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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Special (and super interesting!) issue of Art History Pedagogy and Practice published

My friend and colleague from ISSOTL’s Advocacy and Outreach committee, Virginia Spivey, is a co-founder of a peer-reviewed, open access e-journal titled Art History Pedagogy & Practice. This journal is devoted to scholarship of teaching and learning in art history. It is published by Art History Teaching Resources (AHTR), a peer-populated open educational resource, in partnership with the Office of Library Services of the City University of New York and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.

The following are links and abstracts from a recently published — and uber interesting — special issue of Art History Pedagogy & Practice, featuring seven explorations of teaching and learning across topics of interest beyond art history. Kudos to all involved, as this collaboration is (in my opinion!) really nicely done!

Medicine and the Museum: An Experiential Case Study in Art History Pedagogy and Practice

This article brings three scholarly and professional perspectives to bear on museum-based learning experiences for undergraduate pre-medical and STEM students. In the first section, Marcia Brennan describes the seminar on “Medicine and the Museum: Clinical Aesthetics and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston” that she teaches at Rice University. Brennan is a modernist art historian, and her discussion focuses on the ways in which classes such as this can contribute meaningfully to undergraduate pre-medical and STEM education. Brennan collaborated with Joshua Eyler, who served as Executive Director of Rice University’s Center for Teaching Excellence. In the second section, Eyler discusses the content and results of the accompanying questionnaires that were devised to assess the overall effectiveness of the pedagogical strategy. The tabulated data results are included for each of the measured sections, which encompass the students’ abilities to make detailed visual observations and to formulate descriptions of complex subjects; to gauge their sensitivity to ethical concerns and their level of empathy regarding the emotional issues involved in caregiving; and to assess their understanding of the ways in which museums can serve as tools for continual learning and self-care. The final section is by Kelley Magill, an art historian who serves as University Programs Specialist for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Writing from the perspective of the museum educator, Magill comments on Brennan’s seminar, and she provides a complementary perspective on the role and impact of the fine arts museum within higher education.

Addressing Visual Literacy in the Survey: Balancing Transdisciplinary Competencies and Course Content

Inspired by partnerships between medical schools and museums that produce measurable outcomes in the frequency and sophistication of diagnostic observations through limited art history-based interventions, this paper documents the re-orientation of a traditional art history survey course to explicitly address foundational visual literacy skills. This Spring 2019 pilot implemented a series of exercises and assessments designed to directly target transdisciplinary components of visual literacy and to highlight these competencies through student discussion and reflection with minimal disruption. This study employed content analysis and qualitative coding of pre- and post-tests to capture and characterize the number and types of observations made on descriptive, timed writings. This data was combined with participant reflections to assess whether students enhanced their skills of observation and description. The results suggest that minimally-invasive, low-stakes assignments, coupled with reflection exercises, produced increases in both the quantity and quality of student observations; students also demonstrated more awareness of their audience, adjusting the information as appropriate to the specific task and recognized connections between this practice and other fields of study. This suggests that art history could better communicate the transdisciplinary skills of visual literacy and promote their development within the survey course without a radical course redesign.

Art History, Art Museums, and Power: A Critical Art History Curriculum

Engaging in the recent tradition of disciplinary and instructional self-critique by art historians teaching at the college level, this teaching practice reflection pursues the question of how an art history survey class can benefit from activities grounded in theoretical texts. In the format of scholarly personal narrative (SPN), a personal background and justification for incorporating critical theory-based lessons into the introductory art history curriculum, including narrative descriptions of four curricular areas and an example museum project, are detailed. The article paints a personal picture as well as extols the general benefits, based on the author’s perspective and experiences, of incorporating critical theory and critical pedagogical theory into art history courses. As SPN, the article focuses on personal teaching experiences and reflections organized in a scholarly structure, and demonstrates the possibilities of this method of scholarship on teaching and learning in art history.

