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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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.



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A Bit of History of Centralized Support for SoTL at One Institution

Written by Kathleen McKinney, Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), Illinois State University

This blog post is an effort to reconstruct the history of centralized support for the scholarship of teaching and learning at one public institution: Illinois State University. Of course, there may also have been support for such practioner research on student learning at the college, department, or discipline levels but the focus of this blog post is on support at the University level. I urge readers of this blog to consider the history of SoTL support on their campuses and to think about ways to increase or improve such support. (See August 3, 2015 post to this blog, “Become a Social Change Agent for SoTL”)

After offering a University-wide teaching workshop for graduate students for five years starting in 1990, in July of 1996 we opened the Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) at Illinois State University. Though the focus of this unit was on supporting exemplary teaching practices on campus to improve student learning, the center also moved quickly to support SoTL research and related efforts on campus. At this same time, in terms of other services and faculty development related to teaching and SoTL, there was a separate unit called Faculty Technology Support (FTS) and the precursor to the present day University Assessment Services, both of which also involved a small amount of indirect, centralized support for teaching and SoTL.

In 1998, CAT organized and sponsored the first annual ISU Teaching Symposium held in October. We had, maybe, 80 people attend or present that first year. Much of the work presented was teaching tips or scholarly teaching but a small was more formal SoTL. This event, of course, has evolved over the years into the amazing campus event we have now –the January ISU Teaching-Learning Symposium held in the uptown Normal Marriott with an external keynote speaker and usually about 400 people registered!

In 1998, we also began our work–lasting over a decade until 2012– with the, now defunct, American Association of Higher Education (AAHE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, working on teaching-learning issues, faculty development, and on the scholarship of teaching and learning. ISU became one of 12 institutional leaders around the US and Canada in one phase of this work (2003-2006) and was very involved in all phases of this institutional SoTL initiative. Some of that work and products are documented at

At CAT, over the years, we offered and supported many teaching support initiatives but, also, supported scholarly teaching and SoTL via consulting on projects, a library, the symposium, an occasional internal publication for making local SoTL public, and an early version of a SoTL small grant program. In about 2006, CAT was combined with Faculty Technology Support (FTS) to form the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT). CTLT continues to support outstanding teaching practices, scholarly teaching, and to a lesser degree, SoTL.

In 2002, Dr. K. Patricia Cross provided a gift to Illinois State University to endow a University Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. The Provost created the Office of the Cross Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. CTLT continued(s) to offer some support for SoTL but most centralized SoTL support comes from the Office of the Endowed Chair. In 2003-2004, the Endowed Chair in SoTL was selected as a Carnegie Foundation SoTL scholar and was able to spend time in residence at Carnegie working on a SoTL project and bring back what she learned to campus. A wide range of SoTL support has been offered through the Office of the Endowed Chair over the last fourteen years including, for example, workshops on doing SoTL, consulting, SoTL books, this blog, grants to travel to present SoTL projects, SoTL university research grants, an internal SoTL publication, a university-wide SoTL award, a newsletter and web page with resources, incentives for sharing SoTL projects external to the campus, a faculty SoTL Scholar-Mentor program, teaching graduate students about SoTL, and much more.

We continue to offer such support today (! What is your institution doing to support SoTL to enhance student learning and development on your campus and in your discipline? What more could be done?




Application of SoTL: Strategies to Encourage Metacognition in the Classroom

Written by Jen Friberg, SoTL Scholar-Mentor, Illinois State University

Metacog pic

Recently, I have been doing a good deal of reading about various evidence-based strategies to teach for metacognitive understanding in my graduate and undergraduate courses, knowing that when students are explicitly “thinking about their thinking,” they have the capacity to learn more, extend learning beyond the classroom, and integrate information across contexts more easily.

In 2012, Kimberly Tanner published a paper titled: Promoting Student Metacognition. Within this paper, Tanner reviews strategies for explicit teaching of metacognitive strategies to build a culture of “thinking about thinking” within her biology classes. She posits that thinking like a professional requires students to be metacognitive, making teaching about thinking arguably as important as teaching specific course content.

