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 Preliminary Look at Year 2 of the CSI-SoTL Program at ISU

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

STATE_YourLearningWe are nearing the end of the second year of the Certificate of Specialized Instruction in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CSI-SoTL) program at Illinois State University. This program was co-developed by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and the Graduate School at ISU to provide an opportunity for graduate students to learn about SoTL, specifically how it can be applied to solve teaching and learning problems as well as how SoTL projects are planned and executed. Graduate students with a strong interest in teaching at the college level following graduation were invited to participate. Nine students are currently enrolled in the CSI-SoTL program. They represent a broad range of disciplines and backgrounds:

  • Six females, three males
  • Five doctoral students representing the disciplines of English, Educational Administration and Foundations, Kinesiology and Recreation, and Special Education
  • Four master’s students representing the disciplines of Business/Accounting, English, Sociology, and Psychology
  • Six of the nine participants were involved in teaching within their discipline

The CSI-SoTL program features three distinct phases:

  1. Seminars: Participants in the CSI-SoTL program attend three workshops across the fall semester on the topics of SoTL & My Teaching and Learning, Asking SoTL Questions, and Executing a SoTL project.
  2. Mentored SoTL project planning: CSI-SoTL participants are paired with faculty from their own discipline (or one closely related) to plan a SoTL project. All students complete a “Project Planning Worksheet” to explore options for research questions, methodologies, dissemination outlets, etc. Students are encouraged to ask their mentors about their experiences with SoTL to learn more SoTL in their own discipline.
  3. Reflection: CSI-SoTL participants reflect on the processes in Phase 1 and Phase 2 by thoughtfully answering 10 reflection questions

Following the completion of Phase One, students were asked to evaluate their experiences across all three workshops they attended. Students indicated the following with quantitative data based on a Likert-type scale where 1=strongly disagree and 5=strongly agree:

Mean SD
I was well informed about the objectives of each workshop in the series. 4.42 .30
I understand the difference between scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning. 4.75 .16
Workshop content was relevant to my role as a student. 4.13 .30
Workshop content was relevant to my role as a teacher. 4.6 .24
The content of these workshops stimulated my interest in teaching and learning. 4.63 .18
I am more likely to engage in scholarly teaching/learning as a result of my attendance at these workshops. 4.88 .13
I am more likely to engage in SoTL as a result of my attendance at these workshops. 4.75 .16

When asked to describe the most valuable aspects of the Phase One workshops, students provided the following feedback:

  • Discussions with researchers outside the field of my discipline helped to spur new considerations and facilitated the design of my project.
  • Being able to develop my research question and bounce methodology ideas off other workshop participants was very valuable.
  • The planning worksheet helped put things into perspective about what I could do and how I could do it.
  • Opening up my understanding of what SoTL is was so appreciated. I knew nothing coming in and now I am equipped to learn more in this area.
  • The introduction to SoTL as a discipline and the literature available within our disciplines was wonderful.

One suggestion was provided to improve Phase One, which dealt directly with the fact that students only plan a project as part of this program (the project is not executed). This participant suggested that some form of data collection or extensive literature review be integrated into the CSI-SoTL program as part of Phase One to engage students more completely in the research process.

At this point, CSI-SoTL participants are completing Phase Two of their program and are engaged with their mentors to flesh out a high-quality SoTL project. The entire program is expected to conclude by mid-April. At that point, data from both CSI-SoTL cohorts will be analyzed in-depth to help inform next steps for the CSI-SoTL program, though preliminary plans are in the works to offer the program a third time during the next academic year. One positive outcome from the current cohort of participants is that several students have indicated that they will integrate their SoTL projects (planned in this program) into their dissertation research. WaHoo!

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International Students as Partners Institute (ISaPI) 2018

Posting on behalf of Mick Healey and Beth Marquis:

The 3rd International Students as Partners Institute (ISaPI) will be held at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada (approx. 45 min south of Toronto Airport) from 11-14 June 2018. If you are interested, please put these dates in your diary. This is the week after the International Consortium of Educational Developers (ICED) conference in Atlanta. Why not come for both? Please pass this message on to any colleagues you think may be interested in ISaPI.

