Sparking a Cultural Shift in Higher Education

Questions about the value of higher education and governmental focus on its costs continue to filter into discussions about colleges and universities. From Our Underachieving Colleges (Derek Bok, 2006) to Academically Adrift (Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, 2011) to news stories around the globe, higher education’s status quo is being called into question… Fortunately, a growing number of scholars are recognizing the potential of the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) to change campus cultures about student learning.

Changing Higher Education One Step at a Time

Scholarship of teaching and learning can have an effect on multiple levels. While SoTL can be a source of ideas and part of an individual scholarly agenda, it also has the potential to foster change on larger levels. One person’s research can inspire a whole department to try new ways of working with students. One department’s work can serve as a template for colleagues across campus. A cluster of SoTL scholars in a single field can lead the way to transformation of teaching within a discipline. And all of that work, on all of those levels, yields insights about teaching and learning that should be part of regional, national, and international discussions about higher education policy. SoTL scholars can become public intellectuals, and together we can advocate for the importance of faculty and student voices in decision-making about the future of higher education.

Classroom Ecology, the New Voc-Ed, and Academic Writing at the Edge

What happens when you ask three scholars to explore learning spaces from their unique individual and institutional perspectives? Audience members are challenged to reconsider their understandings of physical, program-level, and online learning spaces, along with their expectations for conference plenaries. The Friday, October 4, 2013, Plenary at ISSOTL 2013 featured TED-style talks by Thomas Horejes (Gallaudet University), anthony lising antonio (Stanford University), and Siân Bayne (University of Edinburgh). More information about the speakers and their talks is provided below the video.

Situated Studies of Teaching and Learning: The New Mainstream

There is a tendency to view situated research such as SOTL as an attenuated or diminished form of scholarship when contrasted with the mainstream kinds of research published in social science or educational research journals. Traditional research aims to contribute to theory, to achieve generalized findings and principles that are not limited to the particulars of setting, participants, place and time. Situated research is always reported with its full particulars and seeks to describe, explain and evaluate the relationships among intentions, actions and consequences in a carefully recounted local situation. It is therefore seen as contributing less to “knowledge.”

I shall argue that the search for generalizations and principles that transcend participants and contexts is a vain quest. Lee Cronbach observed that “generalization decay.” Jerome Kagan recently called generalization, in both the social and life sciences, “insidious.” Even the gold standard, experimental studies such as clinical trials with randomly assigned treatment and control groups, are often of little value at the level of generalization, but potentially useful when analyzed in their particulars. Situated studies of teaching and learning will emerge as the new mainstream, the gold standard for educational scholarship. SOTL is not at the margins, but at the center.

How Do We Support Faculty to Develop as Mentors of Undergraduate Research?

Undergraduate research is well established as a high-impact practice. It helps students participate in knowledge creation, transition to the workplace, and develop their ability to think critically (Johnson, 2006). Faculty who mentor undergraduate research report benefits related to teaching, career productivity, and renewed energy (Noe et al., 2002). The student and faculty benefits of participating in a mentored undergraduate research program coalesce for institutions leading to increased faculty retention, enhanced alumni loyalty, and overall institutional commitment (Clark et al., 2000). However, with the growth of mentored undergraduate research at the disciplinary and the institutional levels, the demand for faculty mentors has also grown resulting in added complexity to faculty expectations. Despite extensive research on the practice’s value to students, faculty and institutions, there is still much to learn about mentoring undergraduate research and the most effective ways to support faculty in their development of mentoring skills and abilities.

New Research Expands What We Know about How To Use Writing To Enhance Student Learning

Educators have long appreciated the power of writing to enhance learning. In the United States and Canada, this knowledge has underwritten the forty-year growth of writing-across-the-curriculum (WAC) and writing-in-the-discipline (WID) programs. More recently, it has supported the expansion of writing-for-academic-purposes programs in Europe and elsewhere.

Results of a new study will reorient the focus of these programs and inspire new ways of using writing to advance the goals of higher education.

What Would a Focus on Learning Outcomes Do to Legal Education?

A lot has been written lately about the state of legal education, from applications to jobs and to what lies in between. By “between,” I mean the meaty center of the sandwich, the nature of the education itself. This post comments on that sandwich stuffing. In particular, what would happen if the proposed American Bar Association (ABA) Standard 302, Learning Outcomes, is adopted?

The current Standard is titled, “Curriculum,” and focuses on curricular content. The proposed standard provides a philosophical shift to revolve around learning outcomes. The new standard has the potential to be transformational.