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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How Are We SoTL-ing?

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

In the run-up to ISSoTL 2017 last week in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, it might have been easy to miss that the latest issue of Teaching and Learning Inquiry (TLI), the journal of the International Society of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, has just been published. I had the opportunity to read several articles in this issue prior to traveling to the conference and was particularly interested in one article, Survey of Research Approaches Utilised in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Publications, which was co-authored by Aysha Divan (U. of Leeds), Lynn Ludwig (U. of Wisconsin-Stevens Point), Kelly Matthews (U. of Queensland), Phillip Motley (Elon U.), and Ana Tomljenovic-Berube (McMaster U.).

Why the interest? As a SoTL faculty/student developer, I am forever asked if there is a “preferred” method for engaging in SoTL. I have always addressed this topic from an anecdotal perspective, simply telling novice SoTL scholars that qualitative, quantitative, and/or mixed methods are all equally appropriate for SoTL, depending on the “fit” of the method to the study aims/design. With this paper, a bit more clarity was offered as a result of systematic study of three years of published SoTL journal articles.

Honestly, I imagined that there were far more qualitative methods employed in SoTL research than quantitative; however, I was incorrect. Overall, 223 articles from the following journals were studied: International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, the International Journal for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, and the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Across these articles, there was an almost even balance of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research (see graphic below).

methods breakdown

Of even greater surprise to me were the following findings:

  • 84% of papers utilized a single data source for reporting (primarily students), which leaves the need for triangulation of data open for consideration in terms of future project planning.
  • Data from mixed methods studies were often times poorly integrated with only 30% of studies fully integrating qualitative and quantitative data as part of the discussion of findings.
  • 65% of studies relied on a single “snapshot” of data (data collected at one time only), which leads to thoughts on the value of/need for collecting longitudinal data to study student learning over time.

At ISSoTL last week, Gary Poole delivered a plenary address reminding us all that as professionals interested in SoTL, we have a choice to facilitate or hinder as we collaborate and mentor. As a professional developer for faculty and students interested in SoTL, I intend to share this information as a facilitative effort to grow SoTL at ISU (and beyond), helping future SoTL scholars to be mindful of trends, needs, and considerations in SoTL publishing. Specifically, I will urge SoTL researchers to:

  1. Seek out a “goldilocks” fit to connect their research questions to the type of data they collect. Why? This allows a researcher to determine whether research question(s) being posed are best answerable with qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods approaches. A good fit is critical for a study to make sense to interested stakeholders.
  2. Ensure that data come from as many direct data sources as are necessary to form a strong foundation for any discussion of results/implications.
  3. Use indirect data sources primarily as support/triangulation for data collected from direct sources.
  4. Think carefully and critically about how data from a study is discussed. If the design selected has a mixed methods approach to data collection, then all aspects of data should be explored in an integrated manner to identify trends and accurately interpret and report data across the board.
  5. Consider whether data collected at multiple data points might be more appropriate for a study than a “one-time” data collection effort in order to best answer the research question(s) being posed.

 

Blog References:

Divan, A., Ludwig, L. O., Matthews, K. E., Motley, P. M., & Tomljenovic-Berube, A. M. (2017). Survey of research approaches utilised in the scholarship of teaching and learning publications. Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 5(2).

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Advocacy & Outreach Sessions at ISSoTL in Calgary

Compiled by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University and co-chair of ISSoTL’s Advocacy & Outreach committee

Next week, SoTL folks from all over the world will gather in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for the 14th annual conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSoTL). For this conference, ISSoTL’s Advocacy & Outreach (A&O) committee has developed three panels to discuss needs and opportunities to support SoTL locally and globally. Please join our committee as we facilitate the following panels:

Addressing Issues of Our Times

  • Thursday, 10/12/17 from 8:30-10am – Glen 201
  • Panelists: Lauren Scharff (U.S. Air Force Academy), Jennifer Friberg (Illinois State University), Allison Meder (University of Kansas), Clair Hamshire (Manchester Metropolitan University), and Arshad Ahmad (McMaster University)
  • This panel will share perspectives and lead discussion centered on how we (individual ISSoTL members, the A&O committee, and/or ISSoTL at large) might engage in and support appropriate responses to local, state, national, and international issues that relate to or affect SoTL.

