted. After careful peer-review, five student/faculty teams have been awarded SoTL URGs for FY19. These teams represent five disciplines across four ISU colleges. Funded projects are summarized below:

Decoding Geometry Constructions as Generalizations

Research Team: Jeffrey Barrett (Professor, Department of Mathematics) and Darl Rassi, Doctoral Student, Department of Mathematics

In an ISU undergraduate course, students learn to generalize and form arguments based on the use of geometric figures and measures. Generalized constructions of figures are important as a conceptual foundation for argumentation; however, the best means to teach students to construct geometric objects that represent general cases of figures are not evident. We propose a repeated measure design to cycle through instructional support with examples of construction steps and with analytical processes identifying the level of generalization for different examples. By analyzing reflective interview transcripts with an instructor, we expect to identify expert steps to generalize constructions like this, and analyze steps in the process of such work. By collecting weekly data in cycles, we expect to learn how many repeated trials provide adequate support for students to construct a generalization concept enabling them to build on their understanding of geometry.

The Impact of University Experiences on the Intercultural Effectiveness of ISU Students

Research Team: Meredith Downes (Professor, Department of Management & Quantitative Methods) and Aron Applegate (Student, Department of Management & Quantitative Methods)

Many students enrolled as majors in Illinois State University’s international business program are well-traveled and have interests that extend beyond the midwestern United States prior to beginning their college careers. However, it is important that students’ international skills and abilities be developed further as a result of their attendance here in order to gain critical professional skills for the workforce. Thus, this study assess students’ intercultural competence upon joining the international business program and again when they are close to graduating to identify factors most influential in increasing cultural competence. Specifically, a variety of university-sponsored experiences (e.g., internships, study abroad, student clubs and organizations) will be explored to understand their impact on students’ intercultural competence.

An Ethnographic Investigation of Future STEM Teachers’ Development of Disciplinary Practices

Research Team: Rebekka Darner (Assistant Professor, School of Biological Sciences) and Kara Baldwin (Graduate Student, School of Biological Sciences)

The Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics require STEM educators to not only teach content but also engage students in actions of scientific and mathematical inquiry (disciplinary practices). Doping so requires teachers to have knowledge of disciplinary practices to develop authentic learning experiences for their students. This research will explore the connection between undergraduate research experiences and the development of pre-service STEM teachers’ knowledge of disciplinary practices. Specifically, the research will examine the development of community within each research setting to identify factors that may influence or enhance pre-service teachers’ knowledge of disciplinary practices. Pre/post measures to identify changes in participant knowledge of disciplinary practices will be administered. Additionally, the iterative-reflective practice of ethnography will allow researchers to identify factors within undergraduate research experiences that might impact future teachers’ ability to engage their students in STEM disciplinary practices.

Examining Pre-Service Teacher Embodiment of Critical Issues

Research Team: Alice Lee (Assistant Professor, School of Teaching and Learning) and a student researcher to be determined

The study will examine how pre-service teachers embody critical issues within a critical literacy course (TCH: Reading and Language Arts in the Elementary School). Framed in a grounded theory developed from previous work, “teachers as embodied toolkits” is a lens that theorizes the ways teachers embody race and language and how pedagogy is something a teacher lives. Employing case study methodology, the Spring 2018 section of data will be collected and analyzed to describe how the learning processes of this cohort of pre-service teachers can be described relative to issues such as race and diversity.

Synthesis Journals as a Path through the Forest: Analyzing the Effectiveness of Synthesis Journals in Helping ISU Music Majors Contextualize Music History

Research Team: Allison Alcorn (Professor, School of Music) and a student research to be determined

MUS 253 (Music History Until 1750) is a required course for ISU undergraduate music majors. The course is usually a student’s first exposure to serious study of music history. As a result, students often report feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information and the level of detail required across the course. In response to such concerns, synthesis journals were integrated into this course with the goal of helping students keep sight of the “larger context” and not lose the forest for the trees. Through student reflections, this project seeks to understand the impact of synthesis journals on student learning of course content and connection-making to broader contexts of Western European culture.

