Introduction to the
Teaching & Learning
Lakehead University, November 2019
1. What is SoTL?
The “systematic study of teaching and
learning and the public sharing and
review of such work through live or virtual
presentations, performances, or
publications” (McKinney 2006, p. 39).
SoTL & Scholarly
Dimensions of teaching practice
6 (Kern et al., 2015)
2. Examples of SoTL
□ Effect of supplementing Sociology
lectures on research methods w/online
□ Ability of intermediate language learners
to recognize mistakes in peers’ oral
speech (on video)
□ Effect of “productive failure” vs active
learning methods in Biology
Fairness — in grading (Close, 2009); in
two-stage exams (Chan, in process)
Think-alouds — how are students thinking
as they read? (Bloch-Schulman, 2016)
3. Why SoTL?
Interconnected activities of scholars
□ “Discovery” research
Glassick et al. (1997)
“Moving teaching from a mostly
private enterprise … to teaching
as ‘community property,’ which
is documented, shared, and built
upon,” for the sake of ongoing
(Huber & Hutchings, 2005, p. 19)
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The quote continues: “SoTL shares accepted criteria of scholarship in general, such as that it is made public, can be reviewed critically by members of the appropriate community, and can be built on by others to advance the field” (McKinney 2006).
“three important attributes of SoTL versus excellent teaching: that the inquiry must be systematic or methodical to gain credible results, be shared in order to advance the goal of improving practice outside one’s own classroom and that the ultimate goal be the students’ learning that results from the faculty member’s teaching” (Kern et al. 2015, p. 2).
Our disciplines affect our pedagogy; we do research in our disciplines, and we could also do research on pedagogy generally. But SoTL often involves research on specific pedagogies used in disciplines, and can involve specific research methods common in the disciplines.
Dimensions of Activities Related to Teaching (DART)
Attending teaching conferences & applying
Peer reviewed, presented or published empirical research
Developing courses, lessons
Changing teaching based on feedback and reflection
Teaching portfolio for award, promotion
Sharing about teaching
Sharing teaching portfolio
Presentation of teaching tips based on own experience
“I had this problem and here’s what I did”
Evidence of effectiveness is informal and/or anecdotal
Blog about teaching
Newspaper or magazine article on teaching
Silvia Bartolic: https://isotl.ctlt.ubc.ca/features/sotl-projects/
“Using a flipped classroom approach, the instructor provided online content that will supplement lectures. This allowed students to revisit important information in their own time and created more in-class time for problem-based learning activities and hands-on time with data and data analysis software through individual research projects.”
“Using pre- and post-tests the instructors assessed student understanding of key concepts in class. The instructor also analyzed change in student affect and performance over the course of the semester, comparing results from two different sections of the course – one taught in the regular manner (lectures with some class activities) and the other in the flipped classroom approach.”
Mizuzu Kazama: https://isotl.ctlt.ubc.ca/features/spotlight/
“Engaging in the SoTL process has provided me with the opportunity to find out whether students, especially at an early intermediate level in a Japanese as foreign language classroom, are able to identify the area of improvement in a peer’s oral performance. Our finding suggest that students’ feedback on the use of language such as grammar, pronunciation, and intonation has a more than 90% degree of accuracy!”
3. DIY productive failure: boosting performance in a large undergraduate biology course https://www.nature.com/articles/s41539-019-0040-6
Students in first-year university courses often focus on mimicking application of taught procedures and fail to gain adequate conceptual understanding. One potential approach to support meaningful learning is Productive Failure (PF). In PF, the conventional instruction process is reversed so that learners attempt to solve challenging problems ahead of receiving explicit instruction. While students often fail to produce satisfactory solutions (hence “Failure”), these attempts help learners encode key features and learn better from subsequent instruction (hence “Productive”). Effectiveness of PF was shown mainly in the context of statistical and intuitive concepts, and lessons that are designed and taught by learning scientists. We describe a quasi-experiment that evaluates the impact of PF in a large-enrollment introductory university-level biology course when designed and implemented by the course instructors. One course-section (295 students) learned two topics using PF; another section (279 students) learned the same topics using an active learning approach, which is the standard in this course. Performance was assessed on the subsequent midterm exam, after all students had ample opportunities for practice and feedback, and after some time has elapsed. PF students scored nearly five percentage-points higher on the relevant topics in the subsequent midterm exam. The effect was especially strong for low-performing students. Improvement on the final exam was only visible for low-performing students. We describe the intervention and its potential to transform large introductory university courses.
Try to address a problem in groups
Formative feedback on work (eg clicker questions)
Walk through: “During this part, the instructor modeled an expert’s way of approaching the activity, while continuing to involve students in this process by prompting and eliciting their contribution to the problem-solving path.”
Active learning condition
Activity—working on the problem
One section used only AL; other used PF for two topics & AL for the rest
Close, D. (2009). Fair Grades. Teaching Philosophy, 32(4), 361–398. https://doi.org/10.5840/teachphil200932439
Provides a philosophical conception of what grading should do, what a “fair” grade means, and then evaluates various ways of grading as to whether or not they fit that definition
Grading to get students to attend or do something, rather than basing grade only on the merits of the work, is not “fair” in his view. Grades should provide information about mastery of content only.