Teaching Stream Positions: Mapping and Advocating for SoTL in Diverse Landscapes

  • Thursday, 10/12/18 from 4-5:30pm – Glen 209
  • Panelists: Diana Gregory (Kennesaw State University), Arshad, Ahmad (McMaster University), Mary Huber (Carnegie Foundation), Trent Maurer (Georgia Southern University), Nicola Simmons (Brock University)
  • The panel will explore the diverse landscapes of teaching stream positions from various institutional perspectives while examining the role of SoTL in how various teaching positions are defined, supported, and evaluated.

Social Media Strategies for SoTL

  • Saturday, 10/14/18 from 8-9:30am – Glen 203
  • Workshop Facilitators: Raj Chaudhury (University of South Alabama), Sophia Abbot (Trinity University), Phillip Edwards (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), John Draeger (Buffalo State University), Jennifer Friberg (Illinois State University)
  • This panel will provide a guided, practical approach to assist either individuals or institutional units that aim to be more intentional in their social media outreach to champion SoTL. This workshop will focus on four specific social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and YouTube.


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Musings on SoTL Peer Mentorship

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

pointRecently, I worked with faculty at Bradley University to develop a framework for and guidance in SoTL peer mentoring. Bradley is working diligently to increase engagement in SoTL and have adopted a “grow their own” approach to this effort, selecting faculty who have been SoTL-productive to mentor other faculty members interested in becoming SoTL scholars. The process of preparing for this undertaking led me to (over time) merge my anecdotal experiences as a SoTL mentor with evidence about peer mentoring (in and out of SoTL). I’ve tried to organize some of these reflections below:

  • In preparing my session, I looked toward existing research on peer mentorship in SoTL, finding little. One study I did find was from Hubbal, Clark, and Poole (2010), who analyzed ten years of data on SoTL mentoring to identify three critical practices of SoTL mentors : modeling of SoTL productivity, facilitation of mentees’ SoTL research, and engagement in SoTL networking with other SoTL scholars. In terms of my SoTL mentee/mentor experiences, I think the last practice, that of connecting mentees with other SoTL scholars, is critical and often neglected. Introducing novice SoTL scholars to the “commons” of SoTL has the potential to sustain interest, broaden perspectives, and increase engagement in the SoTL movement as a whole.
  • Often times, when I do “intro” workshops to explain SoTL to new students and faculty, there is a perception that SoTL research is very different from disciplinary research. I always explain that while it can be, it really isn’t in many ways! Similarly, I have found that faculty who have extensive disciplinary experience mentoring students and peers struggle to understand that SoTL mentorship really isn’t all that different. The same practices applied to a differently-focused research project can be very successful in helping a novice SoTL researcher gain confidence in conducting research on teaching and learning.
  • Zellers, Howard, and Barcic (2008) found that benefits to mentees engaged in mentorship programs included assimilation to campus culture, higher career satisfaction, higher rate of promotion, and increased motivation to mentor others. While this work was not focused on SoTL, I can easily see how the same tenets might apply to research on teaching and learning, as well. In terms of SoTL research, I’d add that benefits could include opportunities for assimilation to SoTL culture at and beyond the single institutional level as well as the chance to work with mentors and faculty across varied fields of study in a way that isn’t always customary in disciplinary research.
  • Clutterbuck and Lane (2016, xvi) state “to some extent the definition of mentoring does not matter greatly, if those in the role of mentor and mentee have a clear and mutual understanding of what is expected of them and what they should, in turn, expect of their mentoring partner.” This is so true! The most successful peer mentoring relationships I’ve witnesses have strong foundations in clear and regular communication of expectations, progress, bottlenecks, etc.
  • I’ve encountered two types of SoTL peer mentorship frameworks: formal (set framework for participation and, often, assignment of mentor/mentee pairs) and informal (relationships that develop by happenstance due to opportunity and shared interests). I feel that there are likely benefits to each. Formal mentorship programs are more likely to have stronger administrative support and integration of the program within a strategy for professional development, both characteristics of successful mentoring programs (Hanover Research, 2014). Conversely, informal peer mentoring frameworks allow for voluntary participation, participant involvement in the mentor/mentee pairing process, and the ability for participants to co-develop goals, expectations, and desired outcomes of the mentorship paring, each also components of successful mentoring programs (Hanover Research, 2014). So, which is better and why? This might be a very interesting area for future study, as currently, we just don’t know.
  • What makes a successful peer mentor? Awareness of adult learning principles/teaching strategies/techniques, and understanding/acknowledgement of differences in orientation and stage of development between themselves and their mentees, and ability to plan/observe/facilitate discussion (Knippelmeyer & Torraco, 2007). It would seem that many folks engaged in SoTL, then, would make excellent peer mentors, as these characteristics are as endemic to SoTL as they are to mentorship!

