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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A Preliminary Look at Year 2 of the CSI-SoTL Program at ISU

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

STATE_YourLearningWe 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

Mean SD
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!

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First CSI-SoTL Student Cohort Earns Certificates

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

CSI-SOTL reception photo

Last Thursday, April 13, 2017, eleven ISU students were recognized at a reception for completing the Certificate of Specialized Instruction in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CSI-SoTL). Representing ten disciplines and four colleges, these students earned this certificate by completing three program phases:

  • In Phase 1, students attended a series of three workshops in the fall of 2016 to learn about SoTL and scholarly teaching (SoTL and My Teaching and Learning, Planning a SoTL Project A, and Planning a SoTL Project B).
  • Phase 2 engaged students in a 1:1 mentoring experience with a disciplinary faculty mentor who had experience in SoTL. Students and their mentors designed a SoTL research project focused on a teaching/learning question identified by the student, problem-solving methodological issues, human subjects research considerations, and possible audiences for their SoTL work. While students were not required to conduct the SoTL project they planned, each student left Phase 2 with a blueprint to complete this project in the future.
  • Phase 3 consisted of individual, written reflection on SoTL, scholarly teaching and learning, the CSI-SoTL program, and the mentor/mentorship process.

The CSI-SoTL program was co-developed and co-sponsored by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and the Graduate School at ISU. Both units would like to acknowledge both the students who earned their CSI-SoTL certificates as well as their faculty mentors, who volunteered their time and expertise to support their mentees this semester:

Taylor Bauer, COM (Mentor: Dr. Maria Moore, COM)

Olga Cochran, ENG (Mentor: Dr. Susan Burt, ENG)

Patricia Huete, SOC (Mentor: Dr. Frank Beck, SOC)

Matt Johnson, CHE (Mentor: Dr. Jean Sawyer, CSD)

Elizabeth Jones, ENG (Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Friberg, Cross Chair)

Jillian Joyce, COM (Mentor: Dr. Cheri Simonds, COM)

Theo Nzaranyimana, AGR (Mentor: Dr. Rob Rhykerd, AGR)

Mijan Rahman, ENG (Mentor: Dr. Susan Hildebrandt, LLC)

Lauralyn Randles, SED (Mentor: Dr. Olaya Landa-Vialard, SED)

Joe Rice, POL (Mentor: Dr. Michaelene Cox, POL)

Raj Sankaranarayanan, TEC (Mentor: Dr. Anu Gohkale, TEC)

Congratulations to all CSI-SoTL participants!

For additional information regarding the CSI-SoTL program, email Jen Friberg (Cross Chair in SoTL, jfribe@ilstu.edu) or Amy Hurd (Director of Graduate Studies, arhurd@ilstu.edu). 


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Reflecting on Phase One of ISU’s New CSI-SoTL Program

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

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 10.18.48 PMEarlier this year, I wrote a blog describing the Certificate of Specialized Instruction in SoTL (CSI-SoTL) program I co-developed in concert with my colleague, Amy Hurd, Director of the Graduate School at Illinois State University. Amy was interested in developing certificate or badging programs in various areas of focus for ISU’s graduate students; I was interested in developing a long-term effort to engage graduate students in the pursuit of scholarly teaching and engagement in the scholarship of teaching and learning. Thankfully, a collaboration was timely for both of us and the CSI-SoTL program emerged.

Quite honestly, Amy and I were unsure what type of interest students would have in our CSI-SoTL program. We created marketing flyers and sent information describing the program to all graduate students at ISU. Students with “a strong interested in teaching at the college/university level following graduation” were encouraged to participate. No stipends or course credit were offered as “carrots.” Rather, we hoped that students truly interested in learning about SoTL would join the program. Our goal was 10 participants; 13 enrolled. The breakdown of participants was as follows:

  • 7 males, 6 females
  • 8 doctoral students, 5 Master’s students
  • 12/13 students were involved in teaching within their discipline
  • Representation from the following disciplines (n): sociology (1), communication (2), English (3), politics and government (1), information technology (1), special education (2), economics (1), chemistry (1), and agriculture (1)

As conceptualized, the CSI-SoTL program was developed to help graduate students understand the purpose, definition and applications of SoTL to support current and future teaching, learning, and research efforts. Students enrolled in the CSI-SoTL program just completed the first of three phases:

  1. A three-workshop series on the topics of SoTL and My Teaching and Learning, Methods for SoTL, and Sharing My SoTL Work (October-December, 2016)
  2. Developing a SoTL project in consultation with a faculty SoTL research mentor (January-March, 2017)
  3. Systematic reflection during and after completion of workshops and project planning (Completed in April 2017)

Following the completion of Phase One, students were asked to evaluate their experiences across all three workshops the attended. Students indicated the following with quantitative data based on a Likert-type scale where 1=strongly disagree and 5=strongly agree:

Mean SD
I was well informed about the objectives of each workshop in the series. 4.53 .52
I understand the difference between scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning. 4.62 .51
Workshop content was relevant to my role as a student. 4.54 .66
Workshop content was relevant to my role as a teacher. 4.62 .51
The content of these workshops stimulated my interest in teaching and learning. 4.62 .51
I am more likely to engage in scholarly teaching/learning as a result of my attendance at these workshops. 4.85 .38
I am more likely to engage in SoTL as a result of my attendance at these workshops. 4.85 .38

When asked to describe the most valuable aspects of the Phase One workshops, students provided the following feedback:

  • I really enjoyed learning about what SoTL is and how it’s different from just “good teaching” and “scholarly teaching.” I also appreciated the resources that were provided.
  • The most valuable aspect was the feedback from fellow members of the group. The ability to discuss your questions or concerns with a receptive, intelligent audience helped me grow in my pursuits.
  • Getting to know other people’s SoTL research ideas.
  • In-depth discussion of research interests/questions.
  • Facilitator catered information to each participant’s disciplinary background, which helped to incorporate a diversity of opinions.
  • I view these workshops as a crucial step toward effective pedagogy. All graduate teaching assistants could benefit from this certification training.
  • First session was very educational and made me wish I had learned this was a field sooner.

Students offered the following suggestions to improve Phase One:

  • It would be great to send an email out in advance outlining specifically what we’ll be covering in each section.
  • The workshops were great. The only interesting addition might be an online discussion between workshops to talk with one another.
  • I feel like they could be longer! More work time together to bounce ideas off one another.
  • Could have some materials included and distributed before meeting every session like pre-memo email with articles and links.
  • Have homework.
  • More workshops! Perhaps have this as a for-credit class.

So, what to do with all this information? Plan for next year’s CSI-SoTL program!! While I am not sure that we will offer this program for course credit in the future, Amy and I will chat about ways to integrate students’ feedback to create a better experience for the next group of enrollees. I am already planning to integrate more “out of class” work and am intrigued by having an online discussion group for “in between” workshop queries, reflections, etc.

What is to come for this year’s CSI-SoTL participants in Phases Two and Three? I am in the process of matching each student with a faculty mentor with SoTL experience from their own discipline to plan a SoTL project. Together, each student-mentor pair will develop a detailed plan for a SoTL research project including research questions, methods, ethical considerations, and dissemination outlets. Students will share their projects with each other at an end-of-program event where they will be awarded their certificate for completing the CSI-SoTL program.