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Moving forward with SoTL

You may have heard about a trend in higher education called the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, or SoTL. Here in the Office for Teaching, Learning and Assessment we are committed to increasing awareness of and interest in SoTL on campus. Our effort started in earnest in 2013, but we aim to make 2014 the year of SoTL at DePaul.

What’s the buzz about SoTL?

In a recent post, the Director of TLA, Ruben Parra, provided a short history of the office’s effort to support SoTL at the university.

What makes SoTL a good fit fit for DePaul? Perhaps we can look to DePaul’s Committee on Learning and Teaching, which defines SoTL as:

the rigorous investigation of student learning, with the purpose of developing novel teaching methodologies and practices that can lead to the measurable enhancement of student learning.  The results of the investigation are made public through quality scholarly outlets and widely-accepted conferences and general or discipline-specific journals.

The definition makes clear that SoTL is ultimately about improving student learning. Investigating what and how students learn can help faculty develop innovative teaching practices that lead students to significant learning gains. SoTL’s focus on improving student learning aligns with DePaul’s Vision 2018, which testifies to the university’s commitment to enhancing academic quality and supporting educational innovation. No wonder there has been a growing interest in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at DePaul.

But what distinguishes SoTL from scholarly teaching is that the research findings of a SoTL study are made public. Sharing research findings with a wide audience can benefit educators working in other institutions who are grappling with similar questions about what and how the students in their disciplines and classrooms learn.

Fall Forum 2013

Peggy Maki

Guest speaker Peggy Maki.

The 2013 Fall Forum was TLA’s first event that focused on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). As such, the event was tailored towards faculty and staff who were curious about SoTL and how to get started.

The day began with a keynote by invited guest speaker Peggy Maki, SoTL expert and author of Assessing for Learning: Building a Sustainable Commitment Across the Institution (2010). The keynote introduced participants to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and the ways this type of scholarly inquiry can enhance student learning.

The keynote was followed by a panel presentation, where three DePaul faculty spoke about their experiences getting started with SoTL. The panel presenters illuminated the range of approaches possible in SoTL by proving examples of projects that varied by discipline, research methods, and size. 

The day concluded with a workshop led by Peggy Maki that helped interested faculty and staff get started with designing a SoTL research project. During her workshop, Maki emphasized a problem-based framework for developing a research question and selecting an assessment method.

Fall Forum 2013 - Faculty panel

Faculty panelists Heather Jagman (Libraries), Robert Rotenberg (Anthropology), and Amber Settle (Computing) describe their experiences doing SOTL research.

Did you miss the 2013 Fall Forum? You can watch a video of Peggy Maki’s keynote and download her slides and handouts on the Teaching Commons website.

Looking ahead to 2014

In 2014, TLA will continue promoting SoTL research at DePaul by providing support to faculty and staff pursing SoTL research projects. In particular, TLA is partnering with the Office of Research Services to offer a workshop on navigating IRB (Institutional Review Board) procedures, a process which may be unfamiliar to faculty who do not conduct human subject research. Many Fall Forum participants requested help with this part of the SoTL research process, which is a necessary step if the researchers wish to make their findings public through publication or a conference presentation.

In addition to attending the IRB workshop, TLA encourages faculty and staff interested in SoTL to attend the assessment workshops offered through the Teaching Commons and Student Affairs. These workshops, particularly those on direct assessment and assessment planning, can help you explore options for research methods and design an assessment plan that makes sense for your original research question.

Lastly, in an effort to explore further ways that TLA can support faculty and staff doing SoTL, our office is surveying Fall Forum participants to measure the impact of the 2013 event. In particular, we are interested to know how many participants are currently pursing a SoTL research project and what types of support would be most helpful as they move forward.

Upcoming Workshops

Navigating IRB Procedures: Research on Teaching and Learning
Are you hoping to produce publishable research on teaching and learning but are unfamiliar with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval process concerning human subject research? This workshop will help you identify what level of review is right for your project, develop consent materials, and complete the paperwork required for approval. The presenters will offer suggestions for successfully completing an approval request and point participants to resources available to them at DePaul. Bring in plans for your research project as well as any questions you have about the approval process. Presented by Susan Loess-Perez (Office of Research Services) and Mona Shattell (Nursing).

Direct Assessment of Student Learning
This workshop will provide an overview of the differences between direct and indirect assessment of student learning. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to brainstorm and develop techniques for implementing direct assessment and using rubrics to assess student learning in both academic and co-curricular settings.

Assessment Planning
The key to maximizing the value (and minimizing the pain) of assessment is effective planning.  In this workshop, we will review elements of an effective assessment plan, as well as strategies to ensure assessment projects run smoothly.


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