The SoTL Advocate

Supporting efforts to make public the reflection and study of teaching and learning at Illinois State University and beyond…


Leave a comment

Musings on SoTL Peer Mentorship

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

pointRecently, I worked with faculty at Bradley University to develop a framework for and guidance in SoTL peer mentoring. Bradley is working diligently to increase engagement in SoTL and have adopted a “grow their own” approach to this effort, selecting faculty who have been SoTL-productive to mentor other faculty members interested in becoming SoTL scholars. The process of preparing for this undertaking led me to (over time) merge my anecdotal experiences as a SoTL mentor with evidence about peer mentoring (in and out of SoTL). I’ve tried to organize some of these reflections below:

  • In preparing my session, I looked toward existing research on peer mentorship in SoTL, finding little. One study I did find was from Hubbal, Clark, and Poole (2010), who analyzed ten years of data on SoTL mentoring to identify three critical practices of SoTL mentors : modeling of SoTL productivity, facilitation of mentees’ SoTL research, and engagement in SoTL networking with other SoTL scholars. In terms of my SoTL mentee/mentor experiences, I think the last practice, that of connecting mentees with other SoTL scholars, is critical and often neglected. Introducing novice SoTL scholars to the “commons” of SoTL has the potential to sustain interest, broaden perspectives, and increase engagement in the SoTL movement as a whole.
  • Often times, when I do “intro” workshops to explain SoTL to new students and faculty, there is a perception that SoTL research is very different from disciplinary research. I always explain that while it can be, it really isn’t in many ways! Similarly, I have found that faculty who have extensive disciplinary experience mentoring students and peers struggle to understand that SoTL mentorship really isn’t all that different. The same practices applied to a differently-focused research project can be very successful in helping a novice SoTL researcher gain confidence in conducting research on teaching and learning.
  • Zellers, Howard, and Barcic (2008) found that benefits to mentees engaged in mentorship programs included assimilation to campus culture, higher career satisfaction, higher rate of promotion, and increased motivation to mentor others. While this work was not focused on SoTL, I can easily see how the same tenets might apply to research on teaching and learning, as well. In terms of SoTL research, I’d add that benefits could include opportunities for assimilation to SoTL culture at and beyond the single institutional level as well as the chance to work with mentors and faculty across varied fields of study in a way that isn’t always customary in disciplinary research.
  • Clutterbuck and Lane (2016, xvi) state “to some extent the definition of mentoring does not matter greatly, if those in the role of mentor and mentee have a clear and mutual understanding of what is expected of them and what they should, in turn, expect of their mentoring partner.” This is so true! The most successful peer mentoring relationships I’ve witnesses have strong foundations in clear and regular communication of expectations, progress, bottlenecks, etc.
  • I’ve encountered two types of SoTL peer mentorship frameworks: formal (set framework for participation and, often, assignment of mentor/mentee pairs) and informal (relationships that develop by happenstance due to opportunity and shared interests). I feel that there are likely benefits to each. Formal mentorship programs are more likely to have stronger administrative support and integration of the program within a strategy for professional development, both characteristics of successful mentoring programs (Hanover Research, 2014). Conversely, informal peer mentoring frameworks allow for voluntary participation, participant involvement in the mentor/mentee pairing process, and the ability for participants to co-develop goals, expectations, and desired outcomes of the mentorship paring, each also components of successful mentoring programs (Hanover Research, 2014). So, which is better and why? This might be a very interesting area for future study, as currently, we just don’t know.
  • What makes a successful peer mentor? Awareness of adult learning principles/teaching strategies/techniques, and understanding/acknowledgement of differences in orientation and stage of development between themselves and their mentees, and ability to plan/observe/facilitate discussion (Knippelmeyer & Torraco, 2007). It would seem that many folks engaged in SoTL, then, would make excellent peer mentors, as these characteristics are as endemic to SoTL as they are to mentorship!

Blog References:

Clutterbuck, D. & Lane, G. (2016). The situational mentor: An international review of competences and capabilities in mentoring. London: Routledge.

Hanover Research. (2014). Faculty mentoring models and effective practices. Author.

Hubball, H., Clarke, A., & Poole, G. (2010). Ten-year reflections on mentoring SoTL research in a research-intensive university. International Journal for Academic Development, 15(2), 117-129.

Knippelmeyer, S. A. & Torraco, R. J. (2007). Mentoring as a developmental tool for higher education. University of Nebraska-Lincoln teaching center publication.

Zellers, D. F., Howard, V. M., Barcic, M. A. (2008). Faculty mentoring programs: Reenvisioning rather than reinventing the wheel. Review of Educational Research, 78(3), 552-588.

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

College Rankings, Student Learning, and SoTL : An Unlikely Trio?

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

ratingLast Friday (9/8/2017), the Chronicle of Higher Education published an interesting article written by Richard M. Freeland titled “Stop Looking at Rankings. Use Academe’s Own Measures Instead.” Ostensibly, this piece discusses the role and utility of college rankings such as those published annually by U.S. News and World Report. Freeland explains that there are some measures reported in these rankings that are “legitimate indicators of academic quality,” such as “graduation rates, faculty qualifications, and investment in academic programs.” He goes on to say that other rankings (the federal government’s College Scorecard, extant Integrated Postsecondary Education System data, and the Voluntary System of Accountability) have added important data to the conversation of what makes a college “good” in a world where it’s hard to determine institutional quality. He is undeniably correct. However, for years I have felt as though we have been missing the boat with our current reporting of college rankings, as we seem to in no way account for student learning as part of these metrics. Due in large part to my background in teaching and learning (and my status as the parent of a high school junior seeking a future university home!), this is very frustrating to me, for I want to know more about student learning outcomes at institutions than about many other data points. This is a huge void and something I’ve considered an opportunity for SoTL for a long, long time.

Freeland writes of a “deep resistance within academe to publishing data about what students learn,” providing a historical overview of various standardized measures of intellectual achievement that have been proposed – and rejected — as universal measurements of student learning. And, so, the void in the reporting of student learning as a important data point in college rankings remains. Freeland remarks:

While many colleges have developed programs to assess student learning (often because of accreditation requirements), few systematically collect and even fewer publish quantitative data that allow readers to compare student intellectual achievement across institutional lines. Until this gap is filled, higher education’s systems of accountability will continue to be data-rich but information-poor with respect to the quality to actual learning. The public will be left to rely on commercial rankings as indicators of institutional quality.

Based on all of this, my overarching question is this: as advocates for the scholarship of teaching and learning – the very research that CAN help provide information about student learning in higher education to the public – is it important that we promote SoTL as a potential valuable contributor to the college rankings discussion?

I’ve struggled with this question all weekend. Here’s where my thinking is at this point:

  • I believe that SoTL does belong in the college ranking discussion. Student learning is our wheelhouse. We need a seat at this table to advocate for and honor outcomes of a diverse and rich field of scholarship on student learning. SoTLists cannot allow student learning to be assessed via a standardized test or any other “one look” measure of performance and expect to tell the whole story. Scholars of teaching and learning recognize this well and can advocate accordingly.
  • I don’t believe that student learning should be ranked. I can see dangers in how this could happen if we start talking about which school has better learning outcomes than others might. Student learning varies by context and discipline, creating a number of limitations on “best learning outcome” data that could be reported. There is no universal curriculum for higher education. As such, any ranking system of student learning would lack reliability and validity.
  • Years and years of research on teaching and learning has led to the understanding of high-impact practices for undergraduate education, and more such information is shared regularly in cross-disciplinary and discipline-specific publications.

So, then, perhaps what we are looking to capture in college rankings shouldn’t specifically focus on student learning outcomes. Every institution of higher education is looking to support student learning, but we must acknowledge that this is accomplished in a manner that honors contextual differences as well as institutional missions and ideologies. With this in mind, any comparison of student learning across institutions may well be akin to comparing apples to oranges.

That said, you CAN measure the use of evidence-based approaches in higher education (e.g., undergraduate research, service learning/community-based learning, internships, and first-year seminars and experiences; Kuh, 2008) to measure quality of instruction. SoTL scholars add to the evidence-based for scholarly learning daily. We have solid evidence that certain instructional methods work and data could be collected to reflect how often these pedagogies are used in college classrooms. That might be a metric of interest to various stakeholders. I’m confident there are others, as well. I’m still stewing on this and am curious what others are thinking. I think this is an important discussion and one that we, as SoTL advocates, should be a part of, to explore this idea some more. To that end, feel free to comment below or continue the discussion on social media (@ISU_SoTL).