Blog References:

Clutterbuck, D. & Lane, G. (2016). The situational mentor: An international review of competences and capabilities in mentoring. London: Routledge.

Hanover Research. (2014). Faculty mentoring models and effective practices. Author.

Hubball, H., Clarke, A., & Poole, G. (2010). Ten-year reflections on mentoring SoTL research in a research-intensive university. International Journal for Academic Development, 15(2), 117-129.

Knippelmeyer, S. A. & Torraco, R. J. (2007). Mentoring as a developmental tool for higher education. University of Nebraska-Lincoln teaching center publication.

Zellers, D. F., Howard, V. M., Barcic, M. A. (2008). Faculty mentoring programs: Reenvisioning rather than reinventing the wheel. Review of Educational Research, 78(3), 552-588.

 


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ISU Fall SoTL Workshops & Funding

STATE_YourLearningA variety of funding and training opportunities exist for ISU faculty and students interested in SoTL this fall! Contact Jen Friberg (jfribe@ilstu.edu) with questions.

 

Workshops:

Intro to SoTL (Mon 9/25/17 from 12:30-3:30pm): Do you have an interest in studying your students’ learning as a way to improve your teaching? The scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) is a type of scholarship that can help you expand your research to include systematic study of teaching and/or learning. This workshop is designed to introduce attendees to SoTL, describe ways to engage in SoTL inquiry, and examine the benefits of SoTL as part of a productive research agenda. Examples of SoTL work will be provided. Resources to support SoTL work will be reviewed. These workshops have been designed for an audience with little to no prior experience with SoTL.

SoTL Forum: Changes to IRB Processes Coming in 2018 (Weds, 10/25/2017 from 1-2:30pm): The Office of the Cross Chair in SoTL is hosting an open forum for ISU faculty and students interested/engaged in SoTL research to discuss changes to federal policies and internal ISU procedures that will be implemented in January of 2018. John Baur (Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies), Kathy Spence (Director of Research and Ethics Compliance), and Jen Friberg (Cross Chair in SoTL) will facilitate this session and address your SoTL IRB questions.

CSI-SoTL: The Certificate of Specialized Instruction in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CSI-SoTL) was co-developed by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and the Graduate School at ISU to provide an opportunity for graduate students to engage in study and reflection of research on teaching and learning to facilitate successful work as students and as future faculty. As many future college/university teachers lack opportunities for purposeful study and reflection on teaching and learning as part of their graduate school experience, this program provides a unique opportunity to gain knowledge and skills in these areas. All participants will attend three seminars on SoTL then work with a mentor to plan a SoTL project.

 Funding:

SoTL Travel Grants: Applications are currently being accepted for the SoTL Travel Grant Program – FY18. The program is designed to encourage public sharing of SoTL work related to the teaching and/or learning of ISU students. The program provides partial funding for travel to present SoTL work. Funds may be used toward conference registration and/or travel costs. This applies to a trip already taken (and not fully reimbursed) or to be taken, to present SoTL work this fiscal year. We expect to award 10-12 grants for FY18. Please note that faculty/staff are eligible for one travel grant (of any kind) per year. Awards of up to $700 will be available to those presenting SoTL research at disciplinary or other teaching/learning conferences. Special awards of up to $1000 will be available to those presenting at the 2017 International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSoTL) conference. There are 2 cycles for SoTL Travel Grants. Applications for the fall award cycle are currently being accepted and must be submitted by 5pm on October 2, 2017. Applications for the spring award cycle will open October 9, 2017 and must be submitted by 5pm on February 5, 2018.

SoTL Seed Grants for New SoTL Scholars: Applications for seed grant funding to get SoTL projects up and running will be accepted starting in early September, 2017. Grant funds will be awarded (in the form of a stipend) for work toward one of the following: writing an IRB or literature review for a SoTL project, gathering/collecting/analyzing data for a SoTL project, or applying SoTL to solve a teaching/learning issue in your classroom. Up to 10 SoTL Seed Grants in the amount of $250 will be awarded to faculty conducting their first SoTL project. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis from September 1, 2017 through May 15, 2018, with awards granted throughout the 2017-18 academic year until funds are exhausted.