Understanding the Student Perspective of Art History Survey Course Outcomes Through Game Development

This heuristic, design-based research study examines student perceptions of their learning experience in the art history survey course as manifested through a game design process. With the purpose of improving upon the lecture model of the standard art history survey, two sections of a capstone class of interdisciplinary art and design students—who had all taken the survey as part of their degree programs—selected learning objectives and designed games to accompany the introductory class. The researchers used the game design process to understand first how students perceived the survey class, its learning objectives, and the students’ experiences. Then the investigation addressed how these students designed games to aid learning of survey materials. The results offer survey course instructors significant insight into student perceptions of the structure and aims of art history’s foundational class.

Assessing Undergraduate Fashion History Research via Content Analysis

Undergraduate art history students are often asked to write research essays on specific artworks, but that research is rarely considered publishable or reliable. This article analyzes undergraduate student essays on fashion history to determine whether the research produced can be considered reliable according to generally accepted art historical standards. It employs content analysis to make those determinations in addition to the instructor’s own standards and those governing the Fashion History Timeline, an open-access hub of fashion history research. The article investigates the impact of a multi-stage writing and revision process on student writing outcomes and on student grades. Finally, it addresses the benefits of quantifying student research via content analysis for improving both teaching and student outcomes.

The Metacognitive and Exploratory Use of the Concept Map for Thematic Art History Papers in the Survey Course

This article examines how the introduction of pedagogical interventions in the art history survey class, made by using concept maps beyond an initial brainstorming phase and rather as an active-learning strategy in aid to developing thematic papers, impacts students’ perception of their usefulness. The qualitative and quantitative data gathered included two questionnaires, one submitted periodically throughout the semester and one after the concept map and term paper were completed. Additionally, this study presents a visual analysis of three sample sets of students’ concept maps to illustrate the levels of deep, surface, and non-learning. The results reveal that assigning students the task of developing the concept map and the paper in tandem throughout the semester presents some pros and cons. By using concept maps, students reflect more deeply on the nature of connections between two ideas, on the process of narrowing down the main theme, and on the overall structure of the concept map. However, students’ perception of the concept map’s usefulness beyond an initial brainstorming phase is diversified, and the sets of concept maps developed produce mixed results relative to surface learning, deep learning, and non-learning. The limitations of such use of concept maps include possible correlations between learning and motivation.

Understanding How Perceptions of Power and Identity Influence Student Engagement and Teaching in Undergraduate Art History Survey Courses

Student engagement in undergraduate art history survey courses has been a concern of art historians for decades. In this article I discuss my dissertation study in which I explored how perceptions of student and teacher identity, acting within classroom power dynamics, influence student engagement and pedagogy in undergraduate art history survey courses. Through concept mapping, interviews, and observations of three instructors and nine students in undergraduate art history survey courses at a public university in southeastern Texas, I explore perceptions of students and instructors regarding self, each other, course content, teaching style, and expectations of one another to understand how identity and power influence student engagement and pedagogy. I explored these perceptions through the theoretical lenses of power and identity. The results may offer insight as to how we address perceptions of declining student engagement in undergraduate art history survey courses.


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Reflecting on Reflection

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

I find it interesting that when I run across something in one part of my life, it often pops up in others. Perhaps it’s an enhanced awareness of a topic that makes me more sensitive…or not. Whatever it is, it’s happened again around the topic of reflection. You could call it contemplation, introspection, rumination, or even musing, but it’s been omnipresent at work and at home these days.

I had the good luck to do some professional reading that was based on individual reflections, some personal, some professional. Rhonda A. W. Breit wrote a reflective piece for the most recent publication of SoTL in the South, wherein she bravely detailed her experiences around work, life, illness, and the academy. This piece inspired me to think carefully about the fragility of professional identity and the contexts and conditions that, when changed, can modify how we see ourselves as teachers and learners across mere minutes, days, or weeks.

