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

Engaging in SoTL – Sounds Great, but Where Do I Start?

Written by Rebecca Achen, Assistant Professor of Sport Management at Illinois State University (rmachen@ilstu.edu)

ideaWhen you first heard of SoTL, were you interested, but had no idea where to start? What would you study? How would you study it? Who can help you? With so many questions, you may have felt overwhelmed. Maybe, you decided you do not do anything in your classes worth researching. Maybe, you felt worried the results of research on your teaching and students’ learning would be unfavorable, frustrating, or not actionable. Guess what? All these questions and fears are normal! Often, one of the most difficult parts of a SoTL project is generating an idea. Here is a list of places to start.

  1. Review the open-ended comments on your teaching evaluations. What are students often saying challenges them? What are they frustrated by in your courses? What suggestions do they have for improving your courses?
  2. Take time to reflect on each course at the end of the semester and physically write down your thoughts. After a few semesters, take a look at the reflections from your courses all at once. What challenges are you consistently facing? What frustrations do you have? What types of assignments do you find yourself questioning or being excited by? What have you continued to use in your courses that you want to better understand in terms of your students’ learning?
  3. Borrow a book from the SoTL library at ISU and take notes while you read it. Which parts of the book excite you? What concepts or theories interest you? Which ones do you think apply to your students?
  4. Take SoTL workshops offered on your campus or nearby institutions (if you’re able). At ISU, we have access to help with SoTL! Not only are there several workshops offered each year on various SoTL topics, but you can make an appointment with Jen Friberg to talk about what you might want to research and work out your ideas through conversation. There may well be a SoTL professional developer/mentor at your university, too!
  5. Attend pedagogy workshops offered by your teaching and learning center. Often, these are catalysts for trying new things in your courses, which you can then study to learn if the changes to your courses were effective in accomplishing the course goals.

What does this look like in practice? Let me tell you about what prompted my most recent SoTL project. In the graduate courses I teach, students have semester-long projects that are designed to assess their learning and understanding over the entire semester. Over the last few years, students across courses have consistently commented (in course evaluations) that they struggled to meet project deadlines, felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the projects, and were unable to stay engaged with the projects. While I have made small changes in my courses to help them be more successful, including more effectively scaffolding projects and providing individual mentoring for students, students have still been consistently frustrated. So, in the spring of 2018, I implemented weekly progress reports where students responded to five questions each week about their progress on their projects. My own observations led me to believe this approach was generally effective, and it allowed me to be more connected to student progress on the projects. On course evaluations, students commented these check-ins were helpful and allowed them to reflect on their projects, keep each other accountable, and meet deadlines. However, some students stated the reports felt like busy work and admitted they were not always honest in their evaluation of their progress.

When I was planning my fall 2018 classes, I decided that based on student feedback, I wanted to implement weekly progress reports again. As I was writing my rubrics and assignment sheets, the light bulb went off – this could be a SoTL project! Because of the courses I teach in the first year of the graduate program, I was able to set up a multi-phase project to explore student perceptions of and reflections on using progress reports to complete major course projects. By the end of the 2018-2019 academic year, I will have evidence that will allow me to make an informed decision on how weekly progress reports function in my classes and whether they are accomplishing my intended teaching and learning goals. Then, I can share this information through SoTL outlets to help others evaluate whether this type of assignment could work in their classes and expand general understanding of supporting student learning through scaffolding and formative assessment. By putting in a little extra time and effort (getting IRB approval, creating a survey, and being intentional in course design and delivery with this research in mind), I will not only potentially improve my teaching and students’ learning, but I will contribute to an important body of scholarly work. We are all doing things in our classrooms that are worthy of scholarly inquiry. Use the tips above to start brainstorming ideas. Together, we can improve teaching and positively influence student learning!

Advertisements


1 Comment

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Community-Based SoTL Advocacy — Recommendations Inspired by a Popular Science Icon

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

Last week, the online version of The Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece by Vimal Patel titled “What Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks Higher Ed Gets Wrong.” The article featured an interview with Tyson, a scientist and frequent media contributor/commentator, and discussed his perception that higher education is lacking a reward system (intrinsic or extrinsic) for communicating the work of researchers to the public. In his remarks, Tyson argued that teaching and public service are undervalued in most colleges and universities, relative to research. He posits that this fact contributes to public misunderstandings about science and research, as few researchers are actively and regularly engaged in sharing the findings of their scholarship outside their disciplines or institutions.

While the entirety of this interview focused on Tyson’s feelings toward science-based research, there were evident ties to the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), as well, particularly in terms of Tyson’s thoughts on advocacy for research. As Tyson spoke of the need to regularly communicate research findings to the public, I was reminded of the idea that taking our SoTL work to the communities around our colleges and universities has been discussed by many as a vital, but often missing, component of SoTL advocacy. Tyson’s ideas tied directly to this notion. In sum, I noted three big takeaways from this article that inform opportunities for community-based SoTL advocacy:

Bring unexpected partners into discussions of SoTL. In his comments, Tyson shares that he interviewed singer Katy Perry on his radio show, much to the dismay of many who viewed Perry as a bad match for the typical science focus of Tyson’s shows. His response?

Why would [I] waste my time? She has more than 100 million Twitter followers. And if I can have a conversation with her about how science has touched her craft, then that brings science to her following. As far as I’m concerned, that adds value.

Why not look at SoTL in a similar fashion? Who can we bring to our craft to expand the reach and value of what we do? What groups of stakeholders can help spread the purpose and benefit of SoTL to others? Digging down, how do each of us identify targets for such advocacy in our own contexts and how might we connect with others for support and help?

Get better at communicating our SoTL research to the public.

Tyson argues that communicating research to the public is something that isn’t valued in higher education, particularly in the United States. He states:

Oxford has a tenured-professor line for the public understanding of science. I know of no such counterpart in the United States. Cambridge has a tenured-professor line for the public understanding of risk. Where is that here? These are [positions] where your ability to communicate is added to your academic chops.

I would argue that by virtue of our interest in SoTL, we are natural communicators. We are fluent in our disciplinary research but we are fluent in SoTL, as well. We translate to advocate, though this mostly occurs in our own institutional or disciplinary contexts. But, how many of us leave those contexts to enter the public sector? If we agree that groups outside our institutions might benefit from expanded SoTL advocacy, how do we get that message out? Might advancement centers, alumni networks, or research offices help? Should we do this work together in a cross-institutional manner? How might we engage established groups (i.e., ISSoTL) in a supportive or leading role for this work?

Keep it simple.

Tyson shared that part of his own development as a science commentator was understanding how his messages about science were most effectively shared. He reported that he believes his popularity in the media and with his followers lies in his ability to distill complex topics into digestible tidbits:

…the press can ask an academic question, and you can give an answer that you might give in a lecture hall. That’s not really the answer they want…I said, why don’t I just give them sound bites? So I went home and practiced in front of [my family]. They’d just randomly bark out questions about the universe, and I would deliver a two- or three-sentence reply. The anatomy of a soundbite has to be tasty, and you have to say, Wow, I’m glad I heard that. It has to…be so interesting that you want to tell someone else.

It’s likely true that once we endeavor to engage with stakeholders outside academia, we need to adapt how we communicate. As a speech-language pathology professor, I have often taught my students about a concept called “code switching,” wherein a speaker adapts how they deliver a message based on their audience. An example I frequently use to show how differently messages can be crafted via code switching is, “how would you ask the following people to open a window;”

When with a friend, you might ask “Dude, would you open the window?”

When with your younger brother, you might more directly say “open that window now!”

In the same room with your boss, you’d likely ask, “do you mind if I open that window?”

If we are seeking to share our SoTL with folks who aren’t academics, we need to learn to code switch a bit and use those communication skills I mentioned above in a slightly different way. We need to craft brief, summative, and engaging messages to appeal to folks unfamiliar with our work in an effort tot draw them in and hold their interest. We don’t need to give a forty minute paper. Rather, we need to make the case for how our SoTL work is important to them and how it might be in the future.

Blog Reference:

Patel, V. (2018). What Neil deGrasse Tyson thinks higher ed gets wrong. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 65(3). Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/What-Neil-deGrasse-Tyson/244522.

