by Jessie L. Moore, adapted from her Ignite presentation during the ISSOTL 2013 Wednesday Plenary
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:
- Mixed Methods
- Collective Inquiry
- Academic Identity
Participants – and experts – learned that internationalization is challenged by a lack of shared readings that pull from all our global contexts. Peter Felten’s recent Teaching and Learning Inquiry article, featured in week 1 of the Introduction to SoTL strand, shares five principles of good practice including a growing call to collaborate with students. If we think back to Peter’s 2011 plenary with Keith Trigwell, though, we know that Peter’s five principles started from a United States perspective focused less on theoretical frameworks than global perspectives of SoTL might encourage. Yet based on live chat conversations, I would posit that the difference also stems from challenges bridging continents when we read prior scholarship. Picking a theoretical framework requires being aware of the current theoretical frameworks and learning how other scholars use them – a task which would be made easier by global access to key texts.
Week 2 also highlighted tensions about the methods we use – often realized as a dichotomy between social sciences and humanities research methods. Experts called on us to bring our own disciplinary methods – including systematic Humanities methods – to SoTL. Note that they did not say that we need to work with our disciplinary methods in isolation. Different methods bring different perspectives to our inquiries. Some methods give us immense detail – much like a zoomed in map. Others provide a sense of scope or scale. If we dare to mix methods, we see the molecular detail of our learning activities, but we also see more of the context, the activity system, and other factors influencing student learning.
Of course, mixing methods often is easier when we collaborate with others, and collective inquiry was a prominent theme in week 3 of the Introduction to SoTL online strand. Collective inquiry allows us to benefit from the habits, values, and methods our partners bring, giving us opportunities to engage more perspectives – to examine the detail and the larger activity system. Collective inquiry also enables us to examine the importance of context. Our institutional differences do matter. We learn just how much they matter when we partner with SoTL colleagues at institutions with different priorities. Of course collaborative inquiry is not limited to partnerships with other faculty or academic staff. Partnering with students, alumni, and others enriches our understanding of students’ holistic learning experiences.
If we embrace these challenges to internationalize our work, to explore mixed methods, and to collaborate with more stakeholders, we potentially reshape our academic identity. We face questions about whether we are disciplinary scholars and/or disciplined SoTL scholars, often finding ourselves in liminal spaces as we work to reconfigure our professional pathways and identities. As we work through that liminality, we also face challenges around articulating the value of our work to others. Yet those moments are opportunities to highlight how our systematic inquiries about learning can inform institutional and national decisions about higher education.
Ultimately, then, our academic identities shape and are shaped by the other three productive disruptions: Internationalization, Mixed Methods, and Collaboration. I invite you to consider how you can harness them as you configure and reconfigure your own academic identity – within and beyond the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
View Moore’s Ignite talk and the rest of the Wednesday plenary in the video below:
Jessie L. Moore (@jessielmoore) is the Associate Director of the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University and associate professor of Professional Writing & Rhetoric in the Department of English.