In talking with a colleague about SoTL, we had a discussion about the fact that some days, we’re simply “mourning for a story.” This is not a sad thing, but rather, we decided, human nature. Experiences tied to emotions are often those we recall most successfully. Conventional scholarship seeks to remove as much emotion from systematic study as possible, which can limit access to the story behind the work (caveat — if vignettes or case studies are used, this lack of story access can be mitigated!). You can be a passionate advocate for/of SoTL and still like to know the stories that inspired that work. To that end, my colleague and I agreed that reading about others’ thinking processes to solve teaching/learning problems often influenced us to think differently about our own teaching praxis. This recent special issue of the Journal for Research and Practice in College Teaching provides a perfect resource for this: a compendium of systematic reflections organized around a variety of topics, telling the stories of unique contexts and individuals.

Finally, as an editorial board member for a disciplinary SoTL journal (Teaching and Learning in Communication Sciences & Disorders), I am working with three colleagues to establish a new framework for peer review of reflective manuscripts. We have been pondering various questions, such as: Who decides what reflections are valuable and worth sharing? Do all reflections that lead to change have merit? Does scale matter? How should decisions about what reflections are “publication-worthy” be made? What is a systematic approach to evaluating reflections for rigor, reader interest, and such? These aren’t all easy questions to balance, particularly in a discipline that has not conventionally published reflective pieces as scholarly work. I find the question of how to approach reflection systematically intriguing, and wonder if there’s any one approach that is better than another. Thus far, I have found a few resources in my early readings that touch on this topic, its components, and its considerations.

Shmuel Ellis, Bernd Crette, Frederik Anseel, and Filip Pievens published a paper in 2014 titled Systematic Reflection: Implications for Learning form Failures and Successes, detailing essential components of systematic reflection: self-explanation, data verification, and feedback. From this resource, we can learn possible components of systematic reflection, though perhaps these components won’t work on all types of reflection (abstract below):

Drawing on a growing stream of empirical findings that runs across different psychological domains, we demonstrated that systematic reflection stands out as a prominent tool for learning from experience. For decades, failed experiences have been considered the most powerful learning sources. Despite the theoretical and practical relevance, few researchers have investigated whether people can also learn from their successes. We showed that through systematic reflection, people can learn from both their successes and their failures. Studies have further shown that the effectiveness of systematic reflection depends on situational (e.g., reflection focus) and person-based (e.g., conscientiousness) factors.

The most recent issue of Teaching & Learning Inquiry features an article by Allison Cook-Sather, Sophia Abbott, and Peter Felten on the topic of legitimating reflective writing in SoTL. This article comes at exactly the right time for the work I’m doing with and for my disciplinary journal. This piece builds a case for reflective writing in SoTL to be embraced as meaningful and legitimate for four main reasons (tho I’d add to this, reflection tells the stories of teaching and learning, which is important to capture and celebrate!):

  1. The process of reflection is an essential component of learning.
  2. Reflective writing captures the complexity of learning.
  3. Reflection is an accessible form of writing for both new and experienced SoTL authors.
  4. Reflective writing is accessible to a wide range of readers.

So my next steps?

  • Keep reading, reflecting, and learning about this topic.
  • Consider ways in which systematic reflections might be best reviewed by peers as part of the publishing process for my disciplinary journal.
  • Listen closely to future discussions of reflection’s place in SoTL as a way of sharing perspectives and experiences across the broad variety of disciplines and institutions and individuals engaged in SoTL.
  • Advocate in support of reflective writings as necessary to tell the whole story of SoTL, teaching, and learning.

Blog References

Breit, R. A. W. (2019). Work, life, illness, and the academy: A personal reflection. SoTL in the South, 3(2), 121-126.

Cook-Sather, A., Abbot, S., & Felten, P. (2019). Legitimating reflective writing in SoTL: “Dysfunctional illusions of rigor” revisited. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 7(2).

Ellis, S., Carette, B., Anseel, F., & Lievens, F. (2014). Systematic reflection: Impolications for learning from failures and successes. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(1), 67-72.

