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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Do we need to be “meta-theoretical” in our SoTL work?

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

In the most recent issue of Teaching and Learning Inquiry, authors Janice Miller-Young and Michelle Yeo propose a framework for considering SoTL which “attempts to broadly delineate the available learning theories underlying and methodologies appropriate to studying teaching and learning while remaining hospitable to a broad range of diverse disciplines” represented in contemporary SoTL work (Miller-Young & Yeo, 2015, p. 37). This is no small undertaking. The framework described in this paper is thorough and advocates for SoTL researchers to make explicit — in ways central and important to their discipline(s) — not only the methodologies used to make sense of data, but also the theoretical approaches that informed the research in the first place.

The argument for this “meta-theoretical” approach to SoTL, in my mind, is one of cohesion. There is no doubt that SoTL enjoys space under a big tent, with a wide array of approaches to SoTL available to choose from. That said, perhaps a more meta-theoretical approach to SoTL could help the work we do across and between disciplines as SoTL researchers to share a commonality other than a strong desire to understand teaching and learning more deeply. Explicit recognition of the theoretical characteristics unifying our SoTL work might not always be necessary, though I would argue (and in doing so, agree with Miller-Young and Yeo’s suggested framework) that it should at least be considered as part of the process of designing a SoTL project.

In their article, Miller-Young and Yeo identify four categories of learning theories that might be applicable across a variety of disciplines. These are summarized in the figure below.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 11.25.35 AM

Take a look at these categories of learning theories and consider your own SoTL work. Would your research questions, methodology, findings, and/or reflections be strengthened by framing your SoTL projects in a more meta-theoretical manner? If so, how? If not, why? As always, your comments and insights are welcome!
Blog Reference:

Miller-Young, J. & Yeo, M. (2015). Conceptualizing and communicating SoTL: A framework for the field. Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 3(2), 37-53.

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Threshold Concepts for Information Literacy as a Potential Support for Student SoTL Researchers

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

At ISETL last month, I had the good fortune to attend a session presented by Amelia Koford, Daniel Braaten, Collin Bost, and Mark Dribble (all representing Texas Lutheran University) titled, “How Threshold Concepts Help Students Think Like Researchers.” In this session, the audience was introduced to the Association of College & Research Libraries new Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education, a resource meant to guide students’ understanding of obtaining information while engaging in research. To this end, the Framework was established as a set of six threshold concepts (concepts that, when learned, create transformative learning experiences for students that change their perceptions and allow newer, broader, and deeper understanding of critical concepts).

While various, discipline-specific threshold concepts have been identified for learners, those presented within this Framework apply to a more cross-disciplinary audience and could potentially prove useful as a structure to support novice researchers in developing a focused understanding of the research process.

In SoTL communities, we have been talking about the need to increase the presence of student voices in SoTL research. Perhaps this Framework could be helpful in this endeavor? Consider the Framework’s threshold concepts and descriptions (excerpted entirely from the original source document):

Authority is Constructed and Contextual

“Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and   are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required. ”

Information Creation as a Process

“Information in any format is produced intentionally to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method. The iterative processes of research, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences.”

Information Has Value

“Information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world.”

Research as Inquiry

“Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field.”

Scholarship as Conversation

“Communities of scholars, researcher, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations.”

Searching as Strategic Exploration

“Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a broad range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding is developed.”

Arguably, each of these threshold concepts can be directly applied to SoTL research in a broad manner including a variety of approaches and representations across disciplines. With that in mind, I am curious. If we agree that these threshold concepts can apply to SoTL, how do we/should we help our student SoTL researchers understand these threshold concepts? How did we, as SoTL researchers, internalize these concepts and how can we best model these ideals? Please consider sharing your input in the comment area below to start a discussion on these topics!

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The “Big Tent:” Benefits and Limitations

Written by: Kathleen McKinney, Cross Chair in SoTL at ISU

There have been many discussions in writings and at conferences about the “big tent” of SoTL since Huber and Hutchings coined the term in 2005. They with Ciccone (2011, pg. 9) argued there are “narrow constructionists” who stress how SoTL is, presumably in form, closely related to traditional academic research (with some allowances for practioner, local inquiry). Then there are “broad constructionists” or “big tent advocates” who have a view of SoTL as including much more than a form of academic research into our students’ learning. Rather, in their big tent view, SoTL covers “a wider range of work (documentation, reflection, inquiry) in greater or lesser degrees of polish, made public in forums with nearer or farther reach.” They also argue that the former is valued as research while the latter is valued as research and teaching, and is, thus, “more hospitable to teachers who want to participate if only occasionally or in modest ways.”

As many others, I think the “big tent” image is a wonderful one. I also think the concept is, of course, a continuum, not either–or. In addition, the big tent is, as those authors hint at, about more than whether SoTL falls on the research or teaching side of the academic reward system. It is also about the questions we consider, how we do the work, and how we share the work. Thus, the concept is about multiple continuums of narrow to broad.

Our definition of SoTL at Illinois State University is ‘the systematic reflection/study of teaching and learning (of our ISU students) made public.’ Thus we support the big tent, allowing for various types of reflection as well as more formal studies. The work should be made public but that is defined broadly in terms of location, product, venue and so on. We have always wanted to encourage and support SoTL in and across all disciplines, acknowledging differences in definitions, methods, and ways of sharing the scholarship on teaching and learning. Given the diversity of SoTL scholars in terms of discipline, training, institutional type and culture, interests, and nationality, the big tent –to a certain degree –makes good sense.

But, is it possible to go too far with this concept? I believe we can and sometimes do. I think the distinctions made by many (Pat Hutchings originally, I believe) among good teaching, scholarly teaching, and SoTL are valid. Good teaching and scholarly teaching are critically important but not the same as SoTL. I think SoTL is not doing our jobs as teachers. Nor is it traditional educational research or research on faculty development. I think the three biggest assets of SoTL are that it is work done by the practioner, evidence-based (broadly defined), and public (broadly defined). If SoTL becomes everything, it is nothing. We need a big SoTL tent but we need one whose span of fabric is not stretched so far that it collapses. We need a tent with flaps that open and close freely but still offer some differentiation or protection from the outside weather.

Huber, M. T. and Hutchings, P. 2005. The Advancement of Learning: Building the Teaching Commons. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hutchings, P., Huber, M. T., and Ciccone, A. 2011. The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Institutional Integration and Impact. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.