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Reflections on the College Art Association’s 2018 SoTL Bootcamp

Written by Alysha Meloche, Ph.D. student at Drexel University’s School of Education (author bio provided at end of blog post). This blog was cross-posted on the Art History Teaching Resources blog

In February, the College Art Association’s (CAA’s) Education Committee organized a one-day Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Bootcamp in conjunction with its 2018 Annual Conference. Supported by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the University of Southern California, AHSC (Art Historians of Southern California), and CAA, this free workshop attracted about 30 participants interested in learning more about SoTL. (What’s SoTL? Click here)  Modeled on the THATcamps at CAA from 2013 to 2015 that introduced more members to digital art history, this year’s SoTL Bootcamp similarly aimed to increase awareness of SoTL and to encourage artists and art historians to pursue this emerging area of research.

Why do SoTL?  The Bigger Picture

The SoTL Bootcamp took place on USC’s campus on Saturday in an effort to allow faculty with heavier teaching loads to attend. As participants arrived, a shared commitment to arts education quickly became obvious. In light of threats to institutional art programs and government funding, many instructors spoke about a need to “bring something back” that could convince their administration that study of the arts and humanities is a worthy pursuit. This shared concern offered the foundation for rich discussions on topics such as equitable assessment practices, no-cost textbook options, direct learning experiences, and ideas to help artists and art historians engage with SoTL on their home campuses. (Notes, comments, and programming details of the SoTL Bootcamp are archived on the CAA Commons and Twitter #CAASoTL.

Important to this conversation is the position that SoTL not only improves teaching and learning in higher education, but that it can effectively advocate for the value of the arts and a liberal education. However, for SoTL to have significant impact, faculty in art and art history must be open to learning more about a field where we are currently novices. These kinds of big picture issues were addressed in lightning talks throughout the day by experts in art history, SoTL, and educational research.

How do we begin?  Expanding Our Skill Sets To Engage with SoTL

The Bootcamp’s break-out sessions provided an opportunity to exchange ideas on particular issues. These informal conversations revealed that while art and art history educators are very good at sharing ideas about teaching and learning with each other, we are less prepared to discuss them with others outside the field.  Despite the fact that we are experts in our subject and skillful in our teaching, our academic training and research methods differ from SoTL, which emphasizes generalizable evidence of effective teaching and learning. This difference was the focus of an interactive workshop for art and art history instructors who want to develop their own educational research projects.

Led by SoTL scholar Nancy Chick from the University of Calgary, the workshop highlighted types of SoTL inquiry that would better understand student learning in our classrooms and how it could be improved, and also studies that would examine teaching approaches and practices that affect student learning. Although Chick draws on methods from the field of educational research, she reframes them in a way to promote interdisciplinary understanding.

Workshop Takeaways

Read what other people are doing.

You wouldn’t write on a topic without reviewing the most recent publications, so first read about SoTL when you begin to develop a project. Take a look at AHTR’s SoTL Resources page and their 2015 literature review on SoTL-AH, and Chick’s  bibliography specifically for humanists interested in SoTL. Since SoTL in art and art history is still limited, you should consult educational research from other fields that address similar teaching methods or concepts, and explore theoretical frameworks in Learning Science, and Ed Psych that differ from your own creative or scholarly practice.

Collect evidence of student learning.

Teachers often collect artifacts that demonstrate student learning; in fact, looking to see if students achieve course objectives is one of the most important aspects of our jobs. But this type of assessment typically occurs after we teach the material.  When was the last time you looked for evidence of student knowledge before they begin a new topic or course? Or conducted a longitudinal follow-up by looking for retention of information a few months after the learning took place? It may not be as frequent. However, conducting pre and post-tests are a great way to see the real effects of an intentional change in one’s teaching practice. There are a lot of different types of evidence of student learning ranging from quantitative surveys and tests, to qualitative questionnaires or discussions (or both!). The best options are usually unique to each research project and beyond the scope of this reflection, but for those of us outside the social sciences, this article provides a useful overview.