Blog References:

Freeland, R. M., (2017, September 8). Stop looking at rankings. Use academe’s own measures instead. Chronicle of Higher Education. Downloaded from: http://www.chronicle.com/article/Stop-Looking-at-Rankings-Use/241140?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en&elqTrackId=4eadfa107c984352bd8664bf86cba24d&elq=869cd22487394fe88b84eb2d7904a1d2&elqaid=15516&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=6640#comments-anchor

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: Why they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: AAC&U.

McKinney, K. (n.d.). A sampling of what we know about learning from scholarship of teaching and learning and educational research. Downloaded from: http://sotl.illinoisstate.edu/downloads/materials/A%20Sampling%20of%20What%20We%20Know.pdf


Leave a comment

Sometimes, there is more than the road…

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 sksponge bobill 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:

       
Micro

(individual level)

Meso

(departmental level)

Macro

(institutional level)

Mega

(beyond institution)

·   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:

  1. 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.
  2. Support the design, completion, and dissemination of SoTL work by ISU faculty, staff, and students.
  3. Engage in internal and external collaborations to increase the visibility of and acceptance for SoTL at ISU and beyond.
  4. 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!


Leave a comment

Studying Outcomes from Study Abroad: Pre-Travel Thoughts

Written by: Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Illinois State University

Study abroad has become something quite common at many college campuses, Illinois State University included. Faculty may believe that such experiences for students constitute out-of-class opportunities to develop, apply, and/or synthesize knowledge and skills learned in the classroom. Students may engage in study abroad programs to see the world, nurture an appreciation of different cultures, develop enhanced disciplinary/vocational knowledge, or grow interpersonal/intrapersonal skills. This is not an exhaustive list! There are many faculty and student motivations for the growth in study abroad; however many who participate in such programs aren’t able to cite systematic evidence about student learning as a result of study abroad participation…So, my question is (for reasons that will become evident below) what does SoTL tell us about study abroad?

briggs blogCindy Miller-Perrin and Don Thompson published an article titled “Outcomes of Global Education: External and Internal Change Associated with Study Abroad” in New Directions for Student Services in 2014. This article provided a lovely literature review of possible learning outcomes resulting from scholarship on the study abroad experience, broadly categorizing these into two groups, explained below with a sampling of evidence:

External learning outcomes (focused on interpersonal and disciplinary learning) as a result of study abroad have been noted in areas such as second language acquisition, intercultural learning, globalization, and disciplinary knowledge. Internal learning outcomes have been noted in areas such as emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth following study abroad.

Though there is a good deal of SoTL work focused on external learning outcomes post-study abroad, Miller-Perrin and Thompson (2014, p. 80) report that:

“Although much attention in the research literature has focused on external outcomes, internal changes that occur in the lives of students who study and live abroad are also important…and, despite the importance of internal change, research addressing [these changes] has not received as much attention in terms of their connection to study abroad experiences.”

In my perusal of study abroad SoTL, I have noted other voids in extant research, most notably those focused on purpose and duration. Faculty plan and lead study abroad experiences for students for a variety of reasons that might impact learning outcomes and, similarly, the length of trip could impact learning outcomes (e.g., short term vs. long term study abroad. We don’t know far more than we do know – that much is clear!

In the last two years, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in three study abroad trips with students from my department. I have attended two as a faculty chaperone. I will serve as the director for the third in March 2017, as I accompany 33 students to Spain as part of a cultural immersion experience. Anecdotally, I believe that the students on the first two trips I was part of learned a great deal, developing an enhanced intrapersonal awareness as part of the travel process. As these were simply observations, I wanted to develop a study to investigate the outcomes of this experience for students. I have a bit of data to report, relative to internal/external learning outcomes already…and we haven’t even traveled yet!

