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

The Students-As-Partners in SoTL Movement: Wonderments from ISSoTL

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University

notes-for-blogDespite being a devotee of technology, I am a pen and paper note taker (and probably always will be). At conferences, in particular, I take copious notes in a my “SoTL journal” of the moment, capturing whatever is of interest to me at a particular time. ISSoTL this year was no different, my handy SoTL journal was filled with pages of scrawled notes, doodles, arrows, and connections as I processed all I heard.

My notes from the session presented by Angela Kehler, Roselynn Verwoord, and Heather Smith titled Power and Voice: A Critical Analysis of the Students-As-Partners Literature were particularly interesting. Looking them over, I noticed that I only recorded questions, evidently channeling my dissertation advisor who regularly challenged his students to view curiosities as “wonderments” for future reflection and study.

Kehler, Verwoord, and Smith posed the following questions as part of their presentation:

  • How can we infuse more systematic critique into the students-as-partners literature to avoid being overly laudatory/celebratory in our reporting of outcomes?
  • How do we underestimate power in the students-as-partners movement?
  • Who is the safe space for in the students-as-partners movement? What hierarchies are being supported and/or perpetuated in the work we engage in?
  • What is the aftermath of students-as-partners work? Can students who have experienced increased autonomy/responsibility due to changing power structures be happy when they return to the “norm” after their experience is over?

Thinking about these questions led me to scrawl a variety of additional wonderments in my notes that I find myself still pondering, three weeks after the end of the conference:

  • Can value-shifts in the students-as-partners movement be likened to code-shifts used by successful communicators? Might code-shifting represent the first behavioral change in successful student/faculty partnerships?
  • When and how do important transitions in faculty/student partnerships happen?
  • Is flexibility in interpretations of traditional role structures important? How are these behaviors modeled in successful student/faculty partnerships?
  • What makes partnership “real” in terms of buy-in and experience for all stakeholders?
  • What is the intersection of collegiality and friendship in faculty/student partnerships? Is there a need for such a divide?
  • My best collaborations have emerged from long-term relationships with trusted and well-known colleagues. Is it possible to develop similar, deep collaborations in shorter-term relationships lasting one term/year?

Kehler, Verwoord, and Smith offered that the students-as-partners movement is multi-faceted and complex with many moving parts and warned of the dangers of being “uncurious” about the things happening around us. It would seem that based on the discussion at this and other sessions at ISSoTL, we are far from uncurious about student/faculty partnerships, which, I think is a very good thing.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

The Mind of SoTL: Quotes from ISSoTL 2016

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University

It’s Sunday night and I’m sitting in the airport in Minneapolis on my way home from the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSoTL) in Los Angeles. Using my ridiculously long layover to reflect on my conference experiences, I am happy to report that ISSoTL this year was packed with intriguing ideas, great conversation, and many opportunities to learn. Looking over my notes from the past week, I’m struck by the number of speaker/contributor quotes that I recorded to reflect on in the coming weeks — each of which illustrate the diversity of thoughts and ideas typical of ISSoTL and celebrate SoTL’s big tent quite well. The following is a sampling for your consideration:

We are influenced by narratives of constraint in SoTL. – Karen Manarin (Mount Royal University) during the CUR Pre-Conference Symposium

How do we underestimate power in the students-as-partners movement? — Heather Smith (University of Northern B. C.) during the session titled “Power and voice: A critical analysis of student-as-partners literature”

When things become logical, they become real and then they become second nature. — Tom Klein (Loyola Marymount University) during his plenary titled “Visual logic as a thought structure for framing stories”

Is SoTL about doing better or is it about doing better things? — Tony Ciccone (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) in remarks at the closing plenary titled “Oh the places you’ll go! Imagining the future of and with SoTL”

We speak SoTL as a second language….those of us who know it well need to be translators. — Margy MacMillan (Mount Royal University) in comments to the panel during the closing plenary.

Each of these quotes reflect on important relationships in the scholarship of teaching and learning and focus on key inter- and intra-personal concepts intrinsic to SoTL across a variety of stakeholders: engagement, advocacy, contingency, expression, balance, reflection, mentorship, and integration. While the heart of SoTL is in the classroom — and likely always will be — it was made clear to me last week that the mind of SoTL is focused on interactions and relationships that advance our knowledge of teaching and learning.

I’m thankful to my SoTL colleagues for their contributions last week and look forward (already) to ISSoTL in Calgary in 2017. More to come on ISSoTL 2016 in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!