 


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Direct vs. Indirect Evidence of Student Learning

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

measure2Later this week, I have the opportunity to facilitate a workshop on peer mentorship in SoTL at a nearby university. I solicited questions from mentor faculty as part of my workshop planning process. In doing so, one of the most interesting questions I received was the following: In studying student learning, how can teacher/learner perceptions be considered a reliable data source?

This question gets at an important consideration in the planning of a SoTL project. What is my source of evidence? Will I use data from focus groups, surveys, student reflections, or something else? Will this evidence focus on student self-reports/perceptions of learning or will the evidence be more objective? The best guidance is that your evidence should match the purpose of your SoTL study. If you are seeking to understand students’ perspectives on a learning experience, then the evidence you collect should align with this. If, however, you are seeking to measure student learning, other forms of data may be more advantageous.

When SoTL-ists talk about their data, they can generally ascribe one of two labels to their evidence: direct or indirect. Direct evidence comes from objective sources such as classroom artifacts (e.g., exams/quizzes, projects/assignments), systematic observations (e.g., video/in-person observations, photographs), or student reflections that tell the story of their own attitudes or beliefs. Indirect evidence is sourced from more subjective sources – student reports of their own learning, teacher reflections of student learning (Vanderbilt, 2013). So, to return to the excellent question posed to me above, teacher/learner perceptions CAN be a reliable data source if the SoTL work in question seeks to understand how teachers/learners feel about their learning. That said, if a researcher is seeking to identify changes in student learning, perceptions alone are not a strong form of evidence to study (see this blog post from 2015 for an expanded discussion of this notion).

One of the best resources I’ve found to explain the difference in various evidence types in SoTL was published by Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching. This resource, Gathering Evidence: Making Student Learning Visible, outlines the difference between direct and indirect evidence clearly and cogently, providing examples and brief explanations to understand these concepts well. For my upcoming workshop, I adapted and converted the information shared on this resource (giving ample credit to Vanderbilt!) into a decision tree to share with the SoTL mentors I’ll be working with. As SoTL mentors, they will need to be well informed as to the pros and cons of direct and indirect evidence. I’m hopeful this visual will give us a good starting point for that discussion!

Direct vs indirect decision tree

As a plug for upcoming blogs, additional information is coming in October and November on methods to consider evidence in new and different ways…stay tuned! I am certain that most of the methods that will be covered will apply predominantly to analysis of direct evidence in the study of teaching and learning.

Blog Reference

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. (2013). Gathering evidence: Making student learning visible. Available at: https://my.vanderbilt.edu/sotl/files/2013/09/4SoTLEvidence.pdf

 

 

 


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Call for University-Wide SoTL Award Open

Applications are sought for the 2018 Dr. John Chizamr & Dr. Anthony Ostrosky Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award. This award recognizes faculty and academic staff at ISU who have contributed to the field of SoTL, the SoTL body of knowledge, improved teaching, and enhanced learning.

Applications should be submitted by Monday, November 13, 2017. Requirements for application are detailed below. Information about past award recipients and application procedures can be found on the Cross Chair website, as well. Please contact Jen Friberg (jfribe@ilstu.edu) with questions about this award.

SoTL Award18

 


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SoTL Podcasts

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

headphonesDuring the last academic year, the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT) at ISU has introduced a podcast series called “Let’s Talk Teaching.” This podcast series brings members of the CTLT team together with guests from across campus for discussions about teaching, learning, and professional development opportunities for faculty at ISU and beyond. While new episodes are generally available on Fridays, bonus episodes are featured from time to time. Topics for podcasts represent a broad range of foci important to faculty. Each run approximately 20 minutes.

While the Let’s Talk Teaching podcasts focus mainly on practices for good teaching, several focus on scholarly approaches to teaching or SoTL including these:

There’s even an upcoming podcast that discusses SoTL that should be available in the next several weeks. A link to that podcast will be added as it becomes available.

This podcast series sparked an interest in searching for other SoTL-related podcasts that might be out there as good resources for those interested in SoTL. I found several that I will share below. There is no way this is an exhaustive list, so please feel free to add others you may know about in the comments below!

In addition, the following podcast series offer regular podcasts dealing with issues in higher education, which can occasionally discuss research on teaching and learning: