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 Sampling of What Psychologists (and Some of You in Other Disciplines!) Engaged In SoTL Might Learn From Sociology

Written by Kathleen McKinney, Professor of Sociology & Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL, Emeritus, Illinois State University; Maxine Atkinson, Professor of Sociology, and Tyler Flockhart, Graduate Student, North Carolina State University

We were honored to be invited to write, and submit for review, a paper for the journal, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, for their special section of ‘Cross Fertilization’ papers. In these papers, SoTL researchers from a discipline other than psychology offer ideas that might be of interest and use to psychologists doing or considering doing SoTL. Though our focus was on this sociology to psychology idea transfer, we believe some of what we discuss and illustrate in the paper might be of use to those in other disciplines as well. Thus, in this blog post, we briefly outline the content of our paper and provide a reference to the full paper.[1]

Recognizing the overlap between the disciplines of sociology and psychology as well as the significant contributions of psychologists to the research on learning and SoTL, we focus in the full paper on three areas in sociological scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) and sociology that offer potential contributions to psychologists (and others) engaged in SoTL research. Though our suggestions come directly from the heart of theory and method in our discipline in general, we began by offering some grounding of our ideas in the history and literature on teaching and SoTL, specifically, in sociology as well as in the field of SoTL more generally. To do this, we offer example citations of early (1980’s) writing in the sociology teaching-learning movement and more recent writing in the field of SoTL that support the importance of both context and qualitative methods in SoTL research.

Drawing from analyses of content in the journal Teaching Sociology, we then offer a brief overview of the ‘face of SoTL in sociology’ that might be of interest to others by reviewing some of the recent trends in SoTL in sociology including what research methods are used, the topics covered, and a few common findings. This overview of SoTL in sociology shows, empirically, that sociologists value critical thinking and deep learning as important learning objectives, that active learning and strong relevance of content to students are both useful pedagogies, and that student attitudes as well as student demographics or group membership can be related to student learning. SoTL research in sociology is also evidence-based, is very often at the classroom level, and uses multiple methods or measures to gather data, though often including student self-perceptions of learning.

Next, we address the utility of the ‘sociological imagination’—as well as two related, example theories that involve social structure, stratification, and social interaction—as a perspective for further understanding of teaching, learning, and SoTL. The sociological imagination is the key threshold concept (Meyer and Land, 2006) of our discipline and this paradigm tells us that human behavior exists in social context. C. Wright Mills (1959) defined the sociological imagination as the intersection of individual biography and historical context and emphasized the importance of distinguishing between personal troubles and public issues. Thus, sociologists argue that viewing learning as something that happens within individuals without consideration of the historical and social context within which these individuals learn is a limited and problematic view. Based on the sociological imagination and sociological level theories, we then urge psychologists and others doing SoTL to include three sets of variables and measures in their SoTL research: demographic or sub-cultural, interpersonal, and contextual. Including such variables and measures, we argue, will improve SoTL research and our ability to understand findings, as well as increase teacher effectiveness and student learning. We briefly summarize several SoTL in sociology studies that include one or more of these types of variables. We also apply the sociological imagination to a concrete example of a psychological construct and a teaching-learning issue– that of studying self-efficacy for learning statistics– to illustrate the types of research questions and variables to measure that would stem from such an analysis.

We then discuss the value, and sociological examples, of qualitative methods for SoTL research. As many of you know, qualitative methods– such as ‘think-alouds’, interviews and focus groups, observation, open-ended survey questions, and qualitative analysis of student writing and other products –have a variety of characteristics that fit well with many SoTL research questions. “Qualitative data are data in verbal or textual or visual form. Such data are more detailed and more directly reflect the voice of the participant. Qualitative work generally uses a naturalistic and interpretive strategy. The participants’ understanding of the meaning of the phenomenon is critical. You can obtain rich and elaborate data, look for emergent themes, draw some ideas about process, and quote the actual words of your respondents.” (McKinney, 2007, p. 68). Qualitative methods and data may also be especially useful for including ‘student voices’ in our SoTL research and providing data to help us understand process and intervening variables– the how, when, why– in our studies. We end this section of our paper with a brief summary of several SoTL in sociology studies that use qualitative methods.

Finally, we conclude the article by offering numerous additional sociologically-based research ideas that stem from the sociological imagination and the use of qualitative methods. Though the paper focuses on what psychologists might learn from our ideas, we hope that some of you in other disciplines will enjoy the full paper and find some uses for our suggestions.

