What type of evidence are we using in evidence-based teaching?

From college-to-career readiness discussions to  professional networks to publications on teaching, higher education stakeholders are witnessing steadily increasing calls for evidence-based teaching. Yet what do policy makers, administrators, and faculty/academic staff mean by “evidence-based”? Lee Shulman suggests that our understanding of…

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.

Going Public with Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

One of the key characteristics of scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) is publicly sharing “both the process and the products of inquiry” (Felten, 2013). While faculty develop writing strategies for their disciplinary scholarship as they advance through their degree programs and careers, SoTL writing requires faculty to learn how to write about classroom practice, pedagogies, and evidence of student learning – often unfamiliar writing realms. For many faculty, their early efforts at this type of writing invoke challenges regarding genre, voice, and expertise (Cambridge, 2004). What, then, can universities do to support faculty embarking on SoTL writing projects, and how can faculty position themselves to make this transition successfully?

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.

Disruptions Shaping Academic Identities in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Like the other ISSOTL Online strands, the Introduction to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) strand showcased video interviews with SoTL experts, live chats with key scholars, and featured readings. The strand benefited from the questions and comments of engaged participants around the globe. Experts explained SoTL as a reflective practice that, as Pat Hutchings noted, brings our habits as scholars to our work as teachers. SoTL’s systematic inquiry ultimately ends though in “loop closing”: course redesign, curricular reboots, and so forth. We learned that scholars continue to grapple with SoTL’s relationship to scholarly teaching and educational research, the selection of research methods, the use (or non-use) of theoretical frameworks, and composing appropriate products for “going public” with SoTL work. The Introduction to SoTL strand of ISSOTL Online also highlighted a growing emphasis on collective inquiry, systematic inquiry with e-tools, and the internationalization and institutionalization of SoTL. Four productive disruptions from these online conversations merit continued consideration as we reflect on lessons learned at ISSOTL 2013 and consider future directions for SoTL: Internationalization, Mixed Methods, Collective Inquiry, and Academic Identity.

International Perspectives on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

The October 2013 issue of Arts and Humanities in Higher Education offers three national perspectives on the book The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Reconsidered: Institutional Integration and Impact by Pat Hutchings, Mary Taylor Huber, and Anthony Ciccone (Jossey-Bass, 2011). Coming on the heels of the recent conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, these three articles raise the question of just how international SoTL practice really is.

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.