In terms of specific strategies, Tanner provides “sample self-questions to promote student metacognition about learning” (p. 115). She categorizes these into three categories (planning, monitoring, and evaluation) across four specific contexts (class session, active learning task/homework assignment, quiz/exam, and overall course) for a total of 51 specific questions that students can ask themselves to evaluate their learning processes. These include:

  • What resources do I need to complete the task at hand? How will I make sure I have them?
  • What do I most want to learn in this course?
  • Can I distinguish important information from details? If not, how will I figure this out?
  • To what extent am I taking advantage of all the learning supports available to me?
  • Which of my confusions have I clarified? How was I able to get them clarified?
  • How did the ideas of today’s class session relate to previous class sessions?
  • What have I learned about how I learn in this course that I could use in my future courses? In my career?

The utility of providing these questions to students for their use is undeniable, but we cannot be certain that students will take the opportunity to become more metacognitive on their own. Tanner advocates for sharing these questions with students AND embedding them into existing assignments and learning opportunities to build a habit of reflection, which can lead to more routine thinking about learning.

It is with a more explicit intention to directly encourage metacognitive thought that Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison wrote the text Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding and Independence for All Learners in 2011. Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison advocate for having students think about their own thinking through the implementation of thinking routines to make thinking more “visible” as part of the learning process. The suggest different levels of routines to drive different sorts of thinking: introducing/exploring ideas, synthesizing/organizing ideas, and digging deeper into ideas. All in all, 21 different strategies for classroom use are described, including:

  • See-Think-Wonder (p. 55): A strategy for introducing and exploring information that has students asking themselves three questions when observing a new object/artifact — What do you see? What do you think is going on? What does it make you wonder?
  • Connect-Extend-Challenge (p. 132): A strategy for encouraging synthesis and organization of ideas that asks student to consider what they have just read/seen/heard, then ask themselves: how are the ideas and information presented connected to what you already knew? what new ideas did you get that extended or broadened your thinking in new directions? What challenges or puzzles have come up in your mind from the ideas and information presented?
  • Circle of Viewpoints (p. 171): A strategy to digger deeper into ideas that requires students to consider different perspectives that could be present of affected by a given topic by considering the following: 1) I am thinking of [name of the event/issue] from ______ point of view, 2) I think [describe topic form your viewpoint] because _______, and 3) A question/concern I have from this viewpoint is ________ .

Do you think these strategies could be useful in your teaching context? When working with your students in academic, clinical, or outside the classroom/clinic situations, what strategies are you using to encourage metacognition? Have you studied these strategies in any way? We’d love to hear more in the comments below!

Blog References:

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making thinking visible: How to promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all learners. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.

Tanner, K. D. (2012). Promoting student metacognition. CBE – Life Sciences Education, 11, 113-120.

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Awardee Announced for the 2015-16 Dr. John Chizmar & Dr. Anthony Ostrosky Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award

Dr. Jennifer Friberg (Ed.D., Illinois State University), an Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) at Illinois State University, is the 2015-16 recipient of the Dr. John Chizmar & Dr. Anthony Ostrosky Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award. She teaches in the area of speech-language pathology, and has published SoTL research based on her experiences with students on topics such as student engagement, diagnostic decision making, and the impact of cross-curricular integration. This SoTL research has been presented at international SoTL conferences such as ISSOTL and EuroSoTL and published in journals such as Perspectives on Issues in Higher Education and Contemporary Issues in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Along with three colleagues from CSD, Friberg was an inaugural recipient of the “Walk the Talk” Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) award at ISU.


Friberg has served as a SoTL Scholar-Mentor at ISU for three years, working closely with the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL to mentor faculty and students in conducting teaching and learning research, deliver numerous SoTL-focused workshops, develop and edit The SoTL Advocate blog, and present original SoTL work locally, nationally, and internationally. She has served as a co-editor for Evidence-Based Education Briefs and is an editor of Gauisus, the internal SoTL publication at ISU.

Friberg has been a strong advocate for SoTL, co-authoring a position statement on SoTL in her discipline, co-founding a disciplinary SoTL journal, and co-authoring the first-ever text on SoTL in communication sciences and disorders: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology: Evidence-Based Education. She has served as the chair of the SoTL Committee for the Council of Academic Programs in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and was the four-year national chair of Issues in Higher Education, a special interest group focused on SoTL within the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. She is a current member of the Advocacy & Outreach committee for the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

Additional information related to the Dr. John Chizmar and Dr. Anthony Ostrosky SoTL Award can be found here or by emailing Kathleen McKinney at for additional details.