Journal for Research and Practice in College Teaching, 3(2). Special issue, entire issue cited in blog.


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Roadblocks, opportunities, and a call for blog contributors across three topics

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

In informal conversations with friends and colleagues, I’ve heard from many that writing a blog post is a scary proposition, for what are very understandable reasons. Authoring a blog is new to many, represents a different form of writing, and are not (typically) recognized in most disciplines as a scholarly artifact. Folks have asked me why they should take on the work of writing a blog in the face of the challenges they perceive. My response? At their core, blogs represent a way to broaden the audience who knows about the work that you’re doing. Think about the narrowness with which our scholarly work is typically shared. We publish in journals and present at conferences with other people who do similar work to what we do. There’s tremendous value in that. However, looking beyond our expected professional audiences, publishing blog posts allows for an easy crossing of disciplinary, institutional, and/or social borders to engage more and different stakeholders in your work. There’s tremendous value in that form of publishing, too. That said, I’m biased. I really enjoy blogging and find it to be incredibly enriching both personally and professionally.

From my experiences as a co-creator, frequent contributor, and current editor of this blog, I want to offer two thoughts for your consideration. One focuses on the biggest roadblock to contributing to a blog (shared anecdotally with me by many) while the other focuses on the biggest opportunity.

  • Roadblock? It seems as though the most difficult thing for contributors to find is their “blog voice.” Ideally, blogs are accessible, jargon-free, and provide a high level summary of a process, idea, or project. I usually tell people that writing a blog is not like writing a paper for peer review. Instead, it’s like writing a letter to folks who have different experiences, priorities, or levels of understanding of your topic than you might. I firmly believe that while it may be initially challenging to develop a less regimented style of professional communication, engaging new audiences with your work makes it a worthy endeavor. How do you overcome this roadblock? Read the blog(s) you wish to write for. Examine the tone, format, and general feel of the already published posts to inform your choices as a potential blog contributor.
  • Opportunity! I wrote recently about purposeful amplification of SoTL work being a major conference theme at #ISSOTL19. One of the ideas I reported on in that blog came from a session presented by Lockhart and Wuetherick (citation below), who discussed planning for the eventual impact of your work when you engage in initial planning of a SoTL project. Writing a blog post tied to your SoTL work is an excellent way of planning for impact. And, while impact can mean a variety of things (e.g., impact across an institution, a discipline, across disciplines, in the public space), the bottom line is that if more and different people are exposed to your work, the greater the chance at increasing its impact. This blog, for example, has had over 12,000 views in over three dozen countries this year alone. Trust me when I say that a broader audience exists for your work. Blogging can help you access that audience.

The information shared above is not coincidental! I share it because I am seeking to represent the voices of more and different SoTL stakeholders on this blog. There are several topics I’d like to propose as a foundation for potential contributors to build upon:

What DOESN’T work? We routinely talk about, publish, and present information related to what does work in our SoTL. Rarely (almost never, actually) do we talk about what didn’t work well at all. There’s value in sharing reflections on things we wish we had done differently, outcomes that weren’t positive, or lessons we have learned from errors made in the process of SoTLing. There’s no shame in learning and growing, and that’s what happens when things just don’t work. Consider sharing those experiences!

What am I reading? Share a link to a site, blog, article, book…anything you’re reading. Create a blog post that briefly summarizes the subject of your reading and share how it can be used/applied in a learning context. Or, share how you/your practice as a teacher or learner evolved as a result of that reading. Another option might be to speak to how you’ve shared or translated that work to other stakeholder groups of personal or professional interest. There is SO MUCH out there to digest that isn’t brought to a wide audience. This call is a chance to make that happen!