Blog References

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

Meyer, J. H. F., & Land, R. (Eds.). (2006). Overcoming barriers to student understanding: Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge. London: Routledge.

Mills, C.W. (1959). The sociological imagination. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

 

[1] This post includes original text as well as edited excerpts from the full article: McKinney, K., Atkinson, M., & Flockhart, T. (2017). A Sampling of What Psychologists Engaged in SoTL Might Learn from Sociology: Cross-fertilization article. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology. (in press, June). http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2017-19187-001/

 

 


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Volume 4 (2016) of Gauisus is published!

 

Written by: Kathleen McKinney, former Cross Chair in SoTL and Professor of Sociology, Emeritus at Illinois State University

gauisusGauisus is the internal, blind peer-reviewed scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) publication at Illinois State University (ISU). At ISU we define the scholarship of teaching and learning as the “systematic reflection/study on teaching and learning [of our ISU students] made public.” The first volume of Gauisus appeared in 2009 in print and pdf form and contained 13 traditional scholarly articles or notes. The second and subsequent volumes are multi-media publications and appear on line every late spring. Each will contain several representations of SoTL work. Representations may be scholarly papers or notes, online posters, videos, wikis or blogs and so on.

The purposes of Gauisus are the following: 1) to provide instructors writing about their teaching and learning a local but peer reviewed outlet to share what they and their students have done and learned and 2) to offer other instructors and students an accessible publication to read to obtain a sense of, and learn from, some of the scholarly teaching and SoTL projects conducted by their colleagues on our campus. Gauisus means glad, gladly, or joyful in Latin, as in the Illinois State University motto/logo, “Gladly we learn and teach.” Reviewers are volunteers from ISU, and sometimes beyond, who apply and are selected based on their experience with SoTL and reviewing scholarly work.

Volume 4, 2016 contains the following SoTL representations: 

Using Interrupted Video Case Studies to Teach Developmental Theory: A Pilot Study

J. W. Anderson • Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

Sarah Bradshaw • Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

Jennifer Banning • Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

This study was designed to determine the usefulness of interrupted video case studies in providing vicarious, but meaningful, application of classroom learning, in this case, foundational theories of the human development field. Participants were students in a graduate Human Development course where a pre-/post-test format was utilized. The effect was significant as all participants’ posttest score improved. Also, pattern-matching results indicated an increase in complex levels of thinking across students’ work, further validating post-test scores. Results here serve also to confirm Egleston’s (2013) idea that an interrupted video case-study, could address all limitations typically associated with case-based instruction.

Service Learning for Development of Undergraduate Practitioner Researchers

Karen Flint Stipp • School of Social Work

Kathryn Sheridan • School of Social Work

Ariana E. Postlethwait • Department of Social Work, Middle Tennessee State University

Social work has an ongoing challenge to help undergraduates identify as practitioner-researchers. In a one-semester research course for juniors, groups of students completed an agency-based proposal. The assignment used a service learning approach. Students worked with agencies to identify agency questions, and develop a proposal for finding answers to an agency question. The following year each student completed a two-semester practicum. This study asked graduating seniors to report whether elements of their junior year agency-based proposal informed their senior year field practicum work.

Can Grammar Graphics Impact Grammar Knowledge and Collegiate Writing?

Mark Zablocki • Department of Special Education

Christy Borders • Department of Special Education

Carrie Anna Courtad • Department of Special Education

Stacey Jones Bock • Department of Special Education

Grammar Graphics is a visual system for teaching English syntax. It has the potential to influence ways in which teacher candidates may teach grammar to their K-12 students in the future as well impact their own syntactic knowledge. This system teaches visual symbols for each part of speech with rationale for the symbol itself. We investigated the impact of explicit instruction in grammar with Grammar Graphics on teacher candidate knowledge of syntax as well as their confidence to instruct their future K-12 students in grammar. We further assessed the impact of explicit instruction in grammar with Grammar Graphics on collegiate writing.

How Do Science Undergraduate Students Benefit from Conducting Educational Research?

Rebekka Darner Gougis • School of Biological Sciences

Janet F. Stomberg • School of Biological Sciences

Alicia T. OHare • School of Biological Sciences

This project engaged two science graduate students as members of an educational research team to examine the progression of their experiences as student-researchers and their ideas about qualitative research. Their participation provides a unique context in which we can examine how future science educators come to understand the process and value of educational research, particularly qualitative research. This study can inform future studies that examine how to prepare educators in applying educational research to their practice and ultimately strengthen the quality of post-secondary science education.