The overall aim of ISaPI is to build the capacity and understanding of faculty, staff, and students to develop, design, implement, and disseminate initiatives that promote the practice of students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. Close to 200 staff/faculty and students have participated in the last two years in roughly equal numbers. Here are some comments:

“Thanks for this most challenging and rewarding experience, a very inspiring three days! We very much appreciated both the balance between systematic impetus, drawing on the community present and focusing on our own issues.”

“By far the most beneficial and enjoyable aspects … were the networking opportunities which led to collaboration and collective knowledge building. The international nature of these discussions really helped me to reconsider my assumptions about partnership.”

In 2018, staff and faculty are encouraged, where possible, to bring a student with them, or students to bring a member of staff/faculty with them to participate in one or two consecutive two-day interactive workshops:

  • Doing students as partners well: Exploring powerful in-class and extra-curricular practices
  • Being a good partner: Understanding the dynamics of power-sharing partnership practices

These are new topics, run by a new team, so previous participants are encouraged to join us again.

Teams of 4-6 faculty/staff and students (at least two of each) from an institution can apply to join a 3.5 day ‘Change Institute’ at which they’ll develop a ‘students as partners’ initiative they hope to implement in the coming year. All activities will be facilitated by a highly experienced international team of staff/faculty and students from Australia, Canada, US and UK.

One of the outcomes of the first ISaPI was the establishment of the International Journal for Students as Partners, which publishes research articles, case studies, reflective essays and opinion pieces.  It is run, like ISaPI, by an international team of faculty/staff and students. The second issue should be out next week.

For further details about this institute and for booking please go to: http://tinyurl.com/ISAPI2018

Here are some further comments from previous years’ participants:

“The inclusion of student partners was terrific and essential.  I wish we could have brought a student or two.  The time to simply plan in a context with stimulation, structure, and feedback was so valuable.”

“The best thing about the Institute was having a chance to work with students and teachers from around the world and seeing the way they do things at their universities was really enlightening.”

“Overall, I found the institute to be an eye-opening experience. As a student, it allowed me to learn from perspectives of those that I don’t often hear from (professors, educational developers, curriculum developers), and provided me with a growing sense of agency over my own education.”

 Key Dates & Deadlines

  • 1 November 2017: Registration for workshops open on a first come, first served basis.
  • 16 February 2018: Change Institute applications due (Apply Here!)
  • 2 March 2018: Change Institute teams notified of acceptance
  • 30 March 2018: Early Bird Registration deadline
  • 1 June 2018: Regular Registration deadline
  • 11-14 June 2018: Institute

 


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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.


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CSI-SoTL: Helping Graduate Students Learn about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

 

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

Last week, I identified several opportunities for ISU faculty, staff, and students in my blog post. This week, in an effort to define and explain a new program at ISU this fall, I will focus on one specific initiative: the Certificate of Specialized Instruction in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CSI-SoTL). The CSI-SoTL program was developed following two successful SoTL Reading Circles in the summers of 2015 and 2016. Students indicated a need for expanded programming, which I have endeavored to provide.

This program was co-developed by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and the Graduate School at ISU to provide expanded opportunities for graduate students to engage in study and reflection of research on teaching and learning to facilitate successful work as students and as future faculty.

The following provides a bit more information about why the CSI-SoTL program was developed, who might benefit from participating, and what the program will look like as it unfolds this academic year:

Program Benefits

Through a focus on understanding SoTL, learning about how to apply SoTL and thinking about conducting SoTL research, the CSI-SoTL program is aimed at helping participants succeed as students, teachers, and researchers. As many future college/university teachers lack opportunities for purposeful study and reflection on teaching and learning as part of their graduate school experience, this program provides a unique opportunity for participants to gain knowledge and skills in these areas.

All students who complete the certificate program will be provided a certificate and letter of completion for the program that can be appended to professional vitas/resumes in the future to indicate their focused study and reflection in the area of SoTL.