Topic of your choice! What are you thinking about in terms of SoTL? Power, voice, partnerships, outcomes, roadblocks, methods, community… Chances are, SoTL Advocate readers would like to hear more! Summarize a project you’ve completed. Give us a think-aloud (okay…write-aloud) about how you plan a SoTL project. Talk about how you’ve developed SoTl networks or provide examples of SoTL advocacy. The only restriction on topic is that needs to relate to SoTL. From there, the sky is the limit!

Please consider contributing a blog post. Share the opportunity with others, and please feel free to contact me (jfribe@ilstu.edu) with questions or to brainstorm ideas or thoughts that might become a future blog topic!

Blog references

Lockhart, W. & Wuetherick, B. (2019). Using SoTL to advance institutional change: Exploring student success in foundational courses. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


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SoTL as Public Scholarship: Call for Chapter Proposals

Shared by: Nancy Chick & Jennifer Friberg, Project Editors     

Proposals due Dec 15, 2019

The ISSOTL19 conference theme, “SoTL Without Borders: Engaged Practices for Social Change,” was a field-changer that foregrounded intentional conversations that have only popped up here and there at previous conferences.   It challenged some to view SoTL in new ways, and invited others to bring their backstage SoTL goals into the spotlight. This moment helped us more fully consider SoTL’s potential to effect change. The conference ended with a closing plenary that called for an amplification of the field by exploring how we might conceive of “SoTL as Public Scholarship,” how we might extend its purpose toward advocacy, its audiences toward a broader public, its products toward more public forms of communication, and its influence beyond courses and academic programs.

ISSOTL19 participants left Atlanta committed to continuing the conversation and, more importantly, making things happen.  ISSOTL is “building on the ideas and optimism” of the conference by sponsoring a new “public SoTL” model of its International Collaborative Writing Groups (see here) to support the development and capacity for this work among SoTL practitioners and supporters. 

We are also eager to “build on the ideas and optimism shared in Atlanta” by more fully articulating the vision of SoTL as public scholarship.  We are editing a book under contract with Stylus Publishing to feature innovative, forward-thinking, field-amplifying work that guides SoTL in its potential for reaching “the public.”  

We here call for proposals for two key chapters in SoTL as Public ScholarshipSee below for the description of each.

  1. SoTL and traditional media:  Though platforms such as weblogs and social media are used to publicly share various aspects of SoTL, it is unknown to what extent SoTL scholars are using more traditional media such as radio, newspapers, magazines, or television to share work publicly.  These are among the most public-facing ways of reaching a large, non-academic audience, yet they are also among the most challenging for SoTL scholars. We seek proposals for a thoughtful and useful chapter that both address the significance of this type of media for SoTL and guide readers in communicating through these less familiar venues.  The chapter will be 4,000 words.
  2. The international contexts of SoTL in considering the influence of geography, culture, and politics in public sharing: While this project might appear to presume that public scholarship is accessible to all potential stakeholders equally, we acknowledge that is likely untrue. Various social media platforms are inaccessible to citizens in certain countries, and some socio-cultural practices and political influences also impact how scholarship can be made public. This chapter will explore ways in which public factors such as these might impact the work of creating SoTL as public scholarship. The chapter will be 4,000 words.

750-word proposals are due on December 15. Please include CVs with relevant experiences highlighted for all authors.  Submit materials to both editors at nchick@rollins.edu  & jfribe@ilstu.edu.

The first full drafts of these two chapters will be due by April 1, 2020.  The timeline for the book’s publication process is as follows:

  • Early April, 2020: Feedback on first drafts
  • June 1: Final drafts due
  • July 1: Manuscript submitted to Stylus
  • February 2021: Book publication

Share this CFP with this shortened URL: bit.ly/SoTL-trad-media


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Hot off the presses: Gauisus, Volume 7

Gauisus is the internal, peer-reviewed scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) publication at Illinois State University (ISU). Each published volume (except the first, which was published in pdf and print formats) are multi-media publications which contain varied representations of SoTL work. Representations may be scholarly papers or notes, online posters, videos, wikis or blogs and so on. The seventh volume of Gauisus was published this week, featuring four works by ISU faculty engaged in SoTL work. Abstracts are copied here, with links to each work:

