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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New SoTL Journals to Explore

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

Recently, three new SoTL journals have been established to focus on research on teaching and learning. The focus of each is different, but each makes unique contributions to the evidence-base for making pedagogical decisions or reflecting on teaching and learning. The mission and scope, current article listing (if available), and link to receive updates for each journal are provided below.  Other new SoTL journals will be highlighted over time. Please email Jen Friberg ( if you are aware of new(er) SoTL journals that could be featured in a future blog!

Art History Pedagogy & Practice (mission and scope copied from AHP&P website)

Art History Pedagogy & Practice (AHPP) is a peer-reviewed, open-access e-journal dedicated to advancing teaching and learning in art history. The journal provides a forum for scholarly discourse that articulates and presents the range of pedagogical methods for learners in formal, informal, and virtual learning environments. Art History Pedagogy & Practice embraces multiple research models that examine the effectiveness of instructional strategies and technologies that build the skills, theories, concepts, and values necessary to art historical practice. Art History Pedagogy & Practice also fosters exchange between art history and allied fields including art and museum education, studio art and design, visual and material culture, and the digital humanities by considering the role of technology and the material object to enhance understanding and intellectual development.

AHP&P recently published their first issue, which included the following contributions:

Those interested in regular updates related to the work of AHP&P should register to join the journal’s email list.


Research & Practice in College Teaching (mission and scope copied from the journal’s website)

Research & Practice in College Teaching’s objective is to publish articles focused on promoting student learning. Articles should address themes around promoting effective practices in teaching and learning. The Journal reflects the breadth of the work in the scholarship of teaching and learning. We accept articles in the following categories.

  1. Data-Driven Studies
  2. Literature Reviews
  3. Case Studies

Research & Practice in College Teaching just published their second issue, which included the following contributions:

 Those interested in regular updates related to the work of this journal should register to join the journal’s email list.


Teaching and Learning in Communication Sciences & Disorders (mission and scope copied from the journal’s website)

Teaching and Learning in Communication Sciences & Disorders (TLCSD) publishes articles that reflect current and exemplary scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) research in speech-language pathology and audiology. Articles submitted to TLCSD may also reflect current trends in the format of SoTL work, including original research, quantitative or qualitative in nature, reflective essays and case studies, both grounded in the literature. Manuscripts related to teaching and learning in continuing education contexts as well as in higher education will be considered. We invite manuscripts which also fall within the umbrella of evidence-based education in CSD, including:

  • Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Research
  • Scholarly Teaching
  • Early Discoveries
  • Reflections on SoTL
  • Student Voices
  • Book Reviews: Two types of Book Reviews will be considered for publication:
    • Critical reviews of SoTL texts specific to speech-language pathology or audiologywhich examine academic and/or clinical applications to teaching and learning in CSD
    • Reviews of new (non-CSD)SoTL texts which critically examine content and describe possible applications to academic and/or clinical CSD teaching and learning.

TLCSD plans to publish their inaugural issue in late winter/early spring of 2017.

Those interested in regular updates related to the work of TLCSD should register to join the journal’s email list.

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Taking a Scholarly Approach to the New Academic Term

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

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-12-42-50-pmMany of us have are anticipating (or maybe already experiencing!) a new academic term. My fellow Redbirds have one more week before we are back in the classrooms of Illinois State University. Recent conversations with colleagues have revolved around course design/prep and general thoughts about the upcoming semester. I’m guessing this is the case at most colleges and universities.

For me, the weeks before a new term are always times of reflection and consideration. I ask myself questions like: What worked last time I taught this class? What didn’t work? How can I engage more students in a way that makes sense for my course and my course design? Again, I’m guessing that I’m not alone in pondering these topics. And, while we can choose answer these questions via SoTL inquiry, that isn’t always possible for a number of different reasons (resources, competing priorities, etc.). Thankfully, there is ample research on teaching and learning that we can apply to help answer these questions — we just have to access it!

The following resources each describe the evidence base for common beginning of the academic term issues: How do I construct a syllabus? How will my students best learn? What is the advantage of various grouping strategies for my students? What are “best” practices for the first day of class? Happy reading and have a great term!

The Center for Teaching and Vanderbilt University constructed a very useful webpage to highlight important, evidence-based considerations for syllabus construction, addressing questions such as:

  • What are the most important elements of a learner-centered course syllabus?
  • What is the relationship between syllabus construction and course design?
  • How can the tone of the syllabus impact learners?
  • What other resources are available to support faculty in constructing “good” syllabi?

Indiana University of Pennsylvania have gathered a reference list of “what to do on the first day of class,” with cross-disciplinary research and evidence from several different disciplines (e.g., sociology, psychology, calculus, English), as well.

Kathleen McKinney collated a sampling of things we know about learning from SoTL research, outlining findings from seminal texts in teaching and learning from the last decade.

Rick Reis from Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning offers suggestions — grounded in evidence — for establishing collaborative groups for students, and in so doing, offers pros and cons for random, instructor generated, self-selected, and mixed groups.


Public domain photo downloaded from:

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Thank you, Kathleen!

Written and compiled by current and past SoTL Scholar-Mentors at Illinois State University

Earlier this week, Kathleen McKinney posted a blog on this site, reflecting on what SoTL has meant to her. The timing of this blog was important, as it was posted at the start of Kathleen’s last week before retiring as the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University. The timing of today’s blog is equally important, as today is Kathleen’s last day of work at ISU before she retires. Several recent SoTL Scholar-Mentors could not let this day go by without letting Kathleen know that as much as SoTL has meant to her, she has meant a great deal to the SoTL movement on our campus and beyond.

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Kathleen has attributed her professional success to “advice, assistance, collaboration, and relationships.” She may have received those things from others during her career, but she has returned those same things in spades. Please indulge us today, as we acknowledge what Kathleen has meant to us, publicly and sincerely. She deserves it. Those of us passionate about SoTL at ISU know that she has been an amazing trailblazer, affecting change that has furthered the mission of our university. We gladly learn and teach at ISU, and we do that via systematic reflection and study — because of the work of Kathleen McKinney. We wish her the very best of luck going forward! Congratulations, Kathleen!

The people who transform our lives often show up in subtle ways and it is only with hindsight that we realize how fundamentally we have been impacted. When I first met Kathleen McKinney in 2008 I had no idea that I was gaining a research mentor, a skillful facilitator, a tireless role model, an impassioned advocate, and a lifelong friend. A quick review of my CV certainly delineates Kathleen’s influence with SoTL articles, awards, grants, conference presentations, service, and video documentaries all accomplished with her steady and inspiring collaboration. But the elements that can’t be itemized are even more important to me, as Kathleen has helped me define a significant approach to scholarship that has true meaning to my practice and to my sense of self. Thank you, Kathleen. My personal journey from media professional to academic scholar and teacher is profoundly more successful because of you.

-Maria Moore, Associate Professor & Mass Media Program Coordinator, School of Communication and 2014 SoTL Mentor


I vacillated on whether to use the present or past tense in this brief post about what Kathleen McKinney means to SoTL. In light of her recent retirement after a lifetime of scholarship and teaching, it would seem appropriate to use the past tense except for one significant factor. Her contributions endure, whether in written works, previous instruction or sheer inspiration and are very much a dynamic part of the academic community. Someone with greater acumen on grammatical matters (and that includes Kathleen herself) will hopefully forgive the messiness of verb tenses that follow. When I write that she was a most enthusiastic supporter of the scholarship of teaching and learning here at ISU, I also mean that her passion was infectious and still rejuvenates the lot of us who follow in her wake.

Kathleen’s bio reveals some of her many specific accomplishments, while the body of SoTL literature is replete with reference to those contributions. She is rooted in the field. And in my specific case, she is also embedded as a benefactor. When reflecting upon my varied experiences as a SoTL Scholar Mentor during 2014-15, a position that  fostered professional development as a researcher and teacher and amplified collaboration with colleagues across a multitude of disciplines, I remain wholeheartedly grateful for the role that Kathleen played in bringing me on board. Occupying the Office of the Cross Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning she was certainly more than a program administrator. She was a mentor’s mentor. It was Kathleen who flung open the doors to the SoTL community and guided my novice beginnings while shepherding or collaborating with others already heavily engaged in such work. Essentially it was Kathleen who—-through dedication, spirit and hard work—-exemplifies the mission and goals of SoTL itself, and continues to demonstrate its value to our university.