 


Leave a comment

An Idea for the First Days of the Fall Term – Share SoTL with Your Students!

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

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 2.01.02 PMBack in April, I wrote a blog regarding the impact of SoTL that was inspired by my reading of this article by Nancy Chick. I’ve thought a lot about the notion of impact since that time, considering how we encourage changes in teaching and learning as a result of our SoTL efforts. I’ve engaged in conversations with numerous colleagues (on my campus and at others) about how they adapt their teaching praxis in the presence of good evidence to do so. As a result of these exchanges, I feel at least somewhat confident that our SoTL work IS making change; however, these conversations have left me wondering if we aren’t missing a huge opportunity to truly increase the impact of our SoTL efforts and outcomes. In no conversation about how SoTL has changed our teaching and learning did anyone I spoke with discuss sharing SoTL with their students. There was discussion about changing course content, assessment, or management, but each of these things was described as occurring in relative solitude as part of next generation course design.

I find it curious that we study our students to understand the components of meaningful learning and teaching experiences, but in doing so, (at least some of us) miss out on purposeful sharing of SoTL outcomes with our students so they can make changes to THEIR praxis as learners. We have generated so much evidence that shows us how students learn (and learn well!). They should have access to this information and it’s my strong opinion that we should help facilitate that access.

Here are a few thoughts as to how we might be more purposeful in bringing students into the SoTL loop — feel free to share other thoughts and ideas in the comments below:

  • Share information about relevant, evidence-based learning strategies as part of your class. Many course instructors have “syllabus review day” during the first course meeting of a new term. While there are great suggestions about alternative ideas for that first course meeting circulating social media this time of year, perhaps a focus on successful learning strategies might be a worthy way to spend that first class together. Share what you know about evidence-based learning strategies that might be useful for your students in your context. Let them know that you’re a resource and would be interested in answering questions about evidence-based strategies for learning. Provide resources for students to access this information themselves.
  • Mediate! Tell your students WHY you’ve designed your course or assignment or assessment in the manner that you have – share your evidence! I do this frequently with my students and have found that if I can provide the rationale for what they are doing, and that research has shown a pedagogical approach to be impactful, I have more buy-in and (anecdotally) more active engagement in the task(s) at hand.
  • Share what others in your discipline have identified as evidence-based learning strategies for emerging professionals. How do sociologists develop a sociological imagination? How do mathematicians generalize concepts to varied contexts? How do historians read a text and assess primary sources? How do speech-language pathologists, nurses, or dieticians transfer theory to clinical practice? SoTL has helped us understand these discipline-specific phenomena. Unlock these connections for students to visualize a path toward professional practice that is grounded in evidence.
  • Use your social media smartly. Does your university have a Twitter or Instagram account where you could populate content about evidence-based ways to learn or study? Can you feature links to and/or summaries of the work of SoTL scholars on your campus to highlight what you know about learning in your own institutional context? Can you manage (or co-manage) an account yourself that does this?
  • Offer to guest “lecture” about evidence-based learning at a meeting of a student organization tied to your discipline or some other movement. Talk to students about research on teaching and learning and how outcomes of such research can support their work as students. There is evidence that out-of-class learning through student organizations, service learning, and civic engagement have efficacy. Let students know the benefits of these efforts!
  • Take care in making assumptions about what students know. Based on the fact that our students are enrolled at our colleges/universities, it would be easy to think that they have unlocked the mysteries of learning deeply and well. They wouldn’t be college students if they hadn’t accomplished that, right? I’m not convinced this is actually the case. I have spoken to numerous students who engage in low utility learning strategies to master material who are frustrated with their lack of ability to make connections and applications across topics and classes. My bias? Assume that your students would be interested to know more about teaching and learning until you know differently.