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Winter Break News & Opportunities for Feedback

The SoTL Advocate is officially on winter break! We will return with weekly posts, beginning January 11, 2016. The editors of this blog would like to wish you all a wonderful, restful winter break and a happy and very productive 2016.

Perhaps as you have some reflective moments during winter break, you might:

  1. Suggest an idea or two for future blogs/blog topics in the comments below. Let us know what content you’d like to see here on The SoTL Advocate in the new year!
  2. Author a 500-800 word blog post, describing:
    • a SoTL project you’re considering or implementing
    • a reflection on SoTL and it’s role at your university, in your discipline, or as a global effort
    • resources to support the application of SoTL for scholarly teaching

Please feel free to email Kathleen McKinney ( or Jen Friberg ( with any questions about blog content or contributions.

Thank you for your readership this year! See you in 2016!

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“Brushing Up” on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A Sample of Books

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

Though many SoTL projects are discipline-specific, local, and context-specific, there are general book resources available related to SoTL. These include books on designing/doing SoTL, examples of SoTL projects, SoTL in the disciplines or related to teaching specific topics, and issues in the field of SoTL. Most of these books are useful to those in any discipline.

Are you new to SoTL? Are you a more experienced ‘SoTLer’ but looking to expand your knowledge of the field? Are you a faculty developer who helps others do SoTL? If any of these apply to you, perhaps you will find one or more of the following books useful. This list is a sample of books about SoTL or reporting on SoTL and published in the last 15 years. Happy reading!

General or Issue-Specific “How To Do” SoTL Books:

  • Bishop-Clark, C., & Dietz-Uhler, B. (2012). Engaging in the scholarship of teaching and learning: A guide to the process, and how to develop a project from start to finish. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
  • Gurung, R. A. R., & Schwartz, B. M. (2009). Optimizing teaching and learning: Practicing pedagogical research. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Gurung, R. A. R., & Wilson, J. H. (Eds.). (2013). Doing the scholarship of teaching and learning: Measuring systematic changes to teaching and improvements in learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Hutchings, P. (2002). Ethics of inquiry: Issues in the scholarship of teaching and learning. Menlo Park, CA: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
  • McKinney, K. (2007). Enhancing learning through the scholarship of teaching and learning: The challenges and joys of juggling. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Werder, C., & Otis, M. M. (Eds.). (2010). Engaging student voices in the study of teaching and learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

SoTL in a/the Discipline(s) or Related to a Topic Area:

  • Dewar, J. M., & Bennett, C. D. (Eds.). (2015). Doing the scholarship of teaching and learning in mathematics. Washington, DC: Mathematical Association of America.
  • Ferrett, T. A., Geelan, D. R., Schlegel, W. M., & Stewart, J. L. (Eds.) (2013). Connected Science: Strategies for Integrative Learning in College. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Ginsberg, S., Friberg, J., & Visconti, C. (2012). Scholarship of Teaching and learning in speech-language and audiology: Evidence-based education. San Diego: Plural Publishing.
  • Huber, M. T., & Morreale, S. P. (Eds.). (2002). Disciplinary styles in the scholarship of teaching and learning: Exploring common ground. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.
  • Manarin, K., Carey, M., Rathburn, M., & Ryland, G. (2015). Critical Reading in Higher Education: Academic Goals and Social Engagement. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Mashek, D. J., & Hammer, E. Y. (Eds.). (2011). Empirical research in teaching and learning: Contributions from social psychology. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • McKinney, K. (Ed.). (2013). The scholarship of teaching and learning in and across disciplines. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Smith, M. B., Nowacek, R. S., & Bernstein, J. L. (Eds.) (2010). Citizenship Across the Curriculum. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Tinberg, H. & Weisberger, R. (2013). Teaching, Learning, and the Holocaust: An Integrative Approach. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

SoTL Support and/or Impact:

  • Becker, W. E., & Andrews, M. L. (Eds.). (2004). The scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education: Contributions of research universities. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Cambridge, B. L. (Ed.). (2004). Campus progress: Supporting the scholarship of teaching and learning. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.
  • Huber, M. T., & Hutchings, P. (2005). The advancement of learning: Building the teaching commons. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Hutchings, P., Huber, M. T., & Ciccone, A. (2011). The scholarship of teaching and learning reconsidered: Institutional integration and impact. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Kreber, C. (2013). Authenticity in and through teaching in higher education: The transformative potential of the scholarship of teaching. London; New York: Routledge.
  • Weimer, M. (2006). Enhancing scholarly work on teaching and learning: Professional literature that makes a difference. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Is SoTL ‘Less Rigorous’ or Simply ‘Different’ than Other Research?