-Michaelene Cox, Associate Professor, Politics & Government and 2014-15 SoTL Scholar-Mentor


While on a tour of the CTLT during my campus interview, I noticed a small sticker on one of the office doors. It was for the ISU Equestrians and immediately I knew that I wanted to be involved with that organization. Little did I know what a profound impact it would have on my future work at Illinois State. When I arrived later that fall, I reached out to the faculty advisor, Dr. Kathleen McKinney.  We began working together as co-advisers for the ISU Equestrians, a registered student organization.  We soon began to discuss the personal and professional learning that we observed in the student members of the organization and my first SoTL project was born.

I had never done SoTL research before and working with Kathleen, with her incredible knowledge of and passion for SoTL, was inspiring.  We presented our findings at the CTLT Symposium, several conferences, and finally published it in the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. In the seven years I have been at ISU, I have engaged in a number of SoTL projects with the support of Kathleen. Through her never-ending encouragement and mentorship, not only did my own research agenda reflect my interest in SoTL, but I was afforded a number of opportunities to work with other faculty members on campus to develop their SoTL research as well.

It is for this reason, that while Kathleen will be greatly missed, her impact on this campus will continue through the support and guidance she has shown to so many. Thank you, Kathleen, for being an advocate for SoTL, an outstanding mentor, and wonderful friend.

-Erin Mikulec, Associate Professor, Teaching & Learning and 2015-16 SoTL Scholar-Mentor


In 2005, I came to ISU as both an excited teacher and a reluctant researcher. During my first year on campus, I attended an “Intro to SoTL” workshop led by Kathleen. It was the best 2 hours I’ve ever spent in terms of professional development. I left that workshop saying to myself, “THIS is what I want to do!” The rest is truly history.

In working as a SoTL Scholar-Mentor the last three years, I’ve mentored others while simultaneously being mentored by Kathleen. My work with her has deepened and broadened my interest of and knowledge about SoTL in numerous ways. She has tirelessly supported so many of us — building personal and professional relationships that will live on beyond Kathleen’s retirement. I am not sure how many late night emails and text messages we have exchanged in the last few years about various topics and projects, but I view them as tangible evidence of strong support that is so very appreciated.

Kathleen has demonstrated the best of teaching and learning as a SoTL mentor, and I am a better teacher and researcher because of her. I hope I can return the favor in the very near future in my work with SoTL researchers on campus and beyond. To that end, I celebrate Kathleen’s retirement with respect for her contributions and successes as well as a true excitement to continue and extend the work that she has done here at ISU. I embark on my journey as the next Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL tomorrow — ready for this role because of Kathleen. Thank you, my friend!

-Jen Friberg, Incoming Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL, Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and 2013-16 SoTL Scholar-Mentor


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What SoTL Has Meant to Me

Written by: Kathleen McKinney, Outgoing Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL, Illinois State University

On June 30, 2016, I will fully retire from Illinois State University as well as from the many roles I have played within various institutions, my discipline more broadly, professional organizations, formal and informal collaborations, and the field of SoTL.

Similar to many others, I will leave with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am ready to hand over the reins to the very competent and qualified Dr. Jennifer Friberg, the incoming Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University. I am ready to not be the ‘responsible one’ in terms of initiatives, budgets, planning, education, persuasion, development, grants, meetings, PR…related to SoTL on campus and, often, elsewhere. On the other hand, I will miss the “work” and, especially, the people. Thus, though officially retiring, I am beginning two collaborative SoTL writing projects that I will do without any official affiliation: an invited paper on what those in Psychology might learn from SoTL in Sociology (with Maxine Atkinson and Tyler Flockhart) and an edited book on Conducting and Applying SoTL Beyond the Individual Classroom (with Jennifer Friberg). Yes, it can be hard to completely let go of ones work and identity!!

