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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The SLaM Model of Applying SoTL In and Beyond One Classroom

Written by Kathleen McKinney, Illinois State University, Emeritus and Jennifer Friberg, Illinois State University 

slamIn this blog post we share a model for the application of scholarship of teaching and learning findings in and beyond the individual classroom level. The model, named SLaM, is detailed in the Introduction chapter of our edited book, Applying the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Beyond the Individual Classroom (Indiana University Press, 2019, in press). The focus of that volume is on SoTL and its application beyond one classroom but the SLaM model is about application at any level. We define SoTL using both our institutional definition, ‘the systematic reflection/study of teaching and learning made public,’ as well as key characteristics as practitioner, action reflection/research that is usually about the instructor/researchers’ own students and/or students in their discipline and is most often at the local level. We understand application as the use of SoTL research findings and implications to design, change, intervene, make decisions, etc., primarily in institutions and disciplines, to enhance teaching and student learning.

The SLaM model is an outgrowth of our early discussions of application at various levels (e.g., Friberg & McKinney, 2015, 2016; McKinney 2003, 2007, 2012).[1] We then organized and built on those ideas, as we wrote for and edited our latest book, to create the SLaM model. The model uses three questions to conceptualize, categorize, and understand the use of SoTL results/knowledge in applications to teaching and learning. We briefly note these here but a more detailed discussion, diagram, and examples of the model can be found in our Introduction to our edited book (see endnote 1 below for the citation for the model).

  1. What is the source of the SoTL that is applied? The “S” in our SLaM framework is connected to identifying the source(s) of SoTL findings being applied. SoTL research results that are applied at various levels may be from the teacher’s original scholarship of teaching and learning studies, SoTL work by colleagues, the synthesis of presented or published SoTL research in the discipline/institution/larger SoTL field, or some combination of these sources of SoTL results and implications.
  2. At what level(s) are the data/results/implications applied? There are numerous levels (the “L” in our framework) at which SoTL findings and implications could be applied to positively impact teaching and learning. These levels include the individual classroom, course/module, program, department, college, co-curricular, institutional, disciplinary, multi-institutional, and multi-disciplinary levels.
  3. What mechanisms or processes are used (or could be used) to apply the SoTL data/results/implications to new areas or contexts at various levels? The “M” in our SLaM framework represents the many mechanisms that exist or could be created that can be used as processes for novel applications of SoTL findings. A few examples include assessment, quality assurance, course/program design or redesign, accreditation, budget development, strategic planning, faculty/staff development, interdisciplinary initiatives, and graduate student training.

In our forthcoming edited book, eleven examples of the application of SoTL are described; two in our Introduction and nine in the contributed chapters. We briefly summarize three of these examples of applications and their fit with our model here. First, Brent Oliver, Darlene Chalmers, and Mary Goitom of Mount Royal University in Canada in their chapter, “Reflexivity in the Field: Applying Lessons Learned from a Collaborative Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Study Exploring the Use of Reflexive Photography in Field Education” use findings and implications from face-to face interviews with students from multiple institutions (source). They apply what they learned at the course, program and department levels using curricular reform, program review and accreditation (mechanisms). They are planning additional applications in a new interdisciplinary fellowship program and via faculty development programs.

Another example comes from Belgium. In the chapter, “Feedback First Year”- A Critical Review of the Strengths and Shortcomings of a Collective Pedagogical Project,” Dominique Verpoorten, Laurent Leduc, Audrey Mohr, Eléonore Marichal, Dominique Duchâteau, and Pascal Detroz describe their sources of SoTL findings: SoTL literature on feedback practices as well as original data from interviews with members of the faculty participating in SoTL staff development programs, observations and diaries of advisers, minutes of meetings, and descriptive templates of project outcomes. Levels of application included individual courses, faculties/departments (group of courses; program), and institution. The mechanisms they used for application were specific course re-design tasks (designing feedback activities by faculty participants), a variety of course interventions, and sharing results in departments via meetings and plenaries.

Finally, contributors Claire Vallotton, Gina A. Cook, Rachel Chazan-Cohen, Kalli B. Decker, Nicole Gardner-Neblett, Christine Lippard, and Tamesha Harewood share their SoTL applications in “The Collaborative for Understanding the Pedagogy of Infant/toddler Development: A Cross-University, Interdisciplinary Effort to Transform a Field through SoTL.” Their project used implications from past SoTL literature, reflection, and original SoTL studies on multiple campuses (sources) at the course, program, department and disciplinary levels. The application mechanism was a cross-institutional, collaborative group of scholars (CUPID) where participants shared resources, conducted research, and disseminated work via conferences, workshops, publications, meetings.

We hope readers of this blog post will take a look at the details of the SLaM model and the interesting projects and applications from around the globe presented in the edited volume. We welcome feedback on the model and hope others will find it useful in their SoTL research and applications.

