Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Illinois State University
Last fall, my son was struggling to complete a two-mile run in the required time frame to qualify for his high school’s varsity soccer team. Despite having met all other requirements, a nagging injury was making this last skill particularly difficult. On his third try, he was able to cross the finish line under the required time period…thankfully! Evidently, as he ran, my son channeled Sponge Bob*, chanting “focus on the road…there is nothing but the road” to concentrate on each step he took until his task was accomplished. In this case, a singular focus was appropriate and successful.
Why do I share this story about my son? Last week, I had a long conversation with a former colleague about SoTL advocacy. This colleague suggested that the only necessary advocacy for SoTL on a college campus involved provision of financial support for faculty SoTL research and associated travel. She went on to say that it was the role of individual faculty members to advocate for their SoTL research and to choose to involve (or not involve) students in these endeavors. Her assertion was that my role as a campus advocate for SoTL was so one-dimensional immediately reminded me of my son’s Sponge Bob quote. My colleague clearly believed that for SoTL advocacy, the focus should be only on the road (research support). I would argue there is much more to attend to!
In my view, SoTL advocacy is complex and is necessarily deep and broad, involving a variety of stakeholders across a host of contexts. In July, I questioned whether the 4M framework could support SoTL advocacy. As I prepared my internal FY17 report for my institution’s administration, I’ve listed the accomplishments of my office as aligned with the major objectives that were set a year ago. Additionally, I’ve assessed successes in advocating for SoTL in at the micro, meso, macro, and mega levels. Though this was not a requirement of my institutional review, I felt there might be benefit in understanding which levels might need more support, moving forward. A few strategies that I’ve employed this year in each area of the 4M framework are described below:
|· Designed leveled SoTL workshops for faculty (Intro series and “master” classes for those with SoTL experience.
· Co-created a certificate program for graduate students to learn about SoTL and plan a SoTL project with a disciplinary mentor.
|· Developed a mechanism to provide annual reports to college Deans and department/school directors to outline SoTL involvement and productivity for faculty and students.||· Provided travel funds for 14 faculty to attend twelve different national/international research conferences to present their SoTL research.
· Provided support for two new disciplinary SoTL journals.
|· Provided consultations to two departments, detailing efforts to increase visibility of SoTL on campus and acceptance of SoTL for promotion and tenure.||· Utilized ISU’s SoTL Resource group to aid in strategic planning, workshop topic identification, and advocacy priorities.|
Looking at my activities since July, I can now fully appreciate the perspective slotting each into micro, meso, macro, or mega categories allows. I feel as though I have been most effective at providing support for SoTL on the micro, macro, and mega levels; however, I noted that there is likely more for my office to do at the meso level. This information is important and has aided in setting goals for my office for FY18 — and would have been missed in the planning process without this extra analysis. Overall, this process helped me answer my question from July – yes, the 4M framework can be helpful in considering many aspects of SoTL advocacy. I would now argue that it can help plan AND assess advocacy efforts with an eye towards identification of opportunities for improvement.
Reflecting on needs and accomplishments has helped me draft major FY18 objectives for my office. While I may tinker a bit before these are finalized, I envision the following as the focus of the coming fiscal year:
- Harness social media and other web-based platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, SoTL Advocate blog, Cross Chair website) to promote SoTL and provide resources for ISU faculty, staff, students, and administration.
- Support the design, completion, and dissemination of SoTL work by ISU faculty, staff, and students.
- Engage in internal and external collaborations to increase the visibility of and acceptance for SoTL at ISU and beyond.
- Increase involvement in SoTL nationally and internationally by members of the ISU community.
This process had led me to wonder how others how others engage in assessment of their SoTL advocacy efforts. Are there other models or frameworks being used? What are the metrics you use to determine successful advocacy or to anticipate needs for the future?
*Screen shot taken from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0fORGwg45M. While I am not a fan of Sponge Bob, I was happy to see that my son’s television viewing when he was younger was actually useful to him at a later age!