In a brief blog post such as this, I can’t really begin to describe what SoTL has meant to me over the last 30 plus years or so but I would like to highlight seven areas of positive impact of SoTL on my life. Through this reflection, I am hoping blog readers will get a sense of the potential value of SoTL to their careers, their lives, their institutions, their discipline and their students, and be encouraged to increase their own involvement in SoTL now and in the future. I hope others will be as lucky and as blessed as I have been to have these amazing experiences, opportunities, and outcomes.

  1. Collaborations and Relationships, new and old, exciting and creative with colleagues, students, and administrators at my institution, in my discipline more broadly, at the Carnegie Foundation, and in ISSOTL and other organizations.
  2. Opportunities to make a positive difference (I hope) in teaching, learning, faculty careers, and students’ lives in my discipline and institution, and beyond.
  3. Chances to learn many new things about SoTL, teaching, learning, research, other disciplines, faculty development, and administration.
  4. Chances to work with amazing students on SoTL projects, in class, in the office, in student organizations, on others’ SoTL grants, and in the student voices movement of the SoTL field.
  5. Successes and achievements in a joyful career filled with meaning, status, advancement, choice, and autonomy… full of intrinsic rewards (and, yes, certainly some extrinsic ones as well).
  6. An identity, a self-image, a sense of who I am and who I want to be.
  7. Opportunities to travel in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia… and to network with others in other cities and nations who do, support, and share SoTL.

I want to conclude by thanking many people. I didn’t experience or achieve these things on my own; it was all about advice, assistance, collaboration, and relationships. With a few exceptions, I won’t name individual people as there are far too many and I would not want to miss anyone. But I am eternally grateful to the colleagues, staff, and students in these groups or networks:

  • Colleagues in the American Sociological Association especially the Teaching Learning/SoTL movement, the Section on Teaching and Learning, the other editors, reviewers and authors of Teaching Sociology, and the many sociology colleagues in SoTL around the globe. And a special thanks goes to Carla Howery…lost to us far too early.
  • Staff at The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching especially during its decade focus on and support of SoTL, as well as my cohort of Carnegie SoTL scholars.
  • Faculty, staff, students, and administrators at Illinois State University. And a special thanks goes to Robert Walsh…also gone far too ‘young’.
  • K. Patricia Cross for her insight and future thinking about higher education, as well as her support of the ISU Endowed Chair in SoTL.
  • Colleagues in the International Society of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

I look forward to working on my new SoTL writing projects, to hearing about future trends in SoTL, and to seeing the successes of other ‘SoTLlers’, in every discipline and around the globe, and their positive impact on teaching and learning in higher education. I urge readers to take advantage of the amazing challenges and opportunities of SoTL in their careers and lives!



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Getting Started in SoTL: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Annotated Literature Database

Written by: Nicola Simmons, Brock University

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) focuses on improving student learning through scholarly inquiry into teaching and learning practices. Scholars of teaching and learning come from all disciplines and often bring their disciplinary lenses to studying these processes. (For a wonderful overview about SoTL, please see

These postsecondary practitioners and researchers are not always familiar with the research literature about learning and may have no point of entry for their investigations (Weimer, 2010). A frequent challenge is finding ‘point of entry’ literature around a particular topic that will provide a starting point for further inquiry. In addition, it can be challenging to grasp the ongoing scholarly debates in literature with which one is not yet familiar. Further, as Christensen Hughes and Mighty (2010) note, “researchers have discovered much about teaching and learning in higher education, but … dissemination and uptake of this information have been limited. As such, the impact of educational research on faculty-teaching practice and the student-learning experience has been negligible” (p. 4). Disseminating teaching and learning research in ways that connect it to practice continues to be a challenge (Poole, 2009).

These assertions are supported by my own experiences: For many years I worked with faculty members on their SoTL projects, and now work with both colleagues and graduate students. These consultations made me realize that finding point-of-entry literature in a field not one’s own is both difficult and daunting.

The release of a new open-access website – – aims to address that challenge. The website compiles key literature on SoTL topics to support postsecondary scholars and students from across all disciplines to improve their practice or conduct research pertaining to these topics. Each entry comprises a topic heading, a brief overview of the topic, and a short list of annotated key literature, highlighting ongoing debates in the literature.