Aims

Participants the CSI-SoTL program will develop a thorough understanding of the purpose, definition and applications of the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) to support current and future teaching, learning, and research efforts. Specifically, through in-depth discussions and reflection on SoTL, participants in this program will:

  • Conceptualize SoTL as a form of action, practitioner, classroom-based research
  • Understand the impact of SoTL upon their own teaching and learning
  • Apply SoTL to improve their own teaching and learning
  • Become familiar with resources that facilitate scholarly teaching and SoTL
  • Develop/plan a SoTL research project to conduct in the future

Process

Throughout the year, participants in the CSI-SoTL program are expected to:

  1. Attend a series of three fall seminars*, including:
    • SoTL and My Teaching and Learning 
    • Planning a SoTL Project A (Methods)
    • Sharing a SoTL Project B (Dissemination) 
  2. Develop a SoTL research project in consultation with a faculty SoTL research mentor. Research plans will include research questions, methods, and a plan for dissemination (please note that participants do NOT have to complete their research project, they simply need to outline a plan for a potential SoTL project). Participants will be matched with a faculty member as close to their disciplinary field as possible. Times will be arranged individually for each participant for this part of the CSI-SoTL program in January and February of 2017.
  3. Systematically reflect on their experiences in learning about SoTL while completing the CSI-SoTL program, focusing on the impact of the program on future teaching, learning, and research endeavors. A specific format will be provided as a starting place for all reflections. Reflections will be submitted in April/May 2017.

*Please note that participants will be asked to prepare for each session with a brief reading assignment and a brief written reflection.

Current Program Status

Happily, I can report that over a dozen graduate students are enrolled and are set to begin the CSI-SoTL program in early October. Careful study of this program is planned with outcomes shared here on this blog in the summer of 2017.


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Fall SoTL Offerings @ ISU

Redbirds, there are a bevy of SoTL opportunities for you this fall supported by the Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL at Illinois State University. Please direct questions about these offerings to Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL (jfribe@ilstu.edu).

SoTL Workshops & Trainings

Interested in learning about SoTL? The 2-workshop Introduction to SoTL series (9/29 and 11/10 from 12:30-2pm) is just the thing for you. Designed to introduce attendees to SoTL, describe ways to engage in SoTL inquiry, and examine the benefits of SoTL as part of a productive research agenda, these sessions are intended for faculty/staff/students with little to no prior experience with SoTL. These workshops will be facilitated by Jen Friberg and are open to attendees from all disciplines represented at ISU.

For those with SoTL experience, a workshop called “Measuring Out-of-Class Learning” (11/8 from 1-3pm) was designed to help faculty evaluate student learning via opportunities such as study abroad, service learning and other civic engagement experiences. This workshop will be facilitated by Erin Mikulec (TCH) and Jen Friberg. Faculty from all disciplines are welcome to attend.

Certificate for Specialized Training in SoTL for Graduate Students

The Office of the Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL has partnered with ISU’s Graduate School in developing the Certificate for Specialized Training in SoTL (CSI-SoTL) for graduate students to engage in study and reflection of research on teaching and learning to facilitate successful work as students and as future faculty. All students who complete the certificate program will be provided a certificate and letter of completion for the program that can be appended to professional vitas/resumes in the future to indicate their focused study and reflection in the area of SoTL. The CSI-SoTL program will feature a series of workshops, opportunities to plan a SoTL project with a faculty mentor, and systematic reflection on learning across the experience.

Travel Grants (FY 17)

Applications are currently being accepted for ISU’s SoTL Travel Grant Program – FY17. The program is designed to encourage public sharing of SoTL work related to the teaching and/or learning of ISU students. The program provides partial funding for travel to present SoTL work. Funds up to $700 per application/conference will be awarded. Funds may be used toward conference registration and/or travel costs. This applies to a trip already taken (and not fully reimbursed) or to be taken, to present SoTL work this fiscal year. We expect to award 8-10 grants for FY17. Please note that faculty/staff are eligible for one travel grant (of any kind) per year. Applications are due by October 3, 2016 OR February 6, 2017.

Gauisus

Submissions for Gauisus, ISU’s internal, multimedia SoTL publication are invited at this time (Submission deadline: January 16, 2017). Faculty, staff, and/or students at ISU are invited to submit SoTL work to Gauisus. All scholarly submissions will be peer reviewed in a manner appropriate to the format of the work submitted. Those interested in submitting SoTL work can use a variety of formats for publication in GAUISUS, any of which could demonstrate a scholarly study of the teaching or learning of our students:

  • Research paper/note (15-30 double-spaced page manuscript, 12 point font, APA format)
  • Electronic poster
  • Any of the following, accompanied by a 1-2 page written summary to contextualize content, situation, and impact of your work: photo essay, video essay/documentary, website, blog, wiki. Other representations will be considered, as well.