Writing on a similar topic, McKinney (2012, p. 3) suggested the following strategies for bringing students to SoTL, specifically by discussing the “how” and the “why” of SoTL research and findings emerging from such inquiry:

  • Make SoTL public at conferences students attend and in publications students read.
    Create a local SoTL journal or newsletter aimed specifically at college students at
    your institution or a national/international one for students in a specific major or
    discipline.
  • Use SoTL publications as required readings in courses where they are appropriate
    such as a disciplinary/department new majors‟ orientation class, a research methods course, a capstone course, or a professional socialization course.
    Facilitate and invite students to sessions on learning on campus that share, and
    discuss implications of, local SoTL results.
  • Volunteer to create a session at your disciplinary meetings focusing on key SoTL
    results and explicitly involve and invite students.
  • Add a section of relevant SoTL study results and any implications for students to
    your department website within the web pages for students.
  • Help organize a panel where SoTL researchers present and lead a discussion with
    students at a meeting of your student disciplinary/department club.
  • Include in your courses, when appropriate, reflective and meta-cognitive
    assignments that help students relate SoTL literature and findings to their own
    learning opportunities and behaviors.

 

Blog References:

McKinney, K. (2012). Increasing the impact of SoTL: Two sometimes neglected opportunities. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 6(1).


Leave a comment

Assessing the Integration of SoTL in Your Discipline: Four Questions

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

mixI view the integration of SoTL in a discipline in terms of four questions: 1. To what degree are theories, methods, and general findings of a discipline, if relevant, used in SoTL research in the discipline? 2. Is there strong disciplinary support, respect, and reward for SoTL? 3. What are the forms and degree of involvement in SoTL in the discipline? 4. To what extent do colleagues in the discipline actually use or apply SoTL findings to the practice of teaching and understanding learning in that discipline? I have attempted to answer these questions and suggest strategies to increase integration in my own discipline of Sociology (McKinney, 2018). I hope this blog post will encourage others to do the same for their own disciplines.

I offer a few possible factors to measure in your attempt to answer these four questions about integration of SoTL in your discipline. I encourage blog readers to comment on this blog post with additional ideas of ways to answer these questions.

  1. The first question about the integration of SoTL concerns the extent that perspectives, theory and/or methods from your discipline in general are used in SoTL research, specifically, in your discipline. Of course, the extent to which this form of integration is possible varies by discipline. For example, those of us in Education or the Social Science fields are especially likely to have disciplinary theory or methods that work for SoTL. To assess this question, you could count and analyze the content of presentations or publication outlets that discuss discipline-specific theory or method and how these might be used in disciplinary SoTL. Finding existing, or conducting, research studies on SoTL that gather data and draw conclusions about the actual use of disciplinary theory and/or methods in SoTL research in your field would be another strategy.
  2. The second question of integration is to what extent there is support for SoTL projects and making those projects public including resources, respect and reward within your discipline. Such support should be at both the academic department or unit level and in your professional organizations or similar structures. To assess support at the department level, faculty and graduate students could complete surveys or be interviewed about department funding and assistance for SoTL; the status of SoTL compared to other research and scholarship in the department; how Chairs, Directors or senior faculty view SoTL; in what ways graduate students are taught about or encouraged to do SoTL; and how SoTL is rewarded in the department both informally and formally. Additional variables to measure or find include grant dollars for SoTL research, number or prestige of awards/recognitions for SoTL involvement or products, outlets for making SoTL public, explicit statements of support for SoTL in strategic plans or mission statements or similar documents, and availability of opportunities to learn about SoTL. Similarly, such data should be collected at the level of disciplinary professional organizations.
  3. The third question to assess integration of SoTL in your discipline is to what degree and in what ways are colleagues involved in disciplinary SoTL in your department or in the discipline as a whole. Quantitative data on the number of SoTL presentations and publications by those in your discipline during a given time frame could be gathered and compared to other research in the discipline. Measuring involvement could also include finding out what percent of faculty, staff and graduate students in your department or in your discipline (across departments or institutions) participate in various SoTL activities. For example, how many conduct SoTL studies, serve as reviewers of the SoTL work of others in the discipline, mentor others or teach about SoTL, and serve in leadership positions in SoTL organizations, etc. A related measure would be how much time colleagues spend in such SoTL activities relative to other disciplinary work.
  4. The fourth question is to what extent SoTL is integrated in your discipline through the process of applying the findings of disciplinary SoTL studies to practice: teaching and learning in your discipline at classroom, course, program, department, and cross-department levels. One way to assess this integration is to find out whether disciplinary organizations or task forces have used SoTL results to come up with best practices for teaching/learning or curriculum in the discipline. Related to this is to study the extent to which such best practices in the derived from SoTL are followed within and across disciplinary departments. Another way to get a sense of the extent to which and at what levels SoTL findings are being applied in your discipline is to look at the foci of disciplinary SoTL work perhaps by analyzing the content of disciplinary SoTL publication outlets or coding the content of SoTL presentations in the discipline. More specifically, you could measure at what levels SoTL is conducted and results are applied? What percent of these publications and presentations include explicit discussions of how the authors have applied their or other’s SoTL disciplinary findings to make changes in teaching or curriculum or other practices? You could also survey department leaders for concrete examples of changes made and the SoTL research findings that led to these changes.