A SoTL resources page provides a number of websites, books, articles, and videos that provide excellent background for those engaging in SoTL. While both they and the annotations are geared towards those entering SoTL, feedback thus far has suggested that SoTL scholars at any stage will find the site a useful place to begin or extend their literature searches.

Want to get involved?

The website is a work in progress (you will see a limited number of entries have been completed – though a team of dedicated graduate students is working on more as I write). I invite you to not only use it, but to consider whether:

  • You could contribute an entry or two based on your work in progress
  • You could ask a graduate pedagogy class to contribute annotations for a class assignment

All entries will be attributed to the contributing author. Contact Nicola Simmons at Please see the annotation process tab for further details.


Christensen Hughes, J., & Mighty, J. (2010). Taking stock: Research on teaching and learning in higher education. Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Poole, G. (2009). The pursuit of the scholarship of teaching and learning in Canada: Good, but not good enough. Keynote presentation at the Canadian Society for Studies in Higher Education annual conference, Ottawa, Ontario, May 25-27.

Weimer, M. (2008). Positioning scholarly work on teaching and learning. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2(1).


Author Bio:

Nicola was the SoTL Canada Founding Chair and previously served as VP (Canada) for ISSoTL, VP (SoTL) for the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, and Chair of the Canadian Educational Developers Caucus. She is the author of the SoTL annotations website and the editor of a forthcoming special issue of New Directions for Teaching and Learning, “The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Canada: Institutional Impact (release summer 2016).

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SoTL as Women’s Work

Written by Kathleen McKinney, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL, Illinois State University

This post consists of edited excerpts from the following article:

McKinney, Kathleen and Chick, Nancy L. (2010) “SoTL as Women’s Work: What Do Existing Data Tell Us?,” International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Vol. 4: No. 2, Article 16.

In this essay on the field of SoTL, we reported on an exploratory, descriptive study of the levels of participation of men and women in various types of scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) activities. For the purposes of the study, we defined SoTL
as the evidence-informed study of teaching and learning by disciplinary specialists that is made public. Anecdotally, we had both noticed what appears to be disproportionate involvement of women in most SoTL activities. In addition, both of us have had other people express to us their curiosity about this apparent fact. Thus, in an exploratory and descriptive study, we looked at some existing data relevant to this issue. While we acknowledged that other factors (e.g., discipline, institutional context, and academic rank) may also affect participation in SoTL research and other activities, we focused on the gender of SoTL participants.

We considered various ideas in hypothesizing about our results: gender role socialization and structures and opportunities in disciplines and institutions (e.g., representation of women and men in various academic positions or institutions, discrimination, status and power). We expected the data to show a pattern of women being disproportionately involved in most SoTL opportunities relative to their actual representation among those who could participate in SoTL and other SoTL activities. More specifically, we believed that disproportionately larger percentages of women than men would be involved in self-selected SoTL activities, as well as in activities that are primarily self-selected but also involve some appointment or confirmation by others. We also believed the representation of men and women would be closer to proportional for the higher-status or higher-prestige SoTL opportunities that are primarily awarded or invited by others.

We began by finding existing data to help us estimate the representation of women and men with doctoral degrees and in various higher education academic faculty/staff positions in multiple nations as ‘baseline’ data. We then found and coded 25 other forms of existing data on the representation of women and men national and international SoTL activities. These activities included membership in a SoTL professional organization, holding leadership positions in SoTL organizations, presenting at a SoTL conference or event, serving on the editorial board for or publishing in a SoTL journal, and winning a SoTL award or being selected as a SoTL fellow or scholar.

Using that data, we found the following patterns:

  • Women are over-represented, relative to the numbers of men and women faculty/academic staff in higher education, in both ‘self-selected’ SoTL activities and in ‘primarily self-selected with other approval or confirmation’ activities.
  • The involvement of women and men was more representative to their numbers for activities in the ‘primarily invited, awarded, or selected by others’ SoTL category.

We noted the limitations to the research (it was a descriptive and exploratory look at the issue with some methodological weaknesses). Finally, we discussed some possible implications of these results for women and men, for the field of SoTL, and for the value and reward for SoTL. We wonder whether our findings would still hold today, many years after our existing data was found and coded. We welcome comments by blog readers on the full study and our ideas.