Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Illinois State University
We are nearing the end of the second year of the Certificate of Specialized Instruction in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CSI-SoTL) program at Illinois State University. This program was co-developed by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and the Graduate School at ISU to provide an opportunity for graduate students to learn about SoTL, specifically how it can be applied to solve teaching and learning problems as well as how SoTL projects are planned and executed. Graduate students with a strong interest in teaching at the college level following graduation were invited to participate. Nine students are currently enrolled in the CSI-SoTL program. They represent a broad range of disciplines and backgrounds:
- Six females, three males
- Five doctoral students representing the disciplines of English, Educational Administration and Foundations, Kinesiology and Recreation, and Special Education
- Four master’s students representing the disciplines of Business/Accounting, English, Sociology, and Psychology
- Six of the nine participants were involved in teaching within their discipline
The CSI-SoTL program features three distinct phases:
- Seminars: Participants in the CSI-SoTL program attend three workshops across the fall semester on the topics of SoTL & My Teaching and Learning, Asking SoTL Questions, and Executing a SoTL project.
- Mentored SoTL project planning: CSI-SoTL participants are paired with faculty from their own discipline (or one closely related) to plan a SoTL project. All students complete a “Project Planning Worksheet” to explore options for research questions, methodologies, dissemination outlets, etc. Students are encouraged to ask their mentors about their experiences with SoTL to learn more SoTL in their own discipline.
- Reflection: CSI-SoTL participants reflect on the processes in Phase 1 and Phase 2 by thoughtfully answering 10 reflection questions
Following the completion of Phase One, students were asked to evaluate their experiences across all three workshops they attended. Students indicated the following with quantitative data based on a Likert-type scale where 1=strongly disagree and 5=strongly agree:
|I was well informed about the objectives of each workshop in the series.||4.42||.30|
|I understand the difference between scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning.||4.75||.16|
|Workshop content was relevant to my role as a student.||4.13||.30|
|Workshop content was relevant to my role as a teacher.||4.6||.24|
|The content of these workshops stimulated my interest in teaching and learning.||4.63||.18|
|I am more likely to engage in scholarly teaching/learning as a result of my attendance at these workshops.||4.88||.13|
|I am more likely to engage in SoTL as a result of my attendance at these workshops.||4.75||.16|
When asked to describe the most valuable aspects of the Phase One workshops, students provided the following feedback:
- Discussions with researchers outside the field of my discipline helped to spur new considerations and facilitated the design of my project.
- Being able to develop my research question and bounce methodology ideas off other workshop participants was very valuable.
- The planning worksheet helped put things into perspective about what I could do and how I could do it.
- Opening up my understanding of what SoTL is was so appreciated. I knew nothing coming in and now I am equipped to learn more in this area.
- The introduction to SoTL as a discipline and the literature available within our disciplines was wonderful.
One suggestion was provided to improve Phase One, which dealt directly with the fact that students only plan a project as part of this program (the project is not executed). This participant suggested that some form of data collection or extensive literature review be integrated into the CSI-SoTL program as part of Phase One to engage students more completely in the research process.
At this point, CSI-SoTL participants are completing Phase Two of their program and are engaged with their mentors to flesh out a high-quality SoTL project. The entire program is expected to conclude by mid-April. At that point, data from both CSI-SoTL cohorts will be analyzed in-depth to help inform next steps for the CSI-SoTL program, though preliminary plans are in the works to offer the program a third time during the next academic year. One positive outcome from the current cohort of participants is that several students have indicated that they will integrate their SoTL projects (planned in this program) into their dissertation research. WaHoo!