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Getting Started in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

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Scholarship in Teaching and
Learning (SOTL) – and why
bother with it?
Fiona Saunders, Senior Lecturer in School of
Mechani...

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Aims and Purpose
 To spark interest in
“Scholarship of Teaching and
Learning” as a valuable and
legitimate scholarly acti...

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Structure of the Session
1. What is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
2. Small projects: getting started and gettin...

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Getting Started in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

  1. 1. Scholarship in Teaching and Learning (SOTL) – and why bother with it? Fiona Saunders, Senior Lecturer in School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering Email: fiona.saunders@manchester.ac.uk Twitter @FionaCSaunders Bland Tomkinson, Visiting Lecturer in School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering Email: c.tomkinson@manchester.ac.uk
  2. 2. Aims and Purpose  To spark interest in “Scholarship of Teaching and Learning” as a valuable and legitimate scholarly activity  To fulfill the requirements of the HEA professional standards framework
  3. 3. Structure of the Session 1. What is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 2. Small projects: getting started and getting reported. 3. Individual exercise: Getting started - Highlighting experiences and laying the foundations for a SOTL roadmap
  4. 4. Definitions of SOTL “work that encourages an empirical examination of teaching in relation to student learning” Darling, 2003 “SOTL is a systematic reflection on teaching and learning made public” Illinois State University in McKinney, 2004 “opening lines of inquiry into significant issues in the teaching and learning of the field” Hutchings, 2000
  5. 5. Why is SOTL important? • Changed HE environment and eco-system – More diverse student body – Increasing focus on teaching, e.g. tuition fees, student satisfaction surveys – Availability of learning technology • More important than ever to understand how, why and when our students learn
  6. 6. Challenges in 21st Century Pedagogy http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/21st+Century+Pedagogy by Andrew Churches
  7. 7. What does SOTL involve? Engaging with extant knowledge Public sharing Self reflection Martin et al., 1999
  8. 8. Some examples of SOTL projects
  9. 9. What sorts of questions do SOTL researchers ask? What might be possible ? What works ? What is ? How to formulate new models and conceptual frameworks ?
  10. 10. Differentiating SOTL from pedagogic research • Critical reflective component • Focus on specific rather than generalised teaching and learning contexts • Does not emphasise the generation and evaluation of general theory Haigh, 2010
  11. 11. Why would an already busy academic wish to engage with SOTL? How often do you sharpen your teaching and learning axe?
  12. 12. Structure of the Session 1. What is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 2. Small projects: getting started and getting reported. 3. Individual exercise: Getting started - Highlighting experiences and laying the foundations for a SOTL roadmap
  13. 13. Getting started with small projects Why small projects? • Small projects can span the boundary between scholarship of teaching and learning and of pedagogic research. • Small projects can put scholarship into action and can form the foundation for more rigorous pedagogic research.
  14. 14. Useful Resources • https://my.vanderbilt.edu/sotl/ • http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/ college-eps/college/stem/getting-started- in-stem-pedagogic-optimised.pdf • http://exchange.ac.uk/downloads/ped-r- toolkit.pdf
  15. 15. Getting started with small projects I keep six honest serving men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who. Rudyard Kipling
  16. 16. Getting started with small projects – What? “Find a real life problem in your teaching and seek to investigate it ” “Find something you are passionate about” “Start small and set time limits ” “Be pragmatic – find out what would be most valued or attract support resources and start with these” “Search across disciplines for literature and practice” Adapted from Hutchings, 2000
  17. 17. Getting started with small projects – Why? • Fame and fortune? Papers on pedagogy don’t carry much weight in achieving international fame. BUT, they can give you an edge in job applications and promotion. • Improving your students’ learning experience? Constant reflection can be an important element in honing your teaching skills and a small project may give you evidence to help to do this. • Helping others to improve their teaching? A noble aim, but it does mean that any project has to have a good dissemination strategy.
  18. 18. Getting started with small projects – When? • Small projects can be undertaken at any time but it is helpful to have some funding, eg to employ a postgraduate student to do some analysis. – The university usually has a small amount of funding available each year – though the timescales involved can be quite tight. – Subject, or professional, bodies sometimes have funds available for small teaching projects. – Agencies like the Higher Education Academy often have small grants available – though these may be limited in scope. • The HEA website lists many possible calls for funding bids, together with their closing dates, not just from within the HEA.
  19. 19. Getting started with small projects – How? How to get the funding • Any study needs to start with aims, objectives and research questions. • Framing the research questions – most calls for funding bids will specify a need for including the research questions. Many will be constrained by a particular funding theme. • Remember that even doing it yourself will involve costs: eg printing, travel, books.
  20. 20. Getting started with small projects – How? How to do it • Quantitative v Qualitative methods. • Qualitative methods can include: – Questionnaires – Interviews • Quantitative methods can include: – Psychometric tests: do you have access to such test?
  21. 21. Getting started with small projects – Where? • On your own or with colleagues – in the same school or elsewhere? Comparative studies can often add value. • Some funding calls require collaborative bids – this usually means that it is essential to involve other universities or, just possibly, colleges or employers. • International collaborations may give access to funds otherwise denied you – some US funders will allow collaboration, but will not fund studies outside the US.
  22. 22. Getting started with small projects – Who? • Do you intend to do this on your own or employ postgraduate students or other researchers? • Do you wish to initiate the project with other colleagues: who will do what? • You may need to involve colleagues with special skills eg psychometrics, non-parametric statistics • Who will write it up? • Who are the subjects of the study? • Do you have/ will you get their consent? • YOU WILL NEED ETHICS APPROVAL.
  23. 23. Getting published with small projects • What sort of journal should you aim for? – Higher education journals: eg IJAD, HERD, IETI – Subject journals. – Discipline education journals: eg Electrical Engineering Education. .
  24. 24. Structure of the Session 1. What is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 2. Small projects: getting started and getting reported. 3. Individual exercise: Laying the foundations for a SOTL roadmap
  25. 25. This is all very interesting but what about me? I haven’t done any teaching yet Lab demonstrating Dissertation supervision PhD supervision Small group tutorials Other teaching assistant duties Academic advising What about these activities?
  26. 26. Individual Exercise NAP assessment involves developing a “Scholarship in Teaching and Learning” development plan 1 page plan that maps out a series of SOTL activities that you will engage in over the next 24 months Ideas • new journals or areas of reading • reflection on existing teaching practice • potential changes to be made to teaching practice • attendance at events
  27. 27. Contact Details Fiona Saunders, School of MACE fiona.saunders@manchester.ac.uk Twitter @FionaCSaunders www.fionasaunders.co.uk Bland Tomkinson, School of MACE Email: c.tomkinson@manchester.ac.uk