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Thank you, Kathleen!

Written and compiled by current and past SoTL Scholar-Mentors at Illinois State University

Earlier this week, Kathleen McKinney posted a blog on this site, reflecting on what SoTL has meant to her. The timing of this blog was important, as it was posted at the start of Kathleen’s last week before retiring as the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University. The timing of today’s blog is equally important, as today is Kathleen’s last day of work at ISU before she retires. Several recent SoTL Scholar-Mentors could not let this day go by without letting Kathleen know that as much as SoTL has meant to her, she has meant a great deal to the SoTL movement on our campus and beyond.

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Kathleen has attributed her professional success to “advice, assistance, collaboration, and relationships.” She may have received those things from others during her career, but she has returned those same things in spades. Please indulge us today, as we acknowledge what Kathleen has meant to us, publicly and sincerely. She deserves it. Those of us passionate about SoTL at ISU know that she has been an amazing trailblazer, affecting change that has furthered the mission of our university. We gladly learn and teach at ISU, and we do that via systematic reflection and study — because of the work of Kathleen McKinney. We wish her the very best of luck going forward! Congratulations, Kathleen!

The people who transform our lives often show up in subtle ways and it is only with hindsight that we realize how fundamentally we have been impacted. When I first met Kathleen McKinney in 2008 I had no idea that I was gaining a research mentor, a skillful facilitator, a tireless role model, an impassioned advocate, and a lifelong friend. A quick review of my CV certainly delineates Kathleen’s influence with SoTL articles, awards, grants, conference presentations, service, and video documentaries all accomplished with her steady and inspiring collaboration. But the elements that can’t be itemized are even more important to me, as Kathleen has helped me define a significant approach to scholarship that has true meaning to my practice and to my sense of self. Thank you, Kathleen. My personal journey from media professional to academic scholar and teacher is profoundly more successful because of you.

-Maria Moore, Associate Professor & Mass Media Program Coordinator, School of Communication and 2014 SoTL Mentor

 

I vacillated on whether to use the present or past tense in this brief post about what Kathleen McKinney means to SoTL. In light of her recent retirement after a lifetime of scholarship and teaching, it would seem appropriate to use the past tense except for one significant factor. Her contributions endure, whether in written works, previous instruction or sheer inspiration and are very much a dynamic part of the academic community. Someone with greater acumen on grammatical matters (and that includes Kathleen herself) will hopefully forgive the messiness of verb tenses that follow. When I write that she was a most enthusiastic supporter of the scholarship of teaching and learning here at ISU, I also mean that her passion was infectious and still rejuvenates the lot of us who follow in her wake.

Kathleen’s bio reveals some of her many specific accomplishments, while the body of SoTL literature is replete with reference to those contributions. She is rooted in the field. And in my specific case, she is also embedded as a benefactor. When reflecting upon my varied experiences as a SoTL Scholar Mentor during 2014-15, a position that  fostered professional development as a researcher and teacher and amplified collaboration with colleagues across a multitude of disciplines, I remain wholeheartedly grateful for the role that Kathleen played in bringing me on board. Occupying the Office of the Cross Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning she was certainly more than a program administrator. She was a mentor’s mentor. It was Kathleen who flung open the doors to the SoTL community and guided my novice beginnings while shepherding or collaborating with others already heavily engaged in such work. Essentially it was Kathleen who—-through dedication, spirit and hard work—-exemplifies the mission and goals of SoTL itself, and continues to demonstrate its value to our university.

-Michaelene Cox, Associate Professor, Politics & Government and 2014-15 SoTL Scholar-Mentor

 

While on a tour of the CTLT during my campus interview, I noticed a small sticker on one of the office doors. It was for the ISU Equestrians and immediately I knew that I wanted to be involved with that organization. Little did I know what a profound impact it would have on my future work at Illinois State. When I arrived later that fall, I reached out to the faculty advisor, Dr. Kathleen McKinney.  We began working together as co-advisers for the ISU Equestrians, a registered student organization.  We soon began to discuss the personal and professional learning that we observed in the student members of the organization and my first SoTL project was born.

I had never done SoTL research before and working with Kathleen, with her incredible knowledge of and passion for SoTL, was inspiring.  We presented our findings at the CTLT Symposium, several conferences, and finally published it in the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. In the seven years I have been at ISU, I have engaged in a number of SoTL projects with the support of Kathleen. Through her never-ending encouragement and mentorship, not only did my own research agenda reflect my interest in SoTL, but I was afforded a number of opportunities to work with other faculty members on campus to develop their SoTL research as well.

It is for this reason, that while Kathleen will be greatly missed, her impact on this campus will continue through the support and guidance she has shown to so many. Thank you, Kathleen, for being an advocate for SoTL, an outstanding mentor, and wonderful friend.

-Erin Mikulec, Associate Professor, Teaching & Learning and 2015-16 SoTL Scholar-Mentor

 

In 2005, I came to ISU as both an excited teacher and a reluctant researcher. During my first year on campus, I attended an “Intro to SoTL” workshop led by Kathleen. It was the best 2 hours I’ve ever spent in terms of professional development. I left that workshop saying to myself, “THIS is what I want to do!” The rest is truly history.

In working as a SoTL Scholar-Mentor the last three years, I’ve mentored others while simultaneously being mentored by Kathleen. My work with her has deepened and broadened my interest of and knowledge about SoTL in numerous ways. She has tirelessly supported so many of us — building personal and professional relationships that will live on beyond Kathleen’s retirement. I am not sure how many late night emails and text messages we have exchanged in the last few years about various topics and projects, but I view them as tangible evidence of strong support that is so very appreciated.

Kathleen has demonstrated the best of teaching and learning as a SoTL mentor, and I am a better teacher and researcher because of her. I hope I can return the favor in the very near future in my work with SoTL researchers on campus and beyond. To that end, I celebrate Kathleen’s retirement with respect for her contributions and successes as well as a true excitement to continue and extend the work that she has done here at ISU. I embark on my journey as the next Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL tomorrow — ready for this role because of Kathleen. Thank you, my friend!

-Jen Friberg, Incoming Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL, Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and 2013-16 SoTL Scholar-Mentor

 


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Designing and Conducting a SoTL Project using a Worksheet: A Baker’s Dozen of Important Sets of Guiding Questions

Written by Kathleen McKinney, Professor and Cross Chair in SoTL, Illinois State University

Many of us have numerous SoTL research topics or questions floating around in our minds. We have multiple ideas for design and measurement. We have thoughts, perhaps concerns, about IRB issues. We may be unsure about multiple methods/measures or whether to obtain qualitative and/or quantitative data. We are hoping to make the results and implications of the SoTL project public somehow and somewhere… and so on.

In my own efforts to begin to transform these disparate and numerous thoughts in to a solid, organized, meaningful, and practical SoTL research project, I have found that filling in a SoTL design and conduct ‘worksheet’ has been very helpful. I have also used such worksheets with faculty, academic staff, and graduate students in numerous SoTL workshops over the last fifteen years.* You may choose to fill in the worksheet all at one time (imagine there is plenty of blank space between the sets of questions!) or in multiple settings over time as you  progress on the project. You may wish to answer these questions alone or to complete it with others (e.g., co-researchers, peers working on their own SoTL project worksheet).

  1. Think about a teaching and/or learning issue, problem, intervention, or question that you have about your students, a course, an assignment or pedagogical strategy, a program, a co-curricular experience, etc. Briefly state that as a question or questions.
  2. What do you already know (from theory or literature in your discipline, or SoTL or education more broadly) about this topic/question– whether it has been looked at in the past, about ways to gather data on student learning and other outcomes related to this topic or question, and what has been found in previous research on your or a similar question(s)?
  3. Given your question(s), what types of information or artifacts do you already have or already collect that will help you to answer this question(s)?
  4. Given your question(s), what other types of information or data or artifacts will you need (and from what sources) to best answer your question(s)?
  5. Given your question(s) and the information/data you need, what research strategies or methods (e.g., student reflections, assignments, interviews, focus groups, questionnaires/tests, observations, quasi-experiments, and so on might you use to obtain the information/data need to answer your SoTL question(s)?
  6. Would it be a good idea to use multiple research strategies (methods)? Which ones? Why? What about multiple measures of certain outcomes? Is your SoTL question(s) best answered with qualitative and/or quantitative data?
  7. What time frame is a good fit with your SoTL research question(s)? Cross-sectional? Longitudinal? Short or long-term? One semester or multiple semesters? How many data points do you need to best answer your question(s)?
  8. How might you involve an undergraduate and/or graduate student or students in this SoTL project, not only as participants, but as a research assistant or co-researcher? What nontrivial tasks could students do or assist with that would benefit both their learning and research experience as well as the SoTL study? How would this add ‘student voices’ to the project?
  9. What are ethical issues you should consider or might face in designing and conducting this project? Informed consent? Right to Privacy? Protection from harm? Other? How will you design the study to reduce ethical problems and to protect participants? What are any local IRB issues or procedures you should consider/plan to address? Where/how can you get help with your IRB protocol if needed?
  10. What are some potential practical problems you might face in conducting this SoTL study? Limited time? Limited funds? Lack of expertise for part of the project? Limitations to using the best design? No available co-researchers? How will you deal with these practical problems? What faculty support units and internal pots of funds could you apply for/use?
  11. With whom can you share your initial (above) ideas for a SoTL study (SoTL researchers and/or relevant disciplinary colleagues) for feedback? What changes in the design does their feedback imply?
  12. Who are the audience(s) you hope to reach and to impact with this SoTL project and results (students, disciplinary and SoTL colleagues, administrators, community members, tenure and promotion committee members, and so on)? How can you best represent this project to convey it and its’ value clearly to these audiences (e.g., presentation, publication, internal report, video, blog post, creative product, etc.)?
  13. What are possible peer-reviewed outlets (conferences, journals, juried shows, web sites…) you can use for this representation to make it public? Who can peer-review your draft representation before you submit?

*A simpler (and much older) version of a SoTL design worksheet was published in McKinney, K. 2007. Enhancing Learning through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: The Challenges and Joys of Juggling. Jossey-Bass.

 


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A Sample of Funded SoTL Research Projects: Inspiration for Ideas, Connections, and Applications

Written by: Kathleen McKinney, Outgoing Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL, Illinois State University

Sometimes it is useful to acquire and share a sense of SoTL projects in progress or planned on your (or other) campuses.  This may contribute to new ideas and questions, to potential new connections and networks, and to possible cross-disciplinary and/or cross-institutional applications.

In this blog post, I share the names and disciplines as well as the project titles of just a sample of the SoTL research being conducted at Illinois State University. If you want to connect, email addresses for these researchers are available via the search box on the university home page (http://www.illinoisstate.edu). As projects are completed, and as required when accepting funds, recipients submit a representation or summary of the project (paper, power point, poster, blog post…). Once submitted, these summaries can be viewed by clicking on the grant competition title and then the particular project at http://sotl.illinoisstate.edu/grants/.

These projects have received some type of funding from our Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL via highly competitive grant programs. Sometimes the area of SoTL research was ‘open’; other times, the area was specified in order to gain greater understanding of the impact on our students of a University priority or initiative. Thus, I also share a bit about the goal/purpose and process of each grant program.

I encourage blog readers to comment with related information or links about SoTL research and grant programs on their campuses or in their organizations!

2015–2016 Going Global with SoTL Mini-grants ($1,000 each)

This program provided mini-grants to study the developmental and learning outcomes of Illinois State University students as a result of global, international, or cross-cultural curricular or co-curricular experiences. These experiences could have been part of, for example, an ISU class or program on campus, a study abroad experience, a co-curricular travel and/or volunteer experience, etc. as long as a global/international/cross-cultural component was clearly a major aspect of the assignment, opportunity, or experience. We received and reviewed twelve applications and were able to support five.

  • Study Abroad Experience in Peru and Students’ Development, Aysen Bakir, Marketing
  • Interpreting the Frames: A Study of Six Art Education Students’ Integration of Their Study Abroad in Australia Experience Into Their Classroom Teaching Practices, Judith Briggs, Art
  • History Teacher Candidates and Discipline-Specific Pedagogy: Theory, Policy, andPractice in England and the United States, Richard L. Hughes and Sarah Drake Brown, History
  • Preparing Future Early Childhood Teachers: Furthering InterculturalDialogues among Early Childhood Pre-service Teachers across the Globe, Miranda Lin, School of Teaching and Learning
  • Exploring and Understanding Global Diets from a Sociocultural Perspective: ACase of Pre-service Teachers in Thailand, Taiwan, and the U.S., Do-Yong Park, School of Teaching and Learning

June 2016 SoTL Research Mini-Awards ($700 each)

The purpose of these awards is to provide a small amount of funding to support work on SoTL projects that are currently in progress (e.g., design stage, IRB stage, gathering or analyzing SoTL data, working on a creative or scholarly representation of the SoTL study/results, travel to present SoTL). Selected applicants had to make a convincing case that a SoTL project about ISU students is on-going and that the award will be used for work/activities in the month of June to further the project’s progress, completion, application, or visibility. They also agreed to submit a blog post to The SoTL Advocate about the project by October. Applications about all SoTL topics or research questions were welcome. We received and reviewed twenty-three applications and had the funds to support eight.