Transition to Standards-Based Grading: Six Steps to Implement Badging in College Courses
Mandy White • Department of Special Education
Tara Kaczorowski • Department of Special Education
Robyn Seglem • School of Teaching and Learning

Traditional university courses assign points, which translate into letter grades, but those points earned do not always reflect the mastery of the intended learning outcomes for the course.  This becomes problematic because students seem more concerned about points and grades rather than learning. We transitioned to Standards-Based Grading over several semesters and identified six steps for implementing badging in college courses: (a) familiarize and redefine course outcomes, (b) evaluate and align assignments and activities, (c) create rubrics, (d) establish a recording system for badges, (e) initiate the communication cycle, and (f) define final course grades.

Perspectives of Non-Tenured Track Faculty Members and Doctoral Students Included in Mentorship and Professional Development
Allison Kroesch • Department of Special Education
Yojanna Cuenca-Carlino • Department of Special Education
Luminita Hartle • Department of Special Education
Sara Porter • Department of Special Education
Lauralyn Randles • Department of Special Education
Samuel Whitley • Department of Special Education
Mandy White • Department of Special Education
Adrianne Locke • Department of Special Education
Jamillah Gilbert • Department of Special Education
Ashley Wolinski-Norton • Department of Special Education
Krystal Lewis-Pratt • Department of Special Education

Non-tenured track faculty (NTTF) members and doctoral students (DS) often do not have the same opportunities to collaborate and participate in professional development with a variety of tenured-track faculty (TTF) members within a department. To increase collaboration, an Associate Professor in the Department of Special Education at Illinois State designed and implemented the GROWTH Mentoring Program. This program, in its fourth semester of implementation, encourages teams of faculty members (NTTF, TTF, and DS) to reflect on taught lessons with a peer, learn from various workshops, and participate in organized writing days. The purpose of this manuscript is to share the perspectives of the benefits and challenges of this mentorship program through the lenses of NTTF and DS who have participated in the program for the past year.

The Role of Universities in Workforce Development
Jennifer Peterson, Ph.D. • Department of Health Sciences
The purpose of higher education in the United States has been an issue of much debate.  Although higher education was originally developed as a method of producing upstanding young men for society, in recent years, many have argued that higher education should be preparing young adults for careers and jobs needed for a successful economy.  Traditionally, workforce development education has been the in the realm of community colleges.  However, as the price of education has increased, the demand for more highly educated workers has increased, and the value of higher education has been questioned, many feel that all levels of higher education should focus on workforce development.  This article identifies four major themes from the literature in this area, discusses current mental models that prevent universities from entering the workforce development realm, and provides recommendations for needed investigation and change if universities are to play an active role in workforce development.

Outcomes from a SoTL Certificate Program for Graduate Students
Jennifer Friberg, Ed.D. • Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
This power point set was presented at the 2019 meeting of EuroSoTL in Bilbao, Spain, and describes data collected from the first three cohorts of students to complete the Certificate of Specialized Instruction in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CSI-SoTL) at Illinois State University. These slides describe the genesis of the CSI-SoTL program, the annual timeline for student participants, and explores data collected from the first two cohorts of enrollees. Overwhelmingly, CSI-SoTL student participants indicated that the program enhanced their interest and understanding of SoTL, provided an enhanced view of professional opportunities post-degree completion, and helped them to better understand research as a whole. Implications for future iterations of the CSI-SoTL program are presented, as well.

The purposes of Gauisus are the following: 1) to provide instructors writing about their teaching and learning a local but peer reviewed outlet to share what they and their students have done and learned and 2) to offer other instructors and students an accessible publication to read to obtain a sense of, and learn from, some of the scholarly teaching and SoTL projects conducted by their colleagues on our campus.