My belief is that SoTL is not sufficiently integrated in many disciplines despite the suggestion and use of numerous strategies to increase such integration over the last two-three decades. I do think some general mechanisms have more promise than others at this juncture in the development of the field of SoTL. These include choosing disciplinary leaders who support¾or educating and co-opting leaders to support SoTL; using social change strategies involving both grassroots and top-down techniques; socializing future generations of graduate students and new faculty to the value of SoTL before or early in their careers; linking SoTL research to existing priorities of the discipline at various levels (e.g., department, cross-institutions, professional organizations); connecting more disciplinary colleagues to the networks, organizations and activities of the cross-discipline and international field of SoTL; conducting and using SoTL beyond one’s own individual classroom; and encouraging a focus on application and impact of SoTL results in the discipline. All of these, I believe, can help to make SoTL normative and expected in your discipline.

McKinney, K. 2018. “The Integration of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in to the Discipline of Sociology.” Teaching Sociology 46(2): 123-134.

 

 

 


Leave a comment

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. 

gladlyred

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:

SoTLFY18

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: jfribe@ilstu.edu

 

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


Leave a comment

Updated Advice for New SoTL Researchers

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

Screen Shot 2018-06-23 at 6.48.06 PM.pngAlmost three years ago, I penned a blog post titled Advice for New SoTL Researchers. In that post, I offered seven suggestions for those just getting started with a SoTL research agenda. In the last few months, I’ve had the good fortune to work with several cohorts of faculty and students who are part of “Intro to SoTL” cohorts. In working with them, I realize that the advice I offer to new researchers has changed. So, the following is my best effort at updating a list of things that new SoTL scholars might want to keep in mind.

  1. Design your project carefully. Examine the macro (classroom-level) context around you, looking for problems, opportunities, or wonderments that might be the basis for a SoTL project. Do you have a new technology that you’re wanting to integrate in your class, but aren’t sure it will work? Are you teaching an evening section of a very large class and you have an idea about improving student engagement? Might there be a way to study an out-of-class learning experience you’ve set up for your students? All of these – and many others! – could be a great place to start!
  2. Once you have a glimmer of an idea of the topic you might like to study, search for teaching and learning research in your field or another that might demonstrate how your topic has been studied in the past. Because SoTL research functions to provide a snapshot of your teaching/learning context at a point in time, it is fine to replicate a project that has already been done to see if similar outcomes are evident in your context. That said, reviewing past literature might drive you in a different research direction or provide an idea of how other scholars have approached research design in the past.
  3. Talk to a person who has completed a SoTL project and ask for advice or consultation. I have found individuals involved in teaching and learning research to be some of the most giving and collaborative colleagues I’ve encountered. Most would be quite happy to share lessons learned or chat about your idea(s) for a project. Seek out experienced SoTL scholars and learn with and from them. Then, when it’s your turn to be the experienced mentor, offer your wisdom often and broadly.
  4. Choose your data source wisely. There are SO many options in terms of potential data sources for SoTL work. As we are studying teaching and learning, SoTL scholars frequently use class artifacts, assessments, or reflections as a source for data. Other surveys, interviews, or focus groups beyond the typical business of your course might be useful. You are only limited by your own lack of creativity here. Carefully asses the focus of your project to suss out the richest sources of data for your study. Think about direct vs. indirect sources and the impact of your data on the overall rigor and quality of your work. Identifying a data source for your work should not be a quick decision, but rather, a careful deliberation.
  5. Consider more than one data source. As there are inherent biases in SoTL (e.g., it’s not meant to be inherently generalizable in most cases, we study our own students, true randomization or control is hard to exert), it’s optimal to have at least two data sources to compare and contrast to help validate the conclusions that you draw.
  6. Analyze and interpret your data appropriately. This piece of advice likely doesn’t need a lot of explanation; however, I would simply offer that you should think carefully about whether a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods approach to data analysis and interpretation is best for your corpus of data. Don’t force a fit, just finesse what you have so that the path to understanding your teaching/learning question is clear.
  7. Think about the audiences most suited for your work as you plan to share it with peers and others. Don’t assume that the potential audience for your work is broad and cross-disciplinary if your project only studies a phenomenon that is part of your discipline. Conversely, if your SoTL project focuses on a topic that has multi-disciplinary appeal, don’t narrow your audience unnecessarily. Share, publish, and promote your work in meaningful contexts with the individuals who will find it valuable!
  8. Put students at the heart of your SoTL. It has been well-stated that the heart of SoTL is the classroom. I choose to interpret this sentiment as not just a reminder that the single classroom context is the typical and intended focus of SoTL. Rather, I believe that the heart of SoTL subsumes the entire classroom environment and all the stakeholders within. Yes, you may study your students as research participants, but does that preclude you from sharing what you’ve learned with them? That is an opportunity that is often missed, in my view. Also, why not invite students to assist with your SoTL with the same frequency that you invite them into your disciplinary research? From my experience, it’s valuable for your students AND for you.

