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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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.





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“Brushing Up” on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A Sample of Books

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

Though many SoTL projects are discipline-specific, local, and context-specific, there are general book resources available related to SoTL. These include books on designing/doing SoTL, examples of SoTL projects, SoTL in the disciplines or related to teaching specific topics, and issues in the field of SoTL. Most of these books are useful to those in any discipline.

Are you new to SoTL? Are you a more experienced ‘SoTLer’ but looking to expand your knowledge of the field? Are you a faculty developer who helps others do SoTL? If any of these apply to you, perhaps you will find one or more of the following books useful. This list is a sample of books about SoTL or reporting on SoTL and published in the last 15 years. Happy reading!

General or Issue-Specific “How To Do” SoTL Books:

  • Bishop-Clark, C., & Dietz-Uhler, B. (2012). Engaging in the scholarship of teaching and learning: A guide to the process, and how to develop a project from start to finish. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
  • Gurung, R. A. R., & Schwartz, B. M. (2009). Optimizing teaching and learning: Practicing pedagogical research. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Gurung, R. A. R., & Wilson, J. H. (Eds.). (2013). Doing the scholarship of teaching and learning: Measuring systematic changes to teaching and improvements in learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Hutchings, P. (2002). Ethics of inquiry: Issues in the scholarship of teaching and learning. Menlo Park, CA: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
  • McKinney, K. (2007). Enhancing learning through the scholarship of teaching and learning: The challenges and joys of juggling. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Werder, C., & Otis, M. M. (Eds.). (2010). Engaging student voices in the study of teaching and learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

SoTL in a/the Discipline(s) or Related to a Topic Area:

  • Dewar, J. M., & Bennett, C. D. (Eds.). (2015). Doing the scholarship of teaching and learning in mathematics. Washington, DC: Mathematical Association of America.
  • Ferrett, T. A., Geelan, D. R., Schlegel, W. M., & Stewart, J. L. (Eds.) (2013). Connected Science: Strategies for Integrative Learning in College. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Ginsberg, S., Friberg, J., & Visconti, C. (2012). Scholarship of Teaching and learning in speech-language and audiology: Evidence-based education. San Diego: Plural Publishing.
  • Huber, M. T., & Morreale, S. P. (Eds.). (2002). Disciplinary styles in the scholarship of teaching and learning: Exploring common ground. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.
  • Manarin, K., Carey, M., Rathburn, M., & Ryland, G. (2015). Critical Reading in Higher Education: Academic Goals and Social Engagement. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Mashek, D. J., & Hammer, E. Y. (Eds.). (2011). Empirical research in teaching and learning: Contributions from social psychology. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • McKinney, K. (Ed.). (2013). The scholarship of teaching and learning in and across disciplines. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Smith, M. B., Nowacek, R. S., & Bernstein, J. L. (Eds.) (2010). Citizenship Across the Curriculum. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Tinberg, H. & Weisberger, R. (2013). Teaching, Learning, and the Holocaust: An Integrative Approach. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

SoTL Support and/or Impact:

  • Becker, W. E., & Andrews, M. L. (Eds.). (2004). The scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education: Contributions of research universities. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Cambridge, B. L. (Ed.). (2004). Campus progress: Supporting the scholarship of teaching and learning. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.
  • Huber, M. T., & Hutchings, P. (2005). The advancement of learning: Building the teaching commons. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Hutchings, P., Huber, M. T., & Ciccone, A. (2011). The scholarship of teaching and learning reconsidered: Institutional integration and impact. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Kreber, C. (2013). Authenticity in and through teaching in higher education: The transformative potential of the scholarship of teaching. London; New York: Routledge.
  • Weimer, M. (2006). Enhancing scholarly work on teaching and learning: Professional literature that makes a difference. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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Ideas for Readings on SoTL and Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

Written by Kathleen McKinney, Cross Chair for SoTL at Illinois State University

This post was first sent to the POD faculty developer discussion list in response to a request for ideas about reading on SoTL/ T & L in higher education literature for graduate students. What follows is my reply with two additional recommendations inserted (from Nancy Chick at the University of Calgary). I will start by pointing out that there are different “categories” of literature here as the POD member asking the question use dboth the terms ‘SoTL’ and ‘T & L higher education literature’ (many would argue these overlap but are not the same sets of literature). And, depending on the graduate students [or junior faculty or others new to SoTL], their goals/needs for this literature, and your goals as a faculty developer, something from some or all of these categories of literature might be useful.

1. Theoretical or conceptual work, empirical research, syntheses of research… but in the very general and broad field of teaching and learning in the post-secondary educational level (or higher education): This work is often by those whose degrees are in the field of education or an education sub-field of a discipline, and is often not local or practioner or action research but more traditional, educational research or theorizing. Sometimes the work is very macro or policy oriented as well but certainly not always. Sometimes this work approaches higher educational issues from a disciplinary perspective or disciplinary literature base (e.g., M. Svinicki’s classic book- Learning and Motivation in the Post-Secondary Classroom– summarizing and applying learning theories and educational psychology to higher education teaching or R. Arum and J. Roksa’s Academically Adrift (and recently released follow-up book) both of which take a sociological approach to teaching and learning in higher education or J. E. Zull’s The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the practice of teaching by exploring the biology of learning from a biological/physiological view. Sometimes this more traditional educational research focuses on specific teaching-learning issues. I have a handout of several books in this category I have enjoyed and found useful (though I admit the list has not been updated in about 3 years and it is in NO WAY a complete list!). 

2. Literature on the field of the scholarship of teaching and learning (more narrowly conceptualized than T & L higher education literature and usually action, practioner, local, conducted by those in the disciplines including–mostly–non education disciplines): This work on the field of SoTL may be both within a discipline and, more often, in terms of the broader cross-discipline field of SoTL (e.g., debates about what SoTL is, how it should be done, variations by discipline or nation or institutional type, organizations, etc.). There are a number of ‘how to do’ SoTL books out. Most are somewhat biased toward a social science and education view of ‘research.’ Several cross-discipline SoTL journals also publish essays on the field of SoTL. Several books on the field have been published by Carnegie Foundation staff and Jossey-Bass over the last 15 years or so as well. You can find a bibliography of some things on the field of SoTL (again probably not updated in the last 2 years or so and certainly there is other relevant work including that from other nations) at

Two other great sources for reading related to SoTL, for example, are offered by Nancy Chick:

3. Actual SoTL research literature–“studies” (again more narrowly conceptualized than T & L higher education research literature) both discipline-specific (most of it) or cross/multi-discipline: The former is generally published in discipline-specific pedagogical journals –e.g., Teaching Sociology in my field– but both types are published in cross discipline SoTL journals such as Journal of Excellence in College Teaching, Teaching & Learning Inquiry, International Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, etc. There are many lists of such journals on line including the one our librarians keep at that includes ‘core’ or cross-discipline and discipline-specific SoTL and teaching journals.

Finally, related to both categories #2 and #3 above, I have an edited book that has chapters about issues in the field of SoTL in HE and some SoTL projects/research, in several disciplines and in multi-discipline teams. (McKinney, K. Ed. 2013. The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning In and Across the Disciplines. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.)

Happy reading!!!