Publish it!

If a teacher has a good idea that clearly worked in the classroom then they should consider sharing it in the spirit of promoting best practices in the field. Such publication should include the specific context of the study (Who? Where? When?), the literature that informed their approach, the details of what they did, and a summary of the data (which is just another word for evidence) they collected along with details of their analysis. In addition to Art History Pedagogy and Practice, here is a list of other SoTL publications to explore.  

Publish it (even if it doesn’t work)!

The field of SoTL can learn just as much from a study that was unsuccessful as one that was outstanding. Everyone wants to be the person who came up with an idea that works for everybody, but success every time is not a reasonable expectation for teachers in the classroom.

Overwhelmed, overworked? Collaborate.

The process of conducting SoTL demands additional time in the form of planning, collecting evidence of student learning, data analysis, and publishing. Collaborating with peer can be a great benefit, and allows you to build on one another’s different experiences and areas of expertise. According to some journal standards, having someone other than the teacher collect and analyze evidence of student learning makes that information stronger.

Leverage your strengths.

Although SoTL requires art educators to step out of their disciplinary expertise, Nancy Chick insists that our particular area of knowledge is an important asset to SoTL practice.  After all, who knows our classroom better than we do? Chick’s workshop was empowering because she pointed out that, in many ways, we all perform SoTL. If a teacher takes feedback from course evaluations they may make an adjustment to their practice. If a teacher notes that students did not grasp a particular concept when grading a test they may change the way that they teach or evaluate that concept next time. Both of these are examples of analyzing and utilizing evidence from the classroom.

The hurdle before us is how we share the context and details of our teaching experiments in a way that is usable and repeatable for others. Anecdotal evidence shared on blogs like the AHTR Weekly, social media, or during informal gatherings can be amazingly helpful (especially for new teachers!), but without guidelines to ensure academic rigor, these findings lack the scholarly credibility to have broad impact.

Conclusion:  Why should CAA promote and encourage SoTL?

In 2002 the National Research Council (NRC) published a treatise outlining what they considered to be the standards for Science-based research in education. It was an effort to encourage and promote better quality research that policy makers could use to inform their decisions. Despite initial and continued skepticism and dialogue among researchers in the field, the standards persist. Organizations that provide funding to research the arts look for these qualities:

  1. Pose Significant Questions That Can Be Investigated Empirically
  2. Link Research to Relevant Theory
  3. Use Methods That Permit Direct Investigation of the Question
  4. Provide a Coherent and Explicit Chain of Reasoning
  5. Replicate and Generalize Across Studies
  6. Disclose Research to Encourage Professional Scrutiny and Critique

CAA’s SoTL bootcamp was part of a larger movement to empower academics and teachers of the arts to advocate for the many benefits that an art education can provide to students. Such an empowerment will involve a shift in the way art academics have traditionally approached research. However, as the many participants who were present at the bootcamp know, art scholars are great at research. Such a movement will take energetic and passionate individuals, meaningful collaborations, and sustained discussion. As the arts face adversity in changing times, CAA and other arts organizations should promote more SoTL professional development as a strategic priority.

Alysha Meloche is a Ph.D. student and researcher at Drexel University’s School of Education and was one of four Kress SoTL Fellows participating in the Bootcamp. Her research interests include transformative critical theory in creativity and aesthetics that promotes equity and access. She intends to study approaches to Art History that instill creative confidence and identity in students. Some of the variables that interest her are the transformative aesthetic experience of observing art and the effect of being taught the creative process through examples from history. Before joining Drexel University, Meloche earned both her B.A. and M.A. in Art History from Temple University. She then worked for five years as an Art History and Design Professor.


Leave a comment

Brief Blog Hiatus!

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 10.07.37 PM

Due to study abroad adventures and the Memorial Day holiday in the U.S., the SoTL Advocate will be taking a hiatus for the next few weeks. New posts will return weekly on June 4, 2018.

Until then, feel free to peruse some of our most popular posts of the last year:

#Collaborative Auto-ethnography: SoTL Methods Series #2

Bringing Together Academic Librarianship and SoTL 

A Community College Perspective on Creating a SoTL Scholars Program

Evidence-Based Clinical Education: A Proposed Framework for Consideration

Happy grading for those of you at the end of your term! Happy reading to all!

 


1 Comment

Ever Thought About Authoring a Blog Post for the SoTL Advocate?

laptopIf you haven’t thought about it, you should! The editor of the SoTL Advocate blog is seeking submissions from authors on any topic related to the scholarship of teaching and learning to share with a diverse readership. The SoTL Advocate seeks to share resources, information, and ideas related to SoTL with stakeholders all over the world. Manuscripts can be reflective or data-driven. Writings on topics such as the following are welcomed, though this is not an exhaustive list!

  • new or unique SoTL-based professional development opportunities
  • creative collaborations with other campus units at your institution or entities beyond your institution
  • descriptions of the genesis of ideas for SoTL reflection or study
  • reflections on the positives/negatives of certain methodological approaches for SoTL work
  • descriptions of how a published SoTL article might be applied in one classroom or beyond
  • impact of conference attendance on own research or SoTL programming
  • SoTL book reviews
  • student reflections of involvement in SoTL work
  • faculty reflections of successes in scaffolding, developing, or engaging in SoTL work with students
  • sharing of resources for SoTL stakeholders
  • stories of SoTL advocacy in, across, or beyond a single university or public context

About the Blog: The SoTL Advocate blog was established in the fall of 2014 by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University (ISU) to highlight interesting SoTL work and encourage discussion within the SoTL community on various topics of interest to those working on SoTL at ISU and beyond. It is the goal of the SoTL Advocate that blogs will feature viewpoints of a diverse authorship, discussing SoTL projects, reflections, ideas, and topics that are representative of the global nature of the study of teaching and learning.

Blog Reach: Since November 2014, over 10,000 visitors (representing 26 countries) have viewed blog content. On average, the SoTL Advocate is accessed over 40 times a week by unique viewers. All blog posts are publicized via the Twitter (300+ followers) and Facebook (100+ followers) accounts managed by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL. Blog authors can request specific hashtags for these posts, as appropriate.

Blog Post Guidelines: Prospective blog authors submit blog manuscripts to Jen Friberg (jfribe@ilstu.edu), SoTL Advocate editor. Blogs should be approximately 750-1000 words. Blogs should be written in a friendly and accessible manner, absent unneeded disciplinary jargon that might make a general SoTL readership unable to benefit from accessing the content of the post. Visuals (e.g., open source pictures, photos, videos) are encouraged, as more people will “click” on a blog link if a visual is attached!

Submission of a blog does not guarantee acceptance for publication. All blog submissions are reviewed by the SoTL Advocate editor for content and form prior to notification of acceptance status. Blog posts may be conditionally accepted for publication pending revision/clarification. Blogs accepted for posting will be published as soon as possible following acceptance.

Questions? Email Jen Friberg (jfribe@ilstu.edu).

Please consider contributing your work!


Leave a comment

Seeking Applications for ISU’s 2018-19 Chizmar-Ostrosky University-Wide SoTL Award

STATE_YourLearningThe call for applications for the 2018-19 Chizmar-Ostrosky University-Wide SoTL Award is now open! Have you contributed to ISU and/or your discipline through research on teaching and learning? Has your SoTL work changed your practice as an educator —  or the practices of others? Consider applying for recognition of your work! Join past recipients who contributed to the discipline of SoTL in a number of innovative and impressive ways. Details for prospective applicants are outlined below. Contact Jen Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL with questions (jfribe@ilstu.edu).