The name of the volume, Gauisus: Selected scholarship on teaching and learning at Illinois State University, stems from a “name the publication” contest in 2008. Pete Juvinall’s entry was chosen. Gauisus means glad, gladly, or joyful in Latin, as in the Illinois State motto/logo, “Gladly we learn and teach.” Reviewers are volunteers from ISU, and sometimes beyond, who must apply and are selected based on their experience with SoTL and reviewing scholarly work.


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Creating Visually Accessible Presentations

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at Illinois State University (contact email: jfribe@ilstu.edu)

It’s fairly well acknowledged that for SoTL to be SoTL, is needs to be shared in some form or fashion…and I use the term “shared” here with a broad vision (e.g, writing a blog, publication in a peer-reviewed outlet, conference presentation, completion of a creative endeavor, etc). That said, it’s not whether SoTL is shared that is the topic of today’s blog, rather, it’s HOW it is shared.

I have spent 20+ years as a speech-language pathologist, seeking to make various forms of communication accessible and valued for the clients I served. I’ve brought some of this disciplinary perspective to my work as a scholar who presents at conferences fairly regularly. For instance, I am very cognizant of the need for speaker voices to be amplified for folks to hear and process content effectively. I am sensitive to cultural differences in how language is used, and I know well that perspective and world experience influence how any message is comprehended. But there is more to access than this. Flash forward to ISSOTL last month in Atlanta, Georgia.

It was almost uncanny that four different conversations with four very different people at ISSOTL touched on — in some way — a need to think carefully about visual accessibility when planning conference presentations. As someone who likes graphics and color in my power point slides (when I use them!), I hadn’t before considered much other than having good contrast and easy (to me) ability to view slide content. I hadn’t considered how color choices might impact those with varied forms of colorblindness, low-vision, or other visual impairments. In reflecting on these conference conversations, it became clear that I needed to be more aware. It’s a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know…but when you know it, you have to make change.” With this in mind, I offer today’s blog with humility and a sense of purpose to improve my own efforts in the future. This blog is not expert testimony, but rather a way to share resources that have emerged from my dive into this topic since returning home.

  • Designing PowerPoint slides for Color Blindness: There are many different resources online for designing slides that individuals with various forms of colorblindness can most easily access. Of the many that I looked at, Robin Collinge’s blog post titled “How to Design for Colorblindness” was one of my favorites, sharing tips for ALL design, not just presentation slides. The blog post features several easy to implement ideas for good design AND provides a list of color combinations to avoid in order to increase the visual accessibility of your materials.
  • Microsoft Power Point offers something called an “accessibility checker,” which looks over presentation slides and suggests edits for visual accessibility (click link for usage instructions). I ran a recent PowerPoint of my own through the checker and found the feedback provided to be fascinating (image below for an example). Primarily, it was suggested that I use speaker notes and other text boxes to think about providing alternative text to explain graphics and other visual content (these annotations can be shared with those requesting them ahead of or after a presentation). Instructions for how to make my slides more accessible were provided in easy-to-follow format. Google has similar tools, to support its platform, as well.

  • This Microsoft Office reference lists in table form the types of behaviors most accessibility checkers attempt to identify, with a clear description and fix for each. It’s a good and informative read.
  • California’s Department of Rehabilitation’s division of Disability Access Services has an excellent publication called “Seven Steps to Creating an Accessible PowerPoint Slideshow” which provides a bounty of great ideas to increase the accessibility of your work.

Again, I am nowhere near being an expert on the topic of visual accessibility. Many of you may have other, better resources that might be of help to others exploring this topic…if that’s the case, I’d love for you to share them below in the comments section below.


