What is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning? with Mary Huber, Part 2

What is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning? with Mary Huber, Part 2

We are posting this work, "What is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning?" as a series of blog posts with permission from the original author.

About Mary Huber

Mary Huber is Senior Scholar Emerita and Consulting Scholar at The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  Involved in research at the Carnegie Foundation since 1985, Huber has directed projects on Cultures of Teaching in Higher Education; led Carnegie’s roles in the Integrative Learning Project and the U.S. Professors of the Year Award; and worked closely with the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). She speaks, consults, and writes on the scholarship of teaching and learning, integrative learning, and faculty roles and rewards.

Second in a series:  Last time, Mary Huber introduced us to SoTL, the scholarship of teaching and learning, its motivation and history.  Today she takes us through conducting it yourself.  The final post gives an overview of SoTL at Stanford.

Conducting SoTL

To do your own scholarship of teaching and learning, you’ll typically do these four things:

  • Ask questions about your own students’ learning
  • Gather and analyze evidence to answer those questions
  • Try out new insights about learning in your teaching
  • Go public with what you find so your peers can review it, critique it, and build on it

Though it’s most commonly pursued in the classroom, you can also use SoTL in collaborative inquiry leading to the design, assessment, and improvement of academic programs. (See Huber and Hutchings, 2005; Hutchings, Huber, and Ciccone, 2011).

Ask Questions

Choose questions that probe something about teaching or learning you’re puzzled by, worried about, or wish you understood more deeply. (These questions can be roughly categorized according to a typology derived from Hutchings (2000)).

  • What works? Is more interaction in my lecture class helping at-risk students learn chemistry? Is service learning promoting my students’ sense of engagement with science? 
  • What is going on? What are my students thinking? What prior understandings (or misunderstandings) are they bringing to the task?  How are they approaching study for the course?
  • What’s possible?  How might I help students understand the difficulty they encounter in reading a poem as a means rather than a barrier to understanding? (See Salvatori and Donahue, 2004)
  • What theory, framework, or model would be useful in understanding a particular pedagogical issue?  What do students actually need to do to be able to succeed in a course in my field? How does an expert do these things? How can these tasks be explicitly modeled?  (See Pace and Middendorf, 2004).

You can ask these questions at either the course or the program level. When they address learning goals at the department or program level, they can also contribute to program assessment by providing information and insight on why students are (or are not) achieving desired learning outcomes.  

Gather and Analyze Evidence

You can sometimes answer SoTL questions through close and careful reading of student work produced for a course (see Linkon, 2011), but that will not always be enough.  While you might start with methods familiar to you from within your own disciplinary repertoire, you may want to try other, less familiar, methods as well.  If you’re most comfortable with qualitative methods, you may find that you can best answer your questions about learning by adding quantitative methods to the mix. Similarly, if you’re most comfortable with quantitative methods, you may find that qualitative methods can add depth to your study.

The growing repertoire of SoTL techniques includes pre- and post- questionnaires, close reading of samples of student work, “think-alouds,” focus groups, surveys, and the like. You should also consider engaging graduate students and undergraduates as co-inquirers in your SoTL studies (See Werder and Otis, 2010).

It is important to think through the ethical issues involved in the kind of SoTL inquiry you wish to undertake (See Hutchings, 2002). Institutional Review Board approval may also be necessary for certain kinds of SoTL research.  

Try Out Insights

You’ll want to put your insights to work to improve teaching and learning in your own classroom or program. You might try them out and refine them through simply designing or redesigning a course, lesson, assignment, or assessment.

Sometimes you’ll start by identifying new goals for learning, seeking ways of teaching them, and assessing the extent of their success.  The process often feeds into a new cycle of inquiry, evidence-gathering, and innovation.

You can do SoTL in a modest way.  For example, reflect on existing evidence (such as student papers or exams) that leads to small changes whose effectiveness in improving student performance you can track. 