Leave a comment

Finding the “Sweet Spot” Across a Continuum of Student Roles/Voices in SoTL

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

Last week in her blog post, my colleague Phyllis McCluskey-Titus discussed the benefits for faculty who engage in SoTL work with students. She identified a variety of outcomes that make SoTL mentorship with students a reflective and productive endeavor, and explained each from her perspective as a mentor and facilitator of SoTL work with students. It was clear from her reflections that Dr. McCluskey-Titus’ work with students favored the establishment of strong connections with students through the development of collaborative research relationships. My read of this blog post led me to recall the continuum of the range of student voices developed by McKinney, Jarvis, Creasey and Herrmann (2010) which outlined the spectrum of possibilities for student voices to be heard in the context of SoTL work. This continuum is summarized in the following graphic:

continuum visual

As a Commons, we are seeking to increase student voices in SoTL – an initiative that I fully support! I think it’s necessary, timely, and right to engage students in SoTL in a similar manner as we do in our disciplinary inquiry. That said, it’s not always easy! The above continuum yields a host of potential stopping points for students engaged in SoTL, from acting as a research subject to helping with clerical work, to helping with analysis, to co-development/independent project development. All forms of engagement in SoTL can potentially be of benefit to students and faculty, but perhaps some more so than others. This continuum would suggest that to be the case.

In my experience, there are faculty-driven and student-driven contextual factors that influence the ability to involve students as more than just research subjects in any given SoTL project. The following represents a non-exhaustive list of questions/bottlenecks that I’ve pondered in terms of developing a faculty mindset for student inclusion in SoTL research:

  • Time – Does a student have ample, focused time to allocate to a SoTL project in the midst of a busy semester? If so, does a faculty member have the freedom to spend a great deal of time mentoring a student over the course of a project? Is this expenditure of time honored/valued as part of the teaching/research/service trifecta?
  • Timing – Is a student seeking involvement in a project right as a faculty member is in the process of developing one? Is it feasible for a student to be engaged with an entire SoTL project across multiple semesters in terms of his/her plan of study? Can a student contribute to a SoTL project on a short-term basis in a way that is meaningful to his/her learning and the aims of the faculty co-researcher?
  • Depth – What level of student involvement in SoTL work yields benefits for students and faculty?

These questions lead to more. Where is the “sweet spot” for student engagement in SoTL research? How do you find it? I would offer that perhaps the best fit for student involvement in SoTL is quite literally a moving target, dependent on contextual factors (considerations of time, timing, depth, etc.) that impact the ability to engage students across the continuum McKinney and colleagues describe above. There will be times where all the variables fall into place and a faculty/student research team can develop and study a teaching and learning question together collaboratively with complexity from start to finish. More often, there will be times where a student can work with a faculty member on a SoTL project in a more limited fashion, necessitating a need for less complex or active involvement in the work being done.

We know that students can benefit in a variety of ways from engagement in SoTL work. I would argue that knowing these potential benefits, we can work to adapt even short-term “lower continuum” involvement in a SoTL project to be a positive learning experience for students if we mediate the experience well. We need to talk to our students, explain the genesis of our research wonderments, describe the choices we made as researchers in terms of methods/analysis, and discuss what we might do with the outcomes of our SoTL work. In doing that, we have the opportunity to turn a less active/less complex student role in a SoTL project into one with a strong connection to the project and instructor, therein tying the student experience to both ends of the student voices/roles continuum and (hopefully) maximizing student learning/engagement in the process.

Blog Reference:

McKinney, K., Jarvis, P., Creasey, G., & Herrmann, D. (2010). In Werder, C. & Otis, M. M. (Eds). Engaging student voices in the student of teaching and learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

 


Leave a comment

One Idea for Introducing Graduate Students to SoTL: An Interactive Reading Circle

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

SoTL Reading Group 1

In May and June of this year, the Office of the Cross Chair in SoTL sponsored its second annual SoTL Reading Circle for graduate students. Eight students representing varied disciplines (special education, English, sociology, psychology, history, politics and government, geology, and women’s and gender studies) met to learn about the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) and to consider how scholarly teaching and/or SoTL might fit into their lives. The goal of this reading circle was to help students to understand SoTL and its contributions to classrooms, programs, institutions, and disciplines through:

  • exploration of the definitions of scholarly teaching and SoTL
  • identification of possible student roles in scholarly teaching and SoTL
  • discussion of how knowledge of SoTL can enhance teaching and learning
  • conversation centered around topical assigned readings.