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Purposeful Amplification

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

I’ve been back from the 2019 ISSOTL conference for a little over a week…and I’m *still* processing all that happened in Atlanta. There was a richness to this conference that was so very pleasing and I found that I was inspired by so many of the people I spoke with. I returned to Normal (that’s really the name of my institution’s town!) thinking about connections between formal sessions and informal conversations with colleagues and friends. There are many to be made, but one stands out quite prominently: we need to be purposeful in how we amplify our collective efforts in the SoTL community. While I could pick a number of conference moments to highlight to illustrate this notion, I have four that I’d like to focus on in this short blog post, as I feel they set the stage for the point I’m seeking to make. Questions/thoughts raised in my mind by each are asked in italics:

  1. The ISSOTL Advocacy and Outreach (A&O) committee sponsored a panel at the conference on the topic of “Grand Challenges” for SoTL, following the model some might be familiar with from the discipline of engineering. Grand Challenges are seen as wicked problems that define areas of need/focus for a discipline to move forward. Lauren Scharff (U.S. Air Force Academy) presented an overview of her analysis of data (collected over two years) from this project and identified several Grand Challenges specific to SoTL. One of three challenges identified was termed “challenges to SoTL as an enterprise,” and focused on the perceived lack of value/support for SoTL, questions of SoTL’s rigor, and questions about who is/should be engaged in this work. Essentially, data indicated that one of the major challenges facing those engaged in SoTL remains a need for advocacy for this type of scholarship — and for SoTL scholars, themselves.
  2. As part of an intriguing and thought-provoking panel, Lindsay Doukopoulos, Peter Felten, Mays Imad, and Huang Hoon Chng led a discussion focused on the importance of backstage conversations in SoTL as a mechanism for advocacy, engagement, and deriving forward momentum to realize progress (in whatever form or fashion). Backstage conversations help to develop networks that bring important work to the front (or public) stage, where broader impact for SoTL might be felt. Might we consider formal and informal encounters at and around ISSOTL each year to be one form of a backstage conversation? Are we networking together (and well!), but failing to move beyond our immediate social networks of SoTLists to advance our work? If so, what might we constitute as the front stage?
  3. In their presentation titled “Using SoTL to Advance Institutional Change: Exploring Student Success in Foundational Courses,” Wallace Lockhart and Brad Wuetherick shared their SoTL Impact Framework (at the time of the conference, this was in near-final draft status). This framework asked those in attendance to consider the potential impact of a SoTL project as part of its planning through the establishment of impact goals (why are you doing this project?), impact actions (what actions will you take to achieve your impact goals?), and impact results (how will you know if you have achieved your intended impact?). How might the discipline of SoTL change if we collectively considered impact planning as an integral part of disseminating our work? What types of impact are we seeking?
  4. Nancy Chick’s closing keynote strongly advocated for those engaged in SoTL to consider sharing work through more public forms of scholarship (e.g., social media, blogs, white papers). She challenged those in attendance to create a broader impact for their work by taking something that matters to individuals or small groups (your own SoTL work) and making it matter to others beyond the immediate SoTL community. How might the profile of SoTL grow in value if we worked purposeful together to accomplish this?

My take aways from these conference moments? Nancy Chick identified a new path for our our consideration in her conference keynote. The sessions I attended and conversations I had with colleagues in Atlanta strongly backed up her call to truly make our SoTL work public. SoTL advocacy work is still clearly needed. That work needs to move from the SoTL backstage to a more public front stage to purposefully amplify our SoTL work/findings/efforts. We, as a community of scholars, can plan systematically for this to happen. In doing so, we have the capacity to grow the SoTL in terms of value perceptions, stakeholder engagement, and broader societal impact.

Blog References:

Chick, N. (2019). SoTL as public scholarship. Keynote presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Doukoplulos, L. M., Felten, P., Imad, M., & Chng, H. H. (2019). Cultivating backstage conversations in SoTL. Panel presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Lockhart, W. & Wuetherick, B. (2019). Using SoTL to advance institutional change: Exploring student success in foundational courses. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Scharff, L., Draeger, J., Ahmad, A., Friberg, J., Hamshire, C., & Maurer, T. (2019). Grand challenges for the scholarship of teaching and learning, phase II. Panel presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.