Blog References

Friberg, Jennifer C., and Kathleen McKinney. 2016. “Creating Opportunities for Institutional and Disciplinary SoTL Advocacy and Growth.” Presentation. SoTL Commons Conference, Savannah, GA, USA.

Friberg, Jennifer C., and Kathleen McKinney. 2015. “Strengthening SoTL at the Institutional and Disciplinary Levels.” Poster presentation. EuroSoTL, Cork, Ireland.

McKinney, Kathleen. 2012. “Making a Difference: Applying SoTL to Enhance Learning.” The Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 12(1): 1-7.

McKinney, Kathleen. 2007. Enhancing Learning through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: The Challenges and Joys of Juggling. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

McKinney, Kathleen. 2003. “Applying the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: How Can We Do Better?” The Teaching Professor August-September:1,5,8.

 

[1] As discussed in the Introduction to our edited book, the SlaM model overlaps slightly with the 4M model (Poole and Simmons, 2013; Wuetherick and Yu, 2016). Our initial presentations and writings of the SLaM model, however, predate the 4M model and the two models are distinct in various ways.

 

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Giving the Reading of SoTL Impact

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

On my flight home from a conference in sunny Austin, Texas last week (as I type this it’s snowing in Illinois, so the “sunny” descriptor is a happy recollection!), I had the opportunity to catch up on some journal reading that had accumulated. One piece I was interested in reading was an editorial from the most recent issue of InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching. Written by Nancy Chick, this work (titled Does Reading SoTL Matter? Difficult Questions of Impact) discussed the issue of impact in SoTL and questioned the influence of reading SoTL on a practitioner’s teaching and on student learning. In doing so, Chick raised a troubling question in the minds of her readers: what if reading SoTL doesn’t lead to any change in teaching or learning practice? I’m fairly certain that SoTL researchers don’t produce their work to have it NOT inform future teaching and learning practices. So, are we missing the “application” boat where we take what we read and use it to solve teaching and learning problems?

readI hate to think that SoTL reflects the trend identified in medical fields (“journals are not good at getting doctors to change and improve their practice”). However, I do feel as though the impact of reading SoTL research could easily be diminished without some sort of purposeful process of reflection, discussion, and/or integration – in the same manner that research says our students learn new skills. What might that look like, though? Chick suggests several wonderful options (a SoTL Journal Club, the use of small networks to discuss SoTL, and greater access to SoTL research via open access mechanisms to make discussions about our SoTL readings possible).

The overarching suggestion in this article was that those of us who read SoTL should “talk with others about what these readings make [us] think about.” I agree, for in that practice, there IS impact. Honestly, think about it. If you read SoTL research and then engage in discussions about what you’ve learned with others, you (very likely) consider your readings more deeply and puzzle over application of the study’s outcomes more thoroughly. Sharing leads to a deeper understanding — and perhaps use — of what we’ve read.

After reading Chick’s article, I spent the remainder of my plane ride thinking about other ways in which conversations about our own SoTL readings might be encouraged –beyond those suggested in the article. I have a few suggestions, across a variety of stakeholder groups/levels. These look a lot like general advocacy suggestions for SoTL, though each is tied to the specific practice of reading SoTL, with subsequent advocacy (aka: sharing) building impact over time:

  • Help peers develop an awareness of SoTL. If they don’t know a body of research about teaching and learning exists, they will never attempt to read it! Share resources where evidence on teaching and learning can routinely be accessed. Explain – explicitly — how you’ve used SoTL readings to alter your teaching practice(s). Take it one step further and detail how reading SoTL led you to conduct your own SoTL study.
  • Seek out formal and informal ways to share new knowledge derived from reading SoTL with colleagues or other stakeholders such as students, department or campus administrators, disciplinary leaders, and/or community members. Summarize what you’ve learned in newsletters, staff meetings, emails…any communication mechanism that allows for an exchange of this information. Approach your institution’s teaching and learning center to suggest programming based around reading SoTL to inform a scholarly approach to teaching.
  • Mentor students in reading and applying SoTL research. Share insights about learning with students to help them develop scholarly approaches to learning as well as scholarly approaches to teaching.
  • Add value to what you share with campus administrators about the SoTL you read by tying new knowledge from your SoTL readings to updates to the mission/vision of the institution or to its strategic plan. Advocate for evidence-informed thinking about next steps for your campus.
  • Use social media to share summaries of SoTL research with relevant stakeholders. Give an overview of what you read, then provide a link to the primary source for further exploration. Ask questions to encourage discussion among your “followers” to further develop ideas related to your SoTL readings.
  • Network at conferences to share case studies of how reading SoTL research has led to pedagogical change. This is particularly important at disciplinary conferences as widespread understanding of SoTL research is less obvious in those contexts than is typically evident at a teaching/learning conference.

These ideas in no way constitute an exhaustive list! Please feel free to add suggestions from your own context/practice below in the comments section! Happy SoTL reading – and sharing!

Blog References

Chick, N. L. (2017). Does reading SoTL matter? Difficult questions of impact. InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching, 12, 9-13.