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International Perspectives on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

by Peter Felten

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.

As Jan Parker from Open University, UK, points out in her AHHE review, SoTL in the United States often has developed with little reference to the rich research into student learning from Australia, Scandinavia, and the UK (and, indeed, from higher education scholars in the U.S.). This has reinforced the kinds of “silos” that already exist in too many places in higher education – separating teachers from researchers and one discipline from another.

This siloing might be a particular problem in the ways that faculty in the U.S. typically do SoTL. As I note in my AAHE review, “a recent study by Park and Braxton (2013) suggests that [U.S.] SoTL faculty, unlike their peers who are active in Boyer’s other domains of scholarship, tend not to connect those outside of their field; this reinforces Laird and Ribera’s finding (2011) that while the vast majority of U.S. faculty engage in some SoTL-inspired inquiry into student learning, relatively few go public with their work.”

To benefit from and contribute to the growing international SoTL community, our individual work should build on existing scholarship from across the globe. This can be a challenge, but library databases and other online resources (like this collection from Mick Healey in the UK) are an invaluable resource for any research project. We also should learn from the ways our peers are organizing their work; Jennifer Clark’s AHHE review, for instance, highlights recent initiatives that are contributing to a collaborative culture of SoTL within and between Australian institutions. These efforts should serve as models for institutions around the world.

Developing an international SoTL movement, however, does not mean we should ignore our own local contexts. As Lee Shulman emphasized in his plenary at ISSOTL 2013, we can learn a great deal from the particularity of different cases. Situating our inquiries within a local context is essential. Close attention to the particular is made even more valuable when it is grounded as much as possible in existing scholarship on learning and teaching – reflecting what we know from our diverse disciplinary, institutional, and national contexts. As Mick Healey reminds us in this CEL video on global perspectives on SoTL (below), we can both value local variation and participate in an international dialogue about teaching and learning in higher education.

 

Citation not linked in the text:

Nelson Laird, T. F. Ribera, T. (2011). Institutional encouragement of and faculty engagement in the scholarship of teaching and learning. To Improve the Academy, 30, 112-125.

 

Peter Felten is the Executive Director of the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University. He also is assistant provost, director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching & Learning, and associate professor of history.

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