Editor's Notes

  • SOTL for me is fundamentally about improving our understanding of how, why and when our students learn

    What do these three definitions tell us?

    That SOTL begins in the discipline, that SOTL is concerned with how we teach and how our students learn, that SOTL process is systematic, empirical, pragmatic (driven in many cases from particular issues that arise in an academic’s class teaching), lastly that SOTL is public – whether through discussions with colleagues, or on social media networks, whether sharing through seminars or more formal presentations a conferences or via the medium of the academic journal.
  • Multi-national, diverse social and educational backgrounds, larger classes
    Tuition fees, student as consumer, no longer acceptable to be a great researcher but poor teacher
    Whether institutional VLE – here it is blackboard, or other transforming technologies, - video and audio recording of lectures, social media, blogging, clicker audio response systems, flipped lecture to name but a few
  • The three related tasks
    Engaging with the extant knowledge of teaching and learning ( literature – theory and practice)

    Self reflection on teaching and learning in one’s own discipline: - Schon – Reflective Practitioner – reflection in action and reflection on action
    Reflection related to these areas can address three questions:
    • What’s really the problem here and what do I need to do?
    • How do I know I am effective (or was conscientious) with what I do?
    • Why do I choose to attend to this problem? Is there an alternative?
    This reflection questions existing assumptions, conceptions and
    Practices. This reflection can also be directed to their
    own teaching experiences and to theoretical knowledge derived from research.

    Public sharing of ideas about teaching and learning in the discipline – seminars, conferences, journals, blogs, informal networks
  • Redesign of existing UG courses into Problem Based learning – two areas of focus – how students prior knowledge and beliefs affect their understanding of new ideas, and can students transfer or think with newly learned subject matter to solve novel problems

    How do at risk college students learn general chemistry in an alternative design to the large lecture environment – survey, focus groups, video taped student group work – led to comprehensive multidmensional view of student learning in context of the course
  • What works – what course design is more effective, what mode of delivery works best

    What is - what it looks like, eg understanding perceptions of different types of feedback

    Visions of the possible – in course design, delivery, assessment, student experience

    Formulating new models and conceptual frameworks – investigation may begin with reflecting on existing practice but may go onto investigate why some things are hard for students to learn – more akin to theory building
  • SOTL is generally done in the first person, not by 3rd parties. Prosser (2008) states that SoTL as
    “evidence based critical reflection on practice aimed at improving practice”

    pedagogic research is focused on generic rather than specific
    contexts, and that SoTL ensures that the latter (e.g. individual classrooms,
    individual teacher practices) are addressed.

    Other commentators differentiate educational/pedagogical research from SoTL in
    terms of the relative emphasis on theory generation and evaluation in the former
    contrasting with the emphasis in the latter on improving students’ learning in
    particular contexts. SOTL purpose is not to generate or test theory. The purpose is to improve
    student learning.

    SoTL – orginating in a particular problem in a particular context, may eventually evolve into full-fledged pedagogical
    research.
  • Once upon a time, a very strong woodcutter asked for a job in a timber merchant and he got it. The pay was really good and so was the work condition. For those reasons, the woodcutter was determined to do his best.
    His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he supposed to work.
    The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees.
    “Congratulations,” the boss said. “Go on that way!”
    Very motivated by the boss words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could only bring 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but he could only bring 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees.
    “I must be losing my strength”, the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.
    “When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked.
    “Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees…”

    This was my introduction to SOTL - very pragmatic – driven by the need to sharpen up student communication and effective assessment in very large >250 cohort teaching. SOTL can turn this problem into an opportunity for targetted experimentation and study
  • We will start here during the individual exercise - highlighting a problem or challenge you are facing
    Follow your passions in SOTL – don’t just do it because it is in the promotion criteria
    Start small – SOTL is often an optional activity – completed in your own time and not recognised by school workload models – acknowledge this and start small, decide how much time you can commit and don’t get overstretched. One project at a time
    Seek collaborators, networks, communities that you can tap into for ideas, knowledge, funding, dissemination – target areas that are “hot” internationalisation, feedback, the student experience
    Don’t stay within your discipline – get ideas from other schools and heaven forbid other faculties
  • At end of 15 mins – Ask 2 or 3 of you to share these initial thoughts – may just at this stage be focused on identifying particularly challenges or experiences in your teaching experience

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