Purpose of Award: To recognize and encourage high quality scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) work at Illinois State University and in the discipline beyond our institution that contributes to the SoTL field, the SoTL body of knowledge, improved teaching, and enhanced student learning. This award contributes to the external, positive reputation for SoTL work at ISU and supports

Educate-Connect-Elevate’s efforts toward “generating high-quality scholarship,” “supporting student learning,” and “developing serving the region, state, nation, and world through commitments to meaningful…development of global citizens.”

Eligibility: SoTL at ISU is defined as evidence-informed and systematic reflection or research on the teaching and learning of our students that is made public. This award focuses on SoTL efforts and will not be awarded for traditional, disciplinary scholarship that is not SoTL-oriented. All faculty members and academic staff at ISU are eligible for this award.

Selection Criteria: Recognizing that a cluster of SoTL contributions may be equal to that of one outstanding project, this award allows a broad application of the following criteria:

  • Evidence of high quality SoTL work, which can include (but is not limited to) presentations, publications, creative representations, mentoring peers/students in SoTL, and/or service to SoTL at or beyond ISU.
  • Evidence that applicant’s own SoTL work has influenced the teaching work of the applicant or of others at or beyond ISU.

Selection Process & Time Frame: The Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL chairs the award selection committee. The committee reviews the application materials (see below) using the selection criteria above, and selects up to one recipient each year. The award is administered through the Cross Chair in SoTL and the Office of the Provost. The award recipient will be announced in time for the 2019 University-Wide Teaching & Learning Symposium and Founders Day.

Required Elements of Application:

  1. A narrative summary of SoTL projects (3-5 double-spaced pages, maximum), internal or external funding, presentations, publications, videos, web representations, and related professional service that contextualizes the SoTL work of the applicant.
  2. A reflective statement about the nature and field of SoTL, the place of the applicant’s SoTL work in his/her discipline and/or within the cross-disciplinary SoTL movement, and the impact of his/her work on own/others teaching and learning at ISU and beyond (including any evidence for impact). This document should not exceed 5 double-spaced pages.
  3. Copies of selected SoTL products (publications, presentations, etc.).
  4. Current curriculum vita, highlighting contributions to SoTL at and beyond ISU.
  5. Internal letters of support from at least two colleagues or administrators at ISU.

Recognitions and Obligations for Award Recipient

  • Monetary award ($3,000) and plaque.
  • Recognition at Founders’ Day, ISU’s University-Wide Teaching & Learning Symposium, and on the ISU web site.
  • The award recipient will give an address about their SoTL work, open to all faculty, staff, and students following receipt of the award.

Submission of Applications

All award applications should be prepared and submitted to Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL, in one of two formats no later than 4pm on Monday, October 26, 2018:

  1. In hard copy format, with all required/optional elements of the application printed and organized in a three-ring binder (or similar). Hard copy applications should be delivered to the ITDC building, Room 120 for submission.
  2. In electronic format, with all required/optional elements of the application saved as individual PDF documents with clear labels for each document (e.g., APPLICANT LAST NAME – Vita). Electronic applications should attached within one email message to jfribe@ilstu.edu for submission.

 

 


1 Comment

Seeking Input About SoTL Across the Teaching Stream

The International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning’s (ISSoTL) Advocacy and Outreach Committee (A&O) is interested in gathering stories about full-time teaching-stream faculty’s experiences engaging in SoTL. Various names for these teaching-stream positions include, but are not limited to, instructional limited term faculty, permanent but not eligible for tenure, equivalent to tenure-track (eligible for tenure), etcetera (we will be collecting part-time instructors’ stories in a later phase of our project – watch for that call).