I acted as the facilitator for the reading circle and worked to structure our meetings to invite discussion about teaching and learning. Adhering to Gutman, Sergison, Martin, and Berstein’s (2010, p. 36) conceptualization of ownership as a “linchpin for collaboration,” it was a priority for students to understand that SoTL was important to them as both students and as prospective faculty. We talked at length about their roles as scholarly teachers/learners and as scholars of teaching and learning and together generated the following lists of tips for both roles:

Tips for Scholarly Teaching and Learning

  • Find out if your discipline has its own pedagogical journal. Seek it out. Read articles of interest to you. Think about how the research on teaching and learning that you read about is similar to or different from “traditional” research in your discipline. Reflect on these similarities and differences.
  • Think about potential faculty mentors who engage in scholarship on teaching and learning. Set up opportunities to talk with them about their experiences. Ask them to be “meta” and walk you through their thought processes in terms of setting up or reading scholarship on teaching and learning.
  • Consider scholarship on teaching and learning with a “consumer’s mindset.” Even though SoTL is contextualized, reflect on outcomes from scholarship with an eye towards application to support your own teaching and/or learning efforts and use what you learn to improve your practices.

Tips for Scholars of Teaching and Learning

  • Think carefully about your teaching and learning wonderments. Look toward past inquiry to see what has been studied and consider how your research question(s) can be adapted to make new contributions.
  • Seek out mentors to help you structure your project. Invite them – or others – to collaborate with you.
  • Don’t feel as though your SoTL needs to look like the scholarship done by other individuals. Design a project that reflects your interests (in terms of your research question), methods that make sense within your discipline, and ways to share your outcomes that are appropriate to the work you’ve done.
  • Use the resources around you to work smarter and find support for your scholarship (we discussed specific resources here at ISU via the Office of the Cross Chair, including grants, trainings, blog, website).
  • Consider SoTL from a “producer’s mindset,” and think about strategic ways to share your work with others to improve teaching and learning on your campus and beyond.

We engaged in discussions across multiple shared readings from journal articles as well as from The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in and Across the Disciplines (McKinney, 2013). Students drafted possible research questions and collaborated to determine ways in which their questions could be studied. All in all, we spent five hours together having really interesting conversations about teaching and learning. Two students from this summer’s reading circle cohort are currently seeking disciplinary mentors for a SoTL project, to which I say, “hooray!”

Student interest in this past summer’s reading circle opportunity was immense and led to an upcoming collaboration with ISU’s Graduate School for the 2016-17 academic year. My office will be co-piloting a Certificate of Special Instruction in SoTL for graduate students, providing systematic study of scholarly teaching and SoTL as well as a guided experience in planning a SoTL project under the direction of a mentor (hopefully from the student’s discipline…stay tuned!). We are excited to have a new mechanism to introduce graduate students to SoTL and look forward to sharing outcomes from this endeavor in the not-too-distant future.

Blog References:

Gutman, E. E., Sergison, E. M., Martin, C. J., & Bernstein, J. L. (2010). Engaging students as scholars in teaching and learning: The role of ownership. In Werder, C. & Otis, M. (Eds.). Engaging student voices in the study of teaching and learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

McKinney, K. (2013). The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in and Across the Disciplines. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.


1 Comment

Knowing Who We Are

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University  

I have spent the last two decades of my life as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), working directly with children who have communication disorders, teaching/mentoring SLPs-in-training, and contributing to the evidence base for clinical practice and pedagogy in my profession. From the onset of my career as an SLP, I’ve answered the question, “what exactly do you do?” hundreds of times. As friends and family understood my professional life a bit better, this question was asked less frequently. That all changed this year, however, when I accepted the role of Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at ISU. I’ve been asked “what exactly do you do?” more often than ever…and I can completely understand the confusion! Providing a 35,000’ overview of my role is difficult, but this description is usually a good start:

I work with students and faculty who are interested in research and reflection on teaching and learning in higher education. I foster opportunities for networking, funding, completion, and dissemination of teaching and learning research at ISU and beyond.

I actually find it more difficult to explain my role to faculty and students, from my university or from others. This is likely due to the multitude of different approaches to/perceptions of educational development for SoTL across institutions. Timmermans and Ellis (2016) recently wrote of their work to reconceptualize SoTL programming/support at the University of Waterloo. The combination of a smaller scale needs assessment combined with a university-wide task force led these authors to support and (successfully) implement a broader view of scholarly teaching, rather than a narrower view of SoTL, to guide educational development efforts. Their data indicated that to be the “Goldilocks fit” for their institution —  not too big, not too small, but just right — to engage faculty and students in the study and reflection of teaching and learning.