By Kathleen McKinney, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL, Illinois State University

Often when I am facilitating workshops on designing, conducting, and sharing scholarship of teaching and learning empirical projects, I am questioned about the methodological rigor of SoTL research. Such questions are usually from participants in disciplines that emphasize quantitative research and/or experimental methodologies and/or large sample sizes and/or the use of known and tested instruments in their disciplinary research. Sometimes they are traditional educational researchers using such techniques often in K-12 settings. They are concerned, understandably, with reliability, internal validity, and external validity of SoTL studies.

Of course, there is SoTL research that uses quantitative research or experiments or instruments with known statistical characteristics or large samples. These SoTL studies, however, are atypical rather than the norm. And those of us who do SoTL are concerned with rigor, and with reliability and validity. But, we may think about these issues somewhat differently or emphasize other aspects of our projects over the traditional view of these methodological standards. I also believe, however, that there is overlap in how SoTL researchers and other researchers attempt to enhance reliability and validity.

Usually, reliability is defined as consistency, that is, the extent to which a measurement instrument or other tool yields essentially the same result when used more than once. Of course, this assumes no real change has taken place in what is being measured. Thus, as a hypothetical example, if you have an instrument to measure a student’s ability to engage in metacognition and they score in the ‘medium-high range’, when you give that student the same measure two weeks later, they should still score in the ‘medium-high range’ (assuming nothing happened that actually significantly decreased or increased this ability).

Internal validity is the degree to which a measure actually measures what it is supposed to or claims to measure. Thus, for example, if you have a measure to assess the quality of a student’s analysis of historical text, the measure should in fact be measuring the quality of that historical analysis and this should be demonstrated in a variety of ways (e.g., face, construct, criterion validity). The measure should not be measuring something else such as the student’s ability to write well or to tell a good story or to think critically (though those may correlate or overlap to some degree with your measure if they are related to or part of your construct of historical analysis). Internal validity also has a meaning in experimental designs in terms of the quality of the manipulations, measures, and design to give us clear results related to cause and effect; ruling out confounding factors and alternative explanations of the results.

External validity deals with the extent to which we can legitimately generalize the results of our study beyond that study. If our study was replicated or adapted, would the same results be found? We may want or be expected to have our results generalize to other contexts or situations, samples, measures of variables, etc. To what extent, for instance, does our finding that the use of reflective learning logs enhances student learning in our sociology senior capstone class generalize to other classes or students or disciplines or institutions?

There are two answers (at least) to the questions about SoTL lacking rigor in terms of reliability, and internal and external validity. The first answer is that SoTL does concern itself with these traditional methodological standards. We, similar to many other researchers in different fields, attempt to strengthen these qualities of our research by doing the following:

  • building on prior research,
  • using theory to guide our work,
  • using established reliable and valid measures if they exist for our constructs or variables,
  • making use of multiple measures of the same concept or behavior or outcome we are studying,
  • making use of multiple methods (often both qualitative and quantitative) so as to triangulate our results,
  • engaging and honoring student voices in our SoTL projects in terms of both their descriptive data and as members of our research teams,
  • replicating others’ and our own SoTL research, and
  • seeing a single SoTL study as only one piece of a large and complex puzzle in a long-term, multi-study SoTL research agenda.

The second answer to such questions, especially to the concern about external validity or generalizability, is to remind others that SoTL is a special type of research and scholarly activity. SoTL is applied, action, practitioner research. The purposes are to learn about or teaching and, more so, our students’ learning and other outcomes in our classes and programs. And to use what we learn to enhance the learning and development of those and future students. Because of these purposes, SoTL is context-specific in terms of the specific students or tasks, the learning we are attempting to measure, or the discipline, program or institution.

I argue, then, that SoTL research does not inherently lack rigor. It is not, by definition, ‘weaker’ than other research. It is just a little different!