Building on our SoTL A&O Committee session at ISSoTL in Calgary in 2017, we wish to collect these stories to compile them (with no names or other identifiers unless you expressly ask us to include your name) into a web-based resource for members on the ISSoTL website. We also intend to offer a session at ISSoTL 2018 to examine the narratives and their compelling themes and hope to write a paper for the ISSoTL journal, Teaching and Learning Inquiry. We are inviting you to participate in this research study by submitting your narrative as outlined below.

We are particularly interested in collecting a wide range of teaching-stream perspectives on the following issues (feel free to add your own to this list):

  1. Are you able to engage in SoTL?
  2. When you engage in SoTL, what barriers or supports do you encounter that are related to your position?
  3. Are SoTL grants or other forms of monetary research support available to you?
  4. Are there other exclusions or incentives for engaging in SoTL relating to your position?
  5. What supports or institutional factors (including culture) would assist you in engaging in SoTL within your institution?

Please view the types of resources given on ISSoTL Advocacy and Outreach webpage at http://www.issotl.com/issotl15/node/114. Please comment on those and tell us what additional tools could the A&O Committee provide to support your SoTL work.

Along with your responses to the above questions, when submitting please include your name and email (for contact purposes only; these will not be shared with others), and the nature of your appointment: its title/type and any other defining characteristics of your appointment. We recommend up to 500 words and hope that you would not spend more than 30 minutes (likely less) writing it. Your notes do not have to be in full narrative format – you are welcome to write a narrative or to send bullet points or other notes.

Please also indicate whether you wish a) to have your name (and any other identifiers included), or b) to have the narrative treated as confidential, or c) to have the narrative re-written, by combining with other narratives, into a synthesized new narrative. These options are offered as we wish to respect your right to give voice to your experience and be identified for that, but we also respect your wish to not be identified. We do not anticipate any negative risks to you in participating in the study of these narratives. We do, however, encourage you to carefully consider whether you want your name associated with your narrative, as you may wish to submit your narrative in confidence.

If you choose option a) or b), submissions may be edited or shortened, with your permission, for use on the ISSoTL webpage.

By submitting your narrative, you indicate that you 1. have read and understood the relevant information 2. may ask questions in the future 3. are giving your free consent to research participation. Your submitted narratives will be stored on my password-protected computer and destroyed after 3 years. Your identity will be known only to me unless you ask to have your name included with your narrative when it is uploaded to the website.

As noted above, the narratives will be included on the ISSoTL website, included in conference presentation, and a paper submitted to the ISSoTL journal. We will notify you via the ISSoTL listserv to let you know when each of these is occurring.

The study has been reviewed and received ethics clearance though the Brock University Research Ethics Board (file #17-348).If you have any questions pertaining to your participation, please contact Dr. Nicola Simmons, Principal Investigator at nsimmons@brocku.ca or by telephone at 905-688-5550, extension 3137. You may also contact Brock University’s Research Ethics Office (reb@brocku.ca (905)688-5550, ext. 3035) who can provide answers to pertinent questions about the research participants’ rights.

If you have any questions about your participation, or if you wish for any reason to withdraw at any time, please contact Dr. Nicola Simmons at nsimmons@brocku.ca or by telephone at 905-688-5550, extension 3137. Your participation is of course voluntary. You may withdraw at any time, including after your narrative has been posted to the website. If you do withdraw, your data will be deleted as immediately as possible. There will be no penalties to you of any kind for withdrawing or refusing to participate.

If you have any questions about this project, please contact Nicola Simmons (nsimmons@brocku.ca). If you agree to participate, please forward your narrative notes to Nicola Simmons at nsimmons@brocku.ca.

We warmly encourage you to share this call with colleagues.

With many thanks in advance,
A&O Teaching Stream Sub-Committee
Nicola Simmons, Lauren Scharff, and Diana Gregory

Please note, this call for input was cross-posted on the ISSoTL listserv.

 


Leave a comment

Giving the Reading of SoTL Impact

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

On my flight home from a conference in sunny Austin, Texas last week (as I type this it’s snowing in Illinois, so the “sunny” descriptor is a happy recollection!), I had the opportunity to catch up on some journal reading that had accumulated. One piece I was interested in reading was an editorial from the most recent issue of InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching. Written by Nancy Chick, this work (titled Does Reading SoTL Matter? Difficult Questions of Impact) discussed the issue of impact in SoTL and questioned the influence of reading SoTL on a practitioner’s teaching and on student learning. In doing so, Chick raised a troubling question in the minds of her readers: what if reading SoTL doesn’t lead to any change in teaching or learning practice? I’m fairly certain that SoTL researchers don’t produce their work to have it NOT inform future teaching and learning practices. So, are we missing the “application” boat where we take what we read and use it to solve teaching and learning problems?

readI hate to think that SoTL reflects the trend identified in medical fields (“journals are not good at getting doctors to change and improve their practice”). However, I do feel as though the impact of reading SoTL research could easily be diminished without some sort of purposeful process of reflection, discussion, and/or integration – in the same manner that research says our students learn new skills. What might that look like, though? Chick suggests several wonderful options (a SoTL Journal Club, the use of small networks to discuss SoTL, and greater access to SoTL research via open access mechanisms to make discussions about our SoTL readings possible).

The overarching suggestion in this article was that those of us who read SoTL should “talk with others about what these readings make [us] think about.” I agree, for in that practice, there IS impact. Honestly, think about it. If you read SoTL research and then engage in discussions about what you’ve learned with others, you (very likely) consider your readings more deeply and puzzle over application of the study’s outcomes more thoroughly. Sharing leads to a deeper understanding — and perhaps use — of what we’ve read.

After reading Chick’s article, I spent the remainder of my plane ride thinking about other ways in which conversations about our own SoTL readings might be encouraged –beyond those suggested in the article. I have a few suggestions, across a variety of stakeholder groups/levels. These look a lot like general advocacy suggestions for SoTL, though each is tied to the specific practice of reading SoTL, with subsequent advocacy (aka: sharing) building impact over time:

  • Help peers develop an awareness of SoTL. If they don’t know a body of research about teaching and learning exists, they will never attempt to read it! Share resources where evidence on teaching and learning can routinely be accessed. Explain – explicitly — how you’ve used SoTL readings to alter your teaching practice(s). Take it one step further and detail how reading SoTL led you to conduct your own SoTL study.
  • Seek out formal and informal ways to share new knowledge derived from reading SoTL with colleagues or other stakeholders such as students, department or campus administrators, disciplinary leaders, and/or community members. Summarize what you’ve learned in newsletters, staff meetings, emails…any communication mechanism that allows for an exchange of this information. Approach your institution’s teaching and learning center to suggest programming based around reading SoTL to inform a scholarly approach to teaching.
  • Mentor students in reading and applying SoTL research. Share insights about learning with students to help them develop scholarly approaches to learning as well as scholarly approaches to teaching.
  • Add value to what you share with campus administrators about the SoTL you read by tying new knowledge from your SoTL readings to updates to the mission/vision of the institution or to its strategic plan. Advocate for evidence-informed thinking about next steps for your campus.
  • Use social media to share summaries of SoTL research with relevant stakeholders. Give an overview of what you read, then provide a link to the primary source for further exploration. Ask questions to encourage discussion among your “followers” to further develop ideas related to your SoTL readings.
  • Network at conferences to share case studies of how reading SoTL research has led to pedagogical change. This is particularly important at disciplinary conferences as widespread understanding of SoTL research is less obvious in those contexts than is typically evident at a teaching/learning conference.

These ideas in no way constitute an exhaustive list! Please feel free to add suggestions from your own context/practice below in the comments section! Happy SoTL reading – and sharing!

Blog References

Chick, N. L. (2017). Does reading SoTL matter? Difficult questions of impact. InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching, 12, 9-13.