A bit about this program to understand my context for study: Students attending this trip are all speech-language pathology majors from my university (two are graduate students, 31 are undergrads). Three-quarters of students had been out of the country before. This is a short-term, faculty-led trip which will take us to Spain for 10 days over my institution’s spring break. We plan to visit five cities and engage in a “day with a speech-language pathologist” practicing in Spain to learn about professional practices abroad. Students will earn three academic credits towards an independent study for participating in pre-travel meetings, travel activities, personal reflection, goal setting activities, and one post-travel meeting.

During our first pre-travel meeting, students were asked to list five things that they hoped to learn as a result of their study abroad experience. Results were as follows (categories where more than 5 students reported similar outcomes are reported):

External Learning Expectations (N=36) Internal Learning Expectations (N=52)
Learn about Spanish culture (n=14)

Become more knowledgeable about Spanish landmarks and history (n=6)

Speak Spanish with greater confidence (n=5)

Learn about speech-pathology practices in Spain (n=5)

Change my own self-perspective (n=10)

Be present (e.g., put my phone down; n=10)

Develop greater independence (n=9)

Take chances outside my comfort zone (n=9)

Develop an adventurous spirit (n=7)

 

Additionally, I asked each student to set a three personal goals that they would work towards before and during their study abroad experience. I provided no requirements as to what areas these goals needed to address, rather I asked students to focus on aspects of their own lives that growth would be impactful in their goal setting. A total of 99 goals were submitted. Of these, 19 of the students’ goals focused on external learning outcomes (primarily cultural learning and empathy) while 80 were focused on internal learning outcomes (broadly critical self-examination and mindset). Happily these more internally-focused goals were consistent with work my colleague Erin Mikulec and I have been doing in terms of defining “knowledge of self” as a result of out-of-class learning, which will potentially add additional layers of richness to our separate, but ongoing work (Friberg & Mikulec, 2016).

So, while there is the least amount of information in extant SoTL literature on internal learning, my students have shown a clear indication that expected internal learning outcomes are most predominant in their minds, pre-travel. During our trip, students will journal regarding growth towards achieving their goals and have been asked to submit at least one photo per goal, showing (from their own perspective) growth in their areas of focus. I am beyond curious to see how my students will represent their learning visually. Analysis of their reflective journals, final goal progress reports, and other qualitative data will – hopefully – yield interesting outcomes to grow the evidence-base for study abroad. Stay tuned!

Are you in the process of studying outcomes from study abroad? Please share in the comments below!

Blog References:

Friberg, J. C. & Mikulec, E. (2016). Developing a taxonomy to measure out-of-class learning. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Los Angeles, CA.

Miller-Perrin, C. & Thompson, D. (2014). Outcomes of global education: External and internal change associated with study abroad. New Directions for Student Services, 146, 77-89.


Leave a comment

Taking a Scholarly Approach to the New Academic Term

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

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-12-42-50-pmMany of us have are anticipating (or maybe already experiencing!) a new academic term. My fellow Redbirds have one more week before we are back in the classrooms of Illinois State University. Recent conversations with colleagues have revolved around course design/prep and general thoughts about the upcoming semester. I’m guessing this is the case at most colleges and universities.

For me, the weeks before a new term are always times of reflection and consideration. I ask myself questions like: What worked last time I taught this class? What didn’t work? How can I engage more students in a way that makes sense for my course and my course design? Again, I’m guessing that I’m not alone in pondering these topics. And, while we can choose answer these questions via SoTL inquiry, that isn’t always possible for a number of different reasons (resources, competing priorities, etc.). Thankfully, there is ample research on teaching and learning that we can apply to help answer these questions — we just have to access it!

The following resources each describe the evidence base for common beginning of the academic term issues: How do I construct a syllabus? How will my students best learn? What is the advantage of various grouping strategies for my students? What are “best” practices for the first day of class? Happy reading and have a great term!

The Center for Teaching and Vanderbilt University constructed a very useful webpage to highlight important, evidence-based considerations for syllabus construction, addressing questions such as:

  • What are the most important elements of a learner-centered course syllabus?
  • What is the relationship between syllabus construction and course design?
  • How can the tone of the syllabus impact learners?
  • What other resources are available to support faculty in constructing “good” syllabi?

Indiana University of Pennsylvania have gathered a reference list of “what to do on the first day of class,” with cross-disciplinary research and evidence from several different disciplines (e.g., sociology, psychology, calculus, English), as well.

