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?

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.

Future Directions and Emerging Trends in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

In this ISSOTL Online video produced by the Center for Engaged Learning, Arshad Ahmad, Randy Bass, Dan Bernstein, Tony Ciccone, Joelle Fanghanel, Mary Taylor Huber, Pat Hutchings, Katarina Mårtensson, Gary Poole, Joanna Renc-Roe, Jennifer Meta Robinson, and Kara Yanagida discuss future directions and emerging trends in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL).

Studying and Designing for Transfer of Learning

Educational systems are grounded in the assumption that students will use what they learn in future contexts, whether those contexts are future classrooms, future workplace settings, or future community or civic activities. General education curricula in the United States (sometimes called General Studies programs) often are built on the premise that students will apply what they learn from courses across the arts and sciences to act as informed citizens and to be more well-rounded in their careers. Within disciplines, coursework often is structured hierarchically so that subsequent courses allow students to build on prior learning. Yet what do we know about how students use prior knowledge, how can we study this transfer of learning, and how might we design our courses to facilitate successful transfer?

Critical Transitions: Writing and the Question of Transfer – Research Highlights (Part 2)

Last month, we featured a few highlights from the Center for Engaged Learning’s research seminar on Critical Transitions: Writing and the Question of Transfer. Multi-institutional research by seminar participants suggests that:

  • In first-year writing courses, content matters;
  • Students need reiterative opportunities for reflection throughout their education;
  • When considering students’ ability to transfer or adapt writing strategies, personal identities matter; and
  • Across the university, expectations for student writing often are misaligned.

The first three findings offer hope that it is possible to teach in support of transfer, reaffirming an underlying assumption in university curricula that students can transfer what they learn in one course to future university, workplace, and community contexts. The fourth finding reminds faculty and administrators not to take that underlying assumption for granted; as last month’s preview hinted, writing transfer is not guaranteed for every student at every critical transition point.

concept map of transfer theories

Critical Transitions: Writing and the Question of Transfer — Research Highlights (Part 1)

If writing-intensive courses are a high-impact practice, as George Kuh and others have suggested, what can universities do to help students transition from these high-impact experiences into other contexts and apply what they’ve learned about writing? What bridging strategies (as Perkins and Salomon call them) can faculty employ in their classes to facilitate mindful abstraction? How might course designs foster what King Beach calls critical transitions? And how can colleges prepare students to be boundary crossers when it comes to their writing? From 2011 to 2013, the Center for Engaged Learning sponsored a two-year, multi-institutional research seminar to explore these and other questions about writing transfer, and we’re featuring some of the resulting research this week in Critical Transitions Online.

concept-map-enabling-recognizing

Here are some of the highlights:

  • In first-year writing courses, content matters.
  • Students need reiterative opportunities for reflection throughout their education.
  • When considering students’ ability to transfer or adapt writing strategies, personal identities matter.
  • Across the university, expectations for student writing often are misaligned.
concept map of transfer theories

Theory-Building: Borrowed Legends for Understanding Transfer

This week the Center for Engaged Learning launches Critical Transitions Online, a free online seminar focusing on the common curricular assumption that students will take writing knowledge and strategies gained in one context (for instance, a first-year writing course) and apply them (or “transfer” them) to other contexts (for instance, a course in a major, or a future workplace). This three-week online event leads into the Critical Transitions Conference at Elon University, June 24-26, which is the culmination of a two-year, multi-institutional Elon Research Seminar (ERS) on writing transfer.

Join week one of CEL’s Critical Transitions Online to learn how ERS participants have adapted learning and transfer theories as borrowed legends for understanding transfer (broadly) in their own research on writing transfer (specifically).

Welcome to the Center for Engaged Learning!

Welcome to the web site for the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University! The new Center will bring together international leaders in higher education to develop and to synthesize rigorous research on central questions about student learning, filling an important gap in higher education.

Researchers have identified what the “high-impact” educational practices are – study abroad, undergraduate research, internships, service-learning, writing-intensive courses, living-learning communities, and so on. However, while we know what these practices are, we could know much more about three essential issues: (1) how to do these practices well, (2) how to scale these practices to many students, and (3), how students integrate their learning across multiple high impact experiences.

We know, for example, that undergraduate research has powerful outcomes, but it’s very labor intensive – usually one faculty member mentoring one student over an extended period of time. If we understood more about how students learn and develop during an undergraduate research experience, and if we better understood effective faculty mentoring practices, then we could design scaled research experiences that simultaneously would be more effective while reaching far more students – at Elon and elsewhere.

The Center for Engaged Learning also will allow us to tackle a third important issue – studying how students integrate their learning across multiple high impact practices. Most colleges and universities treat student experiences as distinct – with separate offices and sets of evidence-based practices for study abroad, internships, undergraduate research, and so forth. At universities where students study abroad and then later complete an internship, or participate in service-learning and then conduct undergraduate research, how can we best help our students integrate across these experiences so that they reinforce each other? The Center will lead precisely that kind of research so that we can support students in integrating across their many engaged experiences.

By collaborating with local, national, and international leaders in high-impact practices, the Center will focus energy and creativity on these important questions. By conducting multi-institutional research and programs on what precisely makes certain experiences “high impact,” how to scale-up those experiences for all students, and how to help students integrate their learning, the Center will not only advance engaged learning in higher education, but it also will support the deepest learning for students.

We invite you join the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University in this work to transform engaged learning.

Peter Felten, Executive Director

Jessie L. Moore, Interim Associate Director