At its most elaborate, however, SoTL can develop into a larger agenda for inquiry and action through multiple iterations of a course or set of courses. (See, for example, Indiana University’s History Learning Project.)

Go Public

In SoTL, as with other kinds of research, “going public” can mean many things. You might present on panels or posters at campus forums, or at   disciplinary and professional society meetings.  Sometimes scholars prepare articles for newsletters or material for websites (like this one!). 

More polished work can be published in the growing number of peer-reviewed journals open to SoTL, as contributions to edited books, or as monographs. Although you may think first of disciplinary outlets, you should also consider the growing number of conferences, newsletters, journals, and book publishers available for SoTL itself.

Join the Conversation

Have you done any SoTL? Want to start?  What questions do you have?  Comment at the end of the post.

Next up:  This series concludes with a view of SoTL at Stanford

Read the full text of Mary’s paper “What is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning?”, which includes a substantial list of resources.

References Cited

Arum, R., and Roksa, J. 2011. Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bernstein, D., and Bass, R. 2005. The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Academe 91(4): 37-43. Available through Academe’s J-Stor site: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/undergrad/sues/SUES_Report.pdf

Boyer, E. 1990. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Huber, M., and Hutchings, P. 2005. The Advancement of Learning: Building the Teaching Commons. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. PDF of first chapter available at: http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/publications/advancement-learning-building-teaching-commons

Hutchings, P. 2000. “Approaching the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.” Introduction to P. Hutchings (ed.). Opening Lines: Approaches to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Menlo Park, CA: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. PDF available at: http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/publications/opening-lines-approaches-scholarship-teaching-and-learning

Hutchings, P, ed.. 2002. Ethics of Inquiry: Issues in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Menlo Park, CA: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. PDF of Foreword available at: http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/publications/ethics-inquiry-issues-scholarship-teaching-and-learning

Hutchings, P., Huber, M., and Ciccone, A. 2011. The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Reconsidered: Institutional Integration and Impact.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. PDF of first chapter available at: http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/publications/the-scholarship-teaching-and-learning-reconsidered-institutional-integration-and-impact

Indiana University’s History Learning Project. http://www.iub.edu/~hlp/

Linkon, S. L. 2011. Literary Learning: Teaching the English Major. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

National Research Council. 2012. Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering. Singer, S.R., Nielsen, N.R., and Schweingruber, H.A. (Eds). Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Direction of Discipline-Based Education Research. Board on Science Education. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. PDF can be downloaded free at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13362

Pace, D., and Middendorf, J. 2004. Decoding the Disciplines: Helping Students Learn Disciplinary Ways of Thinking. (New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 98). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Summary available at History Learning Project site: http://www.iub.edu/~hlp/

Pascarella, E., Blaich, C. , Marin, G.L., and Hanson, J. M. 2011. “How Robust are the Findings of Academically Adrift?” Change 43 (3): pp. 20-24. Abstract available at: http://www.changemag.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/2011/May-June%202011/academically-adrift-abstract.html

Salvatori, M. R., and Donahue, P. 2004. The Elements (and Pleasures) of Difficulty. New York: Pearson/Longman.

Shulman, L. S. 2000. “Inventing the Future.” Conclusion to P. Hutchings (ed.), Opening Lines: Approaches to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Menlo Park, CA: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. PDF available at: http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/publications/opening-lines-approaches-scholarship-teaching-and-learning

Shulman, L.S. 2004. Teaching as Community Property: Essays on Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Shulman, L. S. 2011. “The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A Personal Account and Reflection.” IJSOTL (International Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) 5 (1). http://academics.georgiasouthern.edu/ijsotl/v5n1/featured_essay/PDFs/_Shulman.pdf

Stanford University. 2012. The Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford University. Stanford, CA: Stanford University. http://www.stanford.edu/dept/undergrad/sues/SUES_Report.pdf

Werder, C., and Otis, M. M. 2010. Engaging Student Voices in the Study of Teaching and Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.