Kathleen McKinney collated a sampling of things we know about learning from SoTL research, outlining findings from seminal texts in teaching and learning from the last decade.

Rick Reis from Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning offers suggestions — grounded in evidence — for establishing collaborative groups for students, and in so doing, offers pros and cons for random, instructor generated, self-selected, and mixed groups.

 

Public domain photo downloaded from: https://pixabay.com/en/teach-word-scrabble-letters-wooden-1820041/


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

Institutionalization of SoTL: Thinking About Outcomes at Two ISUs

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

Recently, Marcketti and Freeman (2016) published an article in the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning focused on outcomes following adoption of promotion and tenure policies that support the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) at Iowa State University. In their work, Marcketti and Freeman provide a wonderful summary of the issues impacting the institutionalization of SoTL, highlighting the need to develop consistent and visible reward structures for faculty engaging in SoTL. Specifically, these authors focus on the creation of SoTL-friendly promotion and tenure policies to acknowledge the value of SoTL work.

Marcketti and Freeman (2016) provide the language from Iowa State University’s Faculty Handbook, which offers the following guidance:

  • SoTL is valued and should be held to similar standards of rigor and peer review as other, disciplinary research and/or creative activity.
  • While all faculty should engage in scholarly teaching, not all faculty need engage in SoTL.
  • If a faculty member does choose to pursue a research agenda that includes SoTL, all SoTL work “counts” as scholarship and/or creative activity, rather than as a part of assigned teaching responsibilities.

This language serves to promote, extend, and support SoTL at Iowa State. This is evidenced by the fact that five-year averages calculated by Marcketti and Freeman (2016) for faculty engagement in SoTL have ranged from 44-52% for faculty on their campus (see article for variation by faculty seniority and type of SoTL work). I view these data as remarkable and think that those involved in the process of developing this supportive and productive environment for SoTL at Iowa State should be commended.

Thinking about this work several days after my initial read of Marcketti and Freeman’s article, I found myself wondering how typical these outcomes are at other institutions in terms of faculty involvement and engagement in SoTL. Closer to home, I considered the current SoTL support structures at my own university and have pondered what else I might do to proactively support SoTL at Illinois State University.

Harkening back to my days as a school-based speech-language pathologist, I often worked with children to help them reflect on their learning using a “KWL” chart. In doing so, I encouraged students to identify what they knew (K), what they wanted to know (W), and (after an experience) what they learned (L). In reading Marcketti and Freeman’s work, I considered the work done at Iowa State from an adapted KWL perspective to perhaps illuminate future efforts at Illinois State and other institutions:

  1. What mechanisms do you have in place to support SoTL at your institution?
  2. What processes can be developed to establish and extend support for SoTL on your campus? How can these be developed?
  3. What are the outcomes of these supports? Have they served to increase SoTL engagement and support? In what ways?

I think that attention to this last item — outcomes of the supports in place for SoTL — is critical. One basic rationale for SoTL is that we can’t assume that learning happens just because we think it does in our classrooms. Similarly, I would argue that we can’t assume that faculty engagement happens simply due to the provision of support for SoTL. Rather, we need to evaluate the mechanisms that are put into place to identify those most successful at our individual institutions.

Faculty engaged in SoTL at Illinois State University have access to research grants, travel grants, workshops/trainings, consultation, publishing opportunities, social media support, and a robust SoTL-specific website. Our institutional strategic plan, Educating Illinois, specifically mentions the need to grow SoTL on campus. With these numerous supportive mechanisms in place, I am unsure which are most helpful for faculty, individually or collectively. There is work to be done to examine outcomes from these programs and initiatives. Additionally, while I am aware that many departments/schools at Illinois State University support and value SoTL, I am not certain whether any specifically mention SoTL as part of their promotion and tenure policies and procedures. Thus, there is additional work to be done to understand the impact of supportive reward structures at my institution.

Thanks to Marcketti and Freeman for their article and their work at Iowa State University. I appreciate the fact that colleagues from the “other” ISU helped me to think about efforts to support SoTL on my campus from a new and different perspective.

Blog References:

Marcketti, S. B. & Freeman, S. (2016). SoTL evidence of promotion and tenure vitas at a             research university. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 16(5), 19-31.