The work of Timmermans and Ellis (2016) led me to think in a different yet focused way about SoTL at ISU. While SoTL support at the University of Waterloo is undertaken by the Center for Teaching Excellence, we have a different arrangement at ISU. I began to ponder the organizational structure for SoTL development and whether that might be the true driver in helping us understand and know who we are on our respective campuses. This, in turn, led me to consider the impact of the structure for teaching and learning at ISU on how SoTL support is sought and perceived.

At ISU, there is a great deal of support for teaching and learning. We have a robust Center for Teaching and Learning (CTLT) as well as a strong and growing influence in SoTL via the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL. These entities are completely separate (different reporting and funding structures) though few realize that there is purposeful separation between the two campus units. For me, it is critical that our campus units be perceived as different. Why? Oversight for the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair is provided by the Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, which legitimizes and supports SoTL as an accepted, valued, and important form of research for our campus. This differentiates SoTL, institutionally, in a hugely positive way. Knowing who we are in terms of SoTL at ISU begins here.

Collaborations with CTLT extend from this notion, allowing an interactive and productive relationship across the continuum of good teaching, scholarly teaching, and the SoTL (McKinney, 2007). Because I am a visual person, I tried to capture the work we do graphically:

CTLT v CC image

I am thankful that the organizational structure for educational development in teaching and learning at ISU has allowed us our “Goldilocks fit.” We have good and scholarly teaching encouraged by CTLT and scholarly teaching and SoTL encouraged by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL. It’s a balance, but one that is working at our institution. And, that’s really the key in a world where there is no one “right” approach to encouraging and supporting SoTL, isn’t it? The ability to support research and reflection on teaching and learning to honor the uniqueness of our institutions and their needs is critical. Thanks to Timmermans and Ellis for giving me the chance to reflect on this today!

 

Blog References:

McKinney, K. (2007). Enhancing learning though the scholarship of teaching and learning: The challenges and joys of juggling. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Timmermans, J. A. & Ellis, D. E. (2016). Reconceptualizing the scholarship of teaching and learning at the University of Waterloo: An account of influences and impact. New Directions of Teaching and Learning, 146, 71-78.


7 Comments

Might the 4M Framework Support SoTL Advocacy?

Written by: Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University

Within SoTL, there are as many similarities as differences. As SoTL scholars, we are alternately inter- and intra-disciplinary in our focus. We operate within different areas of our big tent. We disseminate our work locally, but often seek national and global audiences. SoTL is diverse and different and context-specific but also uniformly focused on improving teaching and learning.

This dynamic orientation for SoTL impacts how we share and advocate for SoTL. With the work I have been doing the last several years, I have found that I advocate differently for SoTL based on my immediate audience: individual researchers, students, department chairs, university administration, disciplinary leaders and organizations. This is likely true for many of us, as we seek support for the important work we do with SoTL. I have often wished for a more organized – or perhaps more efficient – way to conceptualize my SoTL advocacy strategy. In my readings today, I may have found one.

Wuetherick and Yu (2016) recently shared their study exploring the state of SoTL in Canada, reporting input on practices and trends from the perspective of 140 respondents, each SoTL scholars in Canada.  Input from these individuals (gathered via survey) was organized across a four-level framework, which I will term the 4Ms for efficiency: mega, macro, meso, and micro. Use of this 4M framework allowed interpretation of data important to understanding SoTL from a variety of viewpoints, representing individuals and groups. Each of these levels is defined below:

Capture

Data from the Wuetherick and Yu (2016) study provided focused perspectives on each of these levels of influence, alerting readers of interesting trends such as these:

  • While SoTL research influenced 99% of respondents to change the design and implementation of their course, only 52% worked in institutions where SoTL is encouraged via promotion and tenure policies.
  • Different academic/disciplinary departments/units valued SoTL inconsistently, with 50% of respondents indicating that their departmental culture encouraged participation in SoTL.
  • Two-thirds of respondents felt as though there have been increases in the quality and quantity of venues for sharing SoTL work, but only 35% reported adequate campus-level funding for SoTL work.

While these data (and the rest contained within the study) help to inform the state of SoTL in Canada, they also provide a very solid foundation for SoTL advocacy in that country. There is a clear starting point in terms of where attention could be drawn to benefit the micro level (increase funding for SoTL work), the meso level (encourage meaningful changes in departmental culture for greater support of SoTL), the macro level (adapt promotion and tenure policies to support the work of SoTL scholars), and the mega level (continue to increase the profile of dissemination outlets for SoTL work).

Others could use a similar model. Single institutions could survey faculty or others could band together in a more collaborative effort (as was seen in Canada) to outline regional or national priorities for advocacy based on available data. All in all, it would seem as though the 4M framework might give an important starting place for purposeful and strategic advocacy across shareholders to advance and grow SoTL.