  • Investigating Methods for Improving Graduate Student Writing, Becky Achen, Kinesiology and Recreation 
  • Using Interrupted Case Studies to Teach Developmental Theory, Bill Anderson, Family and Consumer Sciences
  • When Privilege and Oppression Becomes ‘Real’ in the Life of Emerging Social Workers, Deneca Avant, Social Work
  • Exploring the Learning Process, Perceptions, and Confidence in Experiential Research Project Scaffolding in Two Allied Health Undergraduate Courses, Jackie Lanier, Health Sciences, Julie Schumacher, Family and Consumer Sciences, and Rachel Vollmer, Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Student Stories of Free Speech Acts on Campus: A Digital Documentary Film, Maria Moore, Communication 
  • Factors Associated with Students’ Integration of Course Content in Online Discussions, Nancy Novotny, Mennonite College of Nursing and Elahe Javadi, Information Technology
  • A Holistic Approach to Learning about Laryngeal Cancer through an Innovative Independent Study Experience, Lisa Vinney, Communication Sciences Disorders
  • Group Contingency Interventions in Special Education Courses, Virginia Walker, Special Education and Kristin Lyon, Special Education

2016–2017 SoTL University Research Grants (about $5,000 each)

The program provides scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) small grants to study the developmental and learning outcomes of ISU students. For 2016-2017, projects must focus on a teaching-learning issue(s) explicitly related to out-of-class learning opportunities experienced by ISU students. This would include, but is not limited to, study abroad, civic engagement experiences, service learning, involvement in co- or extra-curricular activities, and so on. Each proposal, must be from a team of at least one faculty/staff member and at least one student (graduate or undergraduate). Team members may be from the same discipline or include members from more than one discipline. We received and reviewed nineteen proposals and were able to fund or partially fund five.

  • Evaluating Graduate Student Out-of-Class Learning: The Professional Field Trip, Rebecca Achen and Clint Warren, Kinesiology and Recreation
  • Intentional and Integrated Field Experiences’ Contribution to Health Education Teacher Candidate Achievement of Learning Outcomes Relevant to Youth Disproportionately Affected by Health Disparities, Adrian Lyde, Health Sciences
  • Development of Leadership Competence through a Service Learning Project in a Dietetic Internship, Julie Raeder Schumacher, Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Learning through Teaching and Dialogue: A Student-Directed Vocal Health Education Program, Lisa Vinney, Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Exploring the Potential of a Diverse Set of Service Learning Projects to Increase Dietetics Students’ Self-Efficacy in Nutrition Education, Rachel Vollmer, Family and Consumer Sciences


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Reflections on ISU SoTL Scholar-Mentor Program

Written by: Kathleen McKinney, Cross Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Illinois State University

For the last three years, at Illinois State University, we have had a program called the “SoTL Scholar-Mentor Program.” I have served as the facilitator of these scholar-mentors. This program overlaps somewhat with scholar programs at other institutions that either fund SoTL researchers/grants or use faculty members as SoTL faculty developers. We also fund a variety of faculty/staff SoTL grants and research. We also use paid and volunteer faculty to assist others with learning about SoTL or SoTL projects. We believe our additional SoTL Scholar-Mentor Program, however, is somewhat unique. In this blog post, I summarize the goals and features of the program, share links to some scholar-mentor reflections, and reflect on the program from my point of view.

The ISU SoTL Scholar-Mentor Program

There are two main goals of the SoTL Scholar-Mentor program. The first goal is to nurture faculty members who are interested in SoTL– but who also have SoTL experience– in terms of furthering their own SoTL work, strengthening their experience as SoTL mentors and faculty developers, and connecting them to the SoTL field beyond campus. The second goal is to provide additional and valuable ‘personnel’ to the Office of the Cross Chair in SoTL so that we can achieve our goals of SoTL support, research, and advocacy.

All tenured or tenure-track Illinois State University faculty members with experience in the scholarship of teaching and learning are eligible to apply to be a SoTL scholar-mentor. Scholar-Mentors receive a course reassignment to the Office of the Cross Chair for the semester(s) for which they are accepted and $3,000 in travel and/or research funds for the fiscal year they are a scholar-mentor. Scholar-mentors were eligible for other SoTL funds open to any faculty/staff member as well. SoTL Scholar-Mentors work directly with the Cross Chair in SoTL and any other scholar-mentors. They have some time to work on their own SoTL project and to travel to SoTL conferences. In addition, they take responsibility for certain SoTL support and mentoring services depending on their expertise, interest, and initiative.

