Ever wonder if your curricular and instructional changes are achieving their desired outcomes? Curious about how students are approaching a complex assignment outside of class? Want to know what would make your class more engaging for students?
These are the kinds of questions that serve as the basis for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), which is increasingly being used at institutions of higher education to support faculty members’ professional learning. In partnership with the Office of the Provost, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) recently launched a pilot initiative to support SoTL at UVM. This blog post will provide a brief overview of SoTL along with a description of our pilot initiative.
What is SoTL?
SoTL is the systematic investigation of a question related to teaching or learning that aims to generate knowledge that can be used beyond individual classrooms to advance teaching and student learning. The SoTL research process typically begins with a question that faculty members have about their teaching or their students’ learning and progresses through the following steps:
- Identify a question or problem to address
- Review related literature to refine research question
- Design data collection procedures to answer research question
- Obtain research approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB)
- Collect data
- Analyze data
- Present and/or publish research findings
As a form of educational research, SoTL can involve qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches as well as case study, quasi-experimental, and experimental research designs. With these research approaches available, SoTL offers faculty members a way to systematically investigate and answer questions that emerge from their practice as teachers.
SoTL at UVM
Thirteen faculty members from across the disciplines at UVM are currently participating in our SoTL pilot initiative, which began in late-August 2017. We have representation from the Departments of Chemistry, Education, Geology, Global Gateways, Leadership and Developmental Sciences, Mathematics & Statistics, Nutrition and Food Science, Psychological Science, Rehabilitation and Movement Science, and Romance Languages and Linguistics.
Most faculty participants are in the process of designing their SoTL studies and working to obtain IRB approval to conduct their research. To support this work, CTL staff members created workshops and small learning community meetings for participants that were focused on the following topics:
- Introduction to SoTL
- Conducting literature reviews for SoTL research
- Developing and refining SoTL research questions
- Obtaining and maintaining IRB approval
- SoTL research designs
Faculty participants will mostly collect their data during the Spring 2018 semester. Among the types of data that participants will collect are: student grades, student interviews, student survey data, and student work. CTL is planning to host a retreat in May 2018 when faculty participants will have the opportunity to work together to analyze their data.
The ultimate aim of this work for most participants is to publish their study findings in SoTL journals (e.g., College Teaching) or discipline-specific teaching journals (e.g., Teaching of Psychology or The Chemical Educator) so that they can share their research with scholars in their fields.
Please check back soon for another blog post about the specific projects on which faculty participants are working for the SoTL initiative.