Blog Reference:

Wuetherick, B. & Yu, S. (2016). The Canadian teaching commons: The scholarship of teaching and learning in Canadian higher education. New Directions in Teaching &


1 Comment

SoTL Advocacy Via Social Media: Reflections and Suggestions

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

social-media-icons-300x251

Over the last two years, I have (sometimes grudgingly) endeavored to use social media to learn about SoTL and share my thoughts and interests related to SoTL with others. As a SoTL Scholar-Mentor at Illinois State, I have regularly used Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress to share the SoTL work happening at ISU and beyond. That said, I initially resisted the siren’s song of social media for professional use, preferring to use social media for personal communications and connections. Over time, my thoughts on this topic evolved as it became evident that others were harnessing social media effectively, sharing their professional work and ideas more widely with social media than without. Further, I realized that SoTL, a movement that is growing, global, and appealing to people of many ages, has natural synergy with social media as users can capture current research, ideas, applications, and events central to SoTL and publicly share them with large (and varied) networks of users. I am now a happy convert, and access social media often to learn about and to promote SoTL.

At the SoTL Commons conference in March, I attended a presentation by Josephine Csete and Janice Chia of Hong Kong Polytechnic University titled: Using social media to build your SoTL research & profile: The “what,”why,” and “how.” This presentation underscored  the vast influence social media has in society with billions of people using social media in a variety of ways to share thoughts and ideas with others. Csete and Chia did an excellent job of citing data to support the use of social media in SoTL, sharing the following:

  • There is evidence to suggest that an active online presence may directly impact a researcher’s credentials as measured though traditional metrics (Bik & Goldstein, 2013).
  • Sharing publications on Twitter is statistically correlated with increases in downloads and early citations of work (Shuai, Pepe, & Bollen, 2012).
  • Articles that are “highly tweeted” were 11 times more likely to be cited in subsequent publications than those were not shared via social media (Eysenbach, 2011).

I mentioned above that I am a social media convert. That said, having prior experience using social media for personal use didn’t make me an expert in using social media to advocate for SoTL. I learned a few lessons (some more easily than others!) along the way:

  1. Harness social media to the extent of your comfort. There is no reason to put yourself in a position where you are doing something that you are uncomfortable with or overwhelmed by. Start slowly with using social media and build your involvement over time to create a sustainable routine and purpose.
  2. Select social media platforms purposefully. There are numerous social media platforms — I won’t list them all here. Wikipedia provides a list of the top 15 social media apps with links to explain each, which provides a good start to understanding the diversity of options available to those interested in using social media. Select the platform most aligned with the reason you’re choosing to use social media. I started a blog to share SoTL resources and feature the work of a variety of SoTL contributors and researchers. That would have been more difficult to accomplish via a different type of social media.
  3. Don’t be afraid to share. Use social media to share your SoTL work, your favorite SoTL articles, and the SoTL work (properly cited) of others. Share images that reflect SoTL. Contribute to the Commons. We acknowledge that SoTL represents a big tent, with many diverse ideas and disciplines represented within — and having diversity in contributions focused on SoTL via social media is essential.
  4. Be patient. It may take a while to develop a following on social media, but keep contributing. A lack of followers does not mean that you don’t have thoughts worth sharing…it may simply mean that you haven’t yet been “found” by like-minded SoTL folks. Alternately, a lack of followers over time could mean that you have selected a platform that is incongruous to your goals for using social media.
  5. Develop a personality via social media that promotes authenticity. There is no “one way” to use social media to advocate for SoTL. Represent yourself on social media in a way that is unique to you. Develop a voice, a style, and a manner that is personal, authentic, and genuine. Anything else will be hard to sustain!

 

Blog References:

Bik, H. M. & Goldstein, M. C. (2013). An introduction to social media for scientists. PLoS Biology, 11(4): e1001535.

Csete, J. M. & Chia, J. (2016). Using social media to build your SoTL research & profile: The what, why, and how. Presentation at the SoTL Commons conference in Savannah, GA. Retrieved from: http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2091&context=sotlcommons

Eysenbach, G. (2011). Can tweets predict citations? Metrics pf social impact based on twitter and correclation with traditional metrics of scientific impact. Journal of Medical Internet Resources, 12: e123.

Shuai, X., Pepe, A., & Bollen, J. (2012). How the scientific community reacts to newly submitted pre-prints: Article downloads, Twitter mentions, and citations. PLoS ONE, 7: e47523.