Reflections from Scholar-Mentors

Over the course of the three years, we have had six different SoTL Scholar-Mentors; four of whom served more than one semester. The scholar-mentors represented three colleges and six departments or schools within our university. Several of the scholar-mentors made brief reflective comments about their experiences (Dr. Erin Mikulec of the School of Teaching and Learning, is still serving as a scholar-mentor). I share these below.

A reflection by Politics and Government Professor, Dr. Michaelene Cox can be found at http://sotl.illinoisstate.edu/downloads/newsletter/September2015.pdf. She summarizes some of her work as a scholar-mentor and notes that “…the less tangible, but no less important, result of serving as a SoTL Scholar-Mentor is that I met a host of smart and delightful colleagues from diverse disciplines that I might not have run across otherwise. The position gave me practice and greater appreciation for teamwork and collaborative problem solving. It broadened my understanding of SoTL, and boosted my confidence and experience in mentoring others about this work. And lastly, the past year in service as a Scholar-Mentor provided a unique perspective on the spirit of teaching and learning that forms the foundation of ISU’s mission. “

Dr. Maria Moore, a professor in our School of Communication, offers a brief reflection of her SoTL Scholar-Mentor experience at http://sotl.illinoisstate.edu/downloads/newsletter/September2014.pdf. She explains what she brought to our SoTL support efforts and some of the tasks she performed. She also said that “One of the best parts of the SoTL Scholar-Mentor experience was the collaborative nature of working with the other mentors and with Kathleen McKinney as our leader. As the other scholars came from different disciplines, I was able to learn a great deal from them and through their own mentor activities. There was such a wonderful creative spirit to our collaborative work, and it was deeply rewarding to see the success they had in their own initiatives.”

Drs. Jen Friberg (CSD) and Anu Gokhale (Tech) share summaries of their Scholar-Mentor work in a joint brief article at http://sotl.illinoisstate.edu/downloads/newsletter/January2014.pdf . Similar to other scholar-mentors they highlighted benefits of their experience including the chance to learn new things, form new networks and partnerships, and collaborate with others. Dr. Friberg, in a personal communication to me, indicated that “her experiences as a SoTL Scholar-Mentor have been instrumental in developing a ever deepening interest in SoTL, peer mentoring, and advocacy for SoTL at and beyond ISU. Work in this capacity allowed me to develop the skills and knowledge I will need to be successful in my role as the Cross Endowed Chair in the coming years.”

Phyllis McCluskey-Titus, professor in Educational Administration and Foundations, in a personal communication to me, wrote “Some of my best experiences doing research relate to SoTL. Helping others design their projects or offering feedback on how they have written their findings was a very rewarding part of my role as a SoTL Scholar-Mentor. I find that SoTL researchers tend to be a lot like my disciplinary colleagues, collaborative and interested in students and their learning, so I enjoyed talking with “SoTL people” about effective teaching and incorporating suggestions from their research into my own classes. Working with Kathleen McKinney and the other SoTL Scholar-Mentors was never work, but always good quality time spent designing programs and services in support of SoTL on our campus with wonderful, thoughtful people from whom I learned a great deal.”

Reflections from the Cross Chair in SoTL

As I look back on the three-year program, several anecdotal conclusions occur to me.

  • All the Scholar-Mentors and all the applicants were women.
  • Scholars indicated several positive outcomes from their experience including learning new things related to SoTL and/or faculty development, meeting new people including in other disciplines and institutions, forming new partnerships sometimes with students, and having new opportunities for collaboration and team-work.
  • Though not mentioned in the above brief reflections, scholar-mentors also worked on their own SoTL research or writing, and traveled and presented their work. All the scholar-mentors attended international SoTL conferences. All the scholars also had previous, current, and/or later funding for SoTL research or travel through this office.
  • Most SoTL Scholar-Mentors became more involved in SoTL in their disciplinary association and/or in the international, multi-disciplinary SoTL field in terms of joining new organizations or professional service.
  • I tried to ‘match’ scholar-mentors with their interests, strengths, or desire to learn new things when negotiating the SoTL support/development tasks on which they would each take the lead or assist. This seemed to work out well for everyone in terms of motivation and success at task completion.
  • I, the Office of the Cross Chair, and those doing SoTL on campus benefited greatly from this program as the Scholar-Mentors often had strengths I did not (e.g., making video documentaries, using social media to promote SoTL and the office; working with external grant agencies…). In fact, most of the scholars came up with new and/or innovative programs or initiatives on which they took the lead and that I most likely would not have accomplished alone.
  • Scholar-mentors generally seemed to be very busy, possibly over-committed, professionally, yet most often were able to complete the support/development work on time and with quality. A few tasks were not completed to the extent I may have had in mind but this occurred rarely and not, necessarily, as the result of any scholar-mentor ‘failures’.
  • I enjoyed my interactions with these women tremendously. We had many successes and accomplishments as well as enjoyed some social time.