We are also looking for faculty, staff, and/or students who are interested in serving as reviewers for this issue of GAUISUS. Reviewers will be asked to review 1-2 submissions between December 2016 (early submissions) and late February 2017 and will have their names listed within the publication as members of the review board. Reviewers may be asked to review resubmissions, if necessary. To volunteer, interested individuals should submit, electronically, a current curriculum vita/resume, highlighting editorial reviewer experience and/or SoTL work or relevant sections from a CV to  Jennifer Friberg, (jfribe@ilstu.edu) by 4:00 pm on Monday, November 7, 2015.

 


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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.

 


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Benefits to Faculty who Lead SoTL Research Teams with Students

Written by: Phyllis McCluskey-Titus, Professor of Educational Administration and Foundations at Illinois State University

Students can gain a number of important outcomes through participation in SoTL research teams with faculty. These outcomes include: enhanced research skills (Kardash, 2000); increased satisfaction with group learning (Panelli & Welch, 2005); helpful out-of-class contact between faculty and students (Cotten & Wilson, 2006); and increased connections between students and their discipline (Wayment & Dickson, 2008).

There are also significant benefits to faculty who facilitate SoTL research teams with students as co-researchers. As someone who has now led three different teams of students that studied teaching and learning, I can attest that there are some real benefits to faculty who invest time and energy into this process.

As a program coordinator as well as a faculty member, having willing student researchers allowed me to conduct a significant program evaluation that assessed student learning outcomes using national guidelines. The students developed and administered surveys, conducted interviews, and served as a review panel to rate and make recommendations from the information collected. Their assistance with writing the final report allowed the evaluation to be completed significantly faster than if I had been responsible for the entire process.

As a senior faculty member, conducting SoTL research with “learners” allowed me to keep the process fresh, and to examine different ways of conducting, publishing, and presenting research about teaching and learning with others who were not faculty. The students wanted to know why we used certain methods to collect or analyze data and forced me to reconsider and offer a rationale for what we were doing. One of the teams which was assessing learning outcomes contributed to the development of a survey instrument by asking not only what outcomes were achieved, but where and how students believed these outcomes were learned (class, graduate assistantship, volunteer experiences, professional associations) and this allowed our team to make stronger recommendations to faculty, supervisors, and other students about how to best direct their energies within the program to maximize their learning.

New faculty can certainly use a SoTL research team as “research support” when graduate research assistants are not available. For a small investment of time in teaching the team members, this group of student volunteers can be trained to help with any part of the SoTL research process. In exchange for authorship opportunities or presentation experience, even if funding is not available, SoTL research team members who are students can be more beneficial than finding a faculty mentor or partner to assist you. As the expert about SoTL and how to conduct research, you have to make sure you are very clear about the process and organization of your study in order to have students assist you. This forces you to be organized and prepared, and not put off research in favor of other responsibilities. Having the students involved will help you stay on task and on a specific timeline. By dividing the different tasks among the team members, everyone is able to contribute and learn in the process, and you may be able to be more productive and able to submit more research for publication or presentation.

Leading a SoTL research team is an important form of teaching, and a way to develop strong relationships with students outside the classroom. These relationships may allow a faculty member to better understand students in their program and classes and to adapt teaching methods accordingly. By conducting SoTL research with a team of students outside of class, faculty can learn about how students in their classes are making meaning of material covered and how they respond to teaching methods used. This information can assist in revising and updating syllabi, readings, assessments, and classroom activities to enhance the learning that students report or demonstrate.

Although the development of a SoTL research team takes time, the benefits to faculty in terms of possible enhanced productivity, nurturing relationships with students, developing new motivation and methods for teaching and conducting research, and being able to assess students’ learning are benefits that make this process worth it.

References

Cotton, S.R., & Wilson, B. (2006). Student-faculty interactions: Dynamics and determinants. Higher Education, 51(4), 487-519.

Kardash, C. M. (2000). Evaluation of an undergraduate research experience: Perceptions ofundergraduate interns and their faculty mentors. Journal of Educational Psychology,92(1), 191–201.

Panelli, R., & Welch, R.V. (2005). Teaching research through field studies: A cumulativeopportunity for teaching methodology to human geography undergraduates. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 29(2), 255– 277.

Wayment, H.A., & Dickson, K.L. (2008). Increasing student participation in undergraduateresearch benefits students, faculty, and department. Teaching of Psychology, 35(3), 194-197.