Of course, this is in NO way an exhaustive list of recommendations for new SoTL researchers. What is represented here is a continued starting place, on that will likely continue to evolve. Maybe three years from now, I’ll feel obligated/motivated to revise this list again! Until then, happy SoTL-ing! J


Leave a comment

Perspectives on the Intro to SoTL Experience: An Invitation to Share and Collaborate

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

introductionIn the last few years, I’ve learned that there are a variety of ways that institutions of higher education introduce faculty and students to the scholarship of teaching and learning. At Illinois State, we have traditionally offered at least one “Intro to SoTL” workshop each semester (so, typically one in the spring and one in the fall) along with a variety of supports throughout the year to support SoTL work: 1:1 consultations, use of a SoTL Resource Group of disciplinary SoTL mentors, grants for research and travel, a robust website, etc. These opportunities have mostly focused on faculty; however, opportunities such as University Research Grants (which require student involvement as a co-investigator) and the certificate program in SoTL for graduate students do allow students access, as well.

Looking toward the future, I’m wondering what the most effective ways might be to “read” new folks into research on teaching and learning. I have feedback from colleagues on my campus on this topic, in addition to input from other institutions I’ve visited to provide intro to SoTL workshops and experiences. That said, I am eager to understand such experiences across a broader group of stakeholders and contexts.

To this end, I am wondering if any faculty, students, or SoTL professional developers might be interested in writing or contributing to a blog to explore the intro to SoTL process a bit. Specifically, I’d be interested in hearing from individuals who can:

  • describe an innovative model for intro to SoTL professional development opportunities or supports
  • discusses the sometimes tricky topic of explaining research methodologies in the context of an intro to SoTL experience
  • describes mechanisms to involve multiple campus units to support an intro to SoTL opportunity
  • shares data to assess the impact or outcomes of intro to SoTL professional development
  • profiles how advocacy for SoTL is integrated into an intro to SoTL experience
  • provides “lessons learned” from their first SoTL study or first SoTL mentorship experience
  • explain how a SoTL mentor supported and/or encouraged SoTL development or productivity

Other ideas are welcome, as well, as the list above is certainly not exhaustive.

If there’s interest, I’ve also been thinking about putting a group of SoTL professional developers together to share ideas and materials for intro to SoTL efforts. 

Folks interested in sharing their experiences and/or perspectives (through either a blog post, blog collaboration, or Intro group) are invited to contact me via email with ideas or questions (jfribe@ilstu.edu). Potential contributors should read conventions for blog posts on the SoTL Advocate, which were highlighted in a recent blog.