Bloch-Schulman, S. (2016). A Critique of Methods in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Philosophy. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 4(1), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.4.1.10
“For this study, I devised think alouds to examine schema differences between the reading practices of philosophers and students. In particular, I wanted to investigate whether students were reading philosophic work through a schema driven by plot, which is quite different from how philosophers read, seeing philosophy as argumentation, and thus that students might be utilizing the reading skills they would correctly use reading fiction when reading philosophy, and missing the purpose and structure of philosophical writing” (9).
Comparing how students and philosophers approach texts as they speak aloud what they’re thinking--this can and should inform our teaching methods to help move students more towards reading and thinking practices useful in our discipline.
Ernest Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered, 1990
Scholarship of Discovery: pursuing knowledge for its own sake, advancing the field of knowledge
Scholarship of Integration: making connections across disciplines, topics, studies in original research. “Interpret, draw together, and bring new insight to bear on original research”; “fitting … research into larger intellectual patterns” (Boyer 1990, p. 19)
Scholarship of application: not just applying research, but recognizing that new knowledge is acquired through activities that apply knowledge to social issues, problems, etc.
Scholarship of Teaching: teaching is not just conveying knowledge, but also creates new knowledge for both teachers and students
“Basic research has come to be viewed as the first and most essential form of scholarly activity, with other functions flowing from it. Scholars are academics who conduct research, publish, and then perhaps convey their knowledge to students or apply what they have learned. The latter functions grow out of scholarship, they are not considered to be part of it. But knowledge is not necessarily developed in such a linear manner. The arrow of causality can, and frequently does, point in both directions. Theory surely leads to practice. But practice also leads to theory. And teaching, at its best, shapes both research and practice. Viewed from this perspective, a more comprehensive, more dynamic understanding of scholarship can be considered …” (Boyer 1990, pp. 15-16).
Glassick, C. E., Huber, M. T., & Maeroff, G. I. (1997). Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate (p. 130). San Francisco: Jossey Bass Inc.
Can we expand the notion of scholarship to include multiple areas from the previous slide?
Research on teaching and learning
Syntheses of existing scholarship
Communicating to new audiences; applying knowledge to social arenas
To do so, need to think about what counts as good scholarship
looked at guidelines on hiring, tenure and promotion from dozens of p-s institutions.
Responses from 51 granting agencies and from editors and directors of 31 scholarly journals and 58 university presses--what are standards they look for?
Clear goals: “Does the scholar identify important questions in the field?” “Does the scholar state the basic purposes of his or her work clearly?” (25)
Adequate preparation: “Does the scholar show an understanding of existing scholarship in the field?” “Does the scholar bring the necessary skills to his or her work?” (27)
Appropriate methods: “Does the scholar use methods appropriate to the goals? Does the scholar apply effectively the methods selected?” (28)
Significant results: “Does the scholar achieve the goals? Does the scholar’s work add consequentially to the field?” (29)
Effective presentation: style, organization, clarity; appropriate forums to communicate work to intended audiences (32)
Reflective critique: “Does the scholar critically evaluate his or her own work?” “Does the scholar use evaluation to improve the quality of future work?” (34)
Huber, M. T., & Hutchings, P. (2005). The Advancement of Learning: Building the Teaching Commons | Wiley. Retrieved from https://www.wiley.com/en-us/The+Advancement+of+Learning%3A+Building+the+Teaching+Commons+-p-9780787981150
“Higher education has long fostered the robust commons created by scientific and scholarly research. This has not been the case with teaching and learning. … As Lee Shulman observed … teaching will not be fully recognized in the academy until its status changes from ‘private to community property’ (1993, p. 6). Without a functioning commons, it is hard for pedagogical knowledge to circulate, deepen through debate and critique, and inform the kinds of innovation so important to higher education today” (p. 5).
We need to “capture the work of teaching and learning in ways that can be built upon--to stop losing ‘the intellectual work that is regularly being done,’ as Dan Bernstein has written, by creating ‘a community of teachers whose decisions about how to teach will be informed by the collective effectiveness of the work’ (2001, pp. 228-229)” (p. 18).
But isn’t that already being done by education researchers? Why do we need more people contributing to the commons?
Partly: SoTL is at the intersection of teaching practice, research, and disciplinary knowledge--comes from practice, contextualized in practice, aimed back at practice. And done in multiple disciplinary methods.
But why is this useful?
Huber, M. T., & Hutchings, P. (2006). Building the Teaching Commons. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 38(3), 24–31. https://doi.org/10.3200/CHNG.38.3.24-31
“The scholarship of teaching and learning invites faculty from all disciplines and fields to identify and explore interesting questions in their own teaching—and, especially, in their students’ learning—and to share what they discover with colleagues who can build on their insights. Such work has the potential to transform higher education by making the private work of the classroom visible, talked about, studied, built upon, and valued—conditions for ongoing improvement in any enterprise” (p. 25).
There is a great deal of edu research, but it’s not a simple matter to directly apply it to practice given how contextualized teaching practice is. Linking research and practice more closely can have value--teaching practitioners engaging in research in their own contexts, and applying it back (28).
“teaching and learning are highly dependent on contextual factors, and faculty often find as much to learn from the situated experience of other faculty as from studies done with methodologies designed to minimize the influence of context on research results.” (28)
““They can identify a good question, a promising investigative strategy, an assignment or assessment design that they might try out or include in their own repertoire, and they are aided in incorporating it into their own work by their understanding of how the original context differs from their own” (29)
“While there is a place for general principles and lists of best practices to guide improvement, what’s also needed are rich representations of teaching and learning—new genres that capture the blooming, buzzing complexity of real students in real settings” (29)