 

 

 


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Graduate Students and SoTL: Informing, Encouraging, and Supporting

By Kathleen McKinney, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL, Illinois State University

Many campuses work to involve graduate students in reading, assisting, conducting, and applying scholarship of teaching and learning projects/research. At Illinois State University, through the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, we also do this via several mechanisms. We believe it is critically important for graduate students to learn about and have the opportunity to participate in SoTL as both an opportunity for more research experience and as a way of understanding and improving their teaching as graduate students and/or future faculty members. In this brief blog post, I summarize some of the mechanisms we have used. I encourage blog readers to comment and add ideas for other readers.

SoTL Reading Circle

We offer a SoTL reading circle to graduate students. We provide a book on SoTL (and sometimes other readings). In the past, we have used The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in and Across the Disciplines (McKinney, 2013, IU Press). Students do reading ahead of attending two required, facilitated group discussion meetings. At those meetings, particpants explore ideas about SoTL research, understand the value of SoTL in the role of professor, and consider opportunities that exist at ISU to support scholarly productivity as a SoTL researcher.  Generally, we limit each reading circle to 8-10 students. Participating students also earn a $150 stipend for reading the text and for active participation in both sessions. The stipend is applied to their student account at ISU (any funds remaining in a student’s account after account is paid in full are refunded to the student). And, of course, we feed the students as well!

SoTL Toolbox Session via Graduate School Toolbox Program

Our Graduate School offers regular professional development sessions, one hour in duration, on a wide range of topics to graduate students on campus. This year, we were able to add a SoTL Toolbox session to that list of offerings. About a dozen graduate students signed up for the session. We created a power point presentation about SoTL, its uses, making it public, and support on campus. We shared some SoTL related handouts. There was no monetary compensation for the graduate students but we did feed them!

Require Student Co-researcher on SoTL Grants

We offer a variety of SoTL related grants during the year for faculty members and academic staff. These include travel grants, mini-grants, and SoTL University Research Grants (URGs up to $5,000). For many of these grants, but especially the URGs, faculty/staff applicants must include at least one student (can be an undergraduate but is most often a graduate student) in meaningful roles on their research team. Doing so and outlining the non-trivial research duties in which the student will engage is one criterion for funding. This often leads to SoTL research presentations and papers co-authored by the PI and the student. Students have also presented on their experience working on the SoTL grant.

Selected SoTL Development Events Open to Graduate Students or Special SoTL Workshop for Graduate Students

Sometimes our office is able to offer space in SoTL workshops or other opportunities to graduate students. This depends, however, on the purpose of the workshop or opportunity, funding issues, timing, demand from faculty and staff, etc. Occasionally, we will offer a SoTL workshop just for graduate students and are able to target their interests, needs, and experience.

Opportunities for Involvement in SoTL Support Work by Our Office

A few years ago, when ISU was a leader in the Carnegie Foundation CASTLE Program, 2-4 graduate students were involved on the campus teams for these initiatives including traveling to CASTLE events and co-authoring chapters in a book on student voices in SoTL. More recently, graduate students in Art, English, and Communication have been hired to use their professional skills in our SoTL support efforts including designing the original cover of Gauisus (our online, multimedia SoTL journal), copyediting and formatting papers for Gauisus, designing PR material for events, and planning a major on-campus SoTL event.

Encourage/remind Graduate Students how to Make their SoTL Public Locally

Finally, we offer a variety of ways anyone on campus, including graduate students, can share their individual or team SoTL research and products locally. We inform graduate students about these opportunities via fliers, information to Chairs/Directors, FaceBook, Twitter, the graduate school, and so on.  The opportunities include writing very brief ‘articles’ for the SoTL at ISU Newsletter or The SoTL Advocate Blog, submitting a representation of their SoTL work to Gauisus, presenting at the annual Teaching-Learning Symposium, or having a poster at the annual University Research Symposium.