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Fostering a Culture of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) at DePaul

One of the central purposes given by DePaul University’s mission statement regards research broadly (emphasis mine):

Research is supported both for its intrinsic merit and for the practical benefits it offers to faculty, students, and society. Broadly conceived, research at the university entails not only the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge but also the creation and interpretation of artistic works, application of expertise to enduring societal issues, and development of methodologies that improve inquiry, teaching and professional practice.

Aligned with this central purpose, the Office for Teaching, Learning and Assessment (TLA) seeks in particular to promote approaches to teaching and assessment that improve student learning. Thus, the office has advanced some efforts to explore and implement ways to help faculty learn about and embrace the notion that teaching and learning–more than just a routine set of activities–constitute serious intellectual work that can lead to scholarship, provided that some standards are met. Through these efforts, TLA aims to help faculty realize why and how learning can be significantly enhanced through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, commonly known as SoTL.Book people

Some recent, concrete efforts by TLA to help foster a SoTL culture at DePaul include:

  1. Gaining institutional recognition of SoTL as a recognized activity in merit reviews and the promotion and tenure process. On January 8, 2014, the University Faculty Council passed a resolution drafted jointly by the Committee on Teaching and Learning (COLT) and TLA to endorse SoTL as a fundamental intellectual and scholarly activity that on its own right is to be valued and supported accordingly by DePaul University. In particular, Faculty Council strongly endorses the full inclusion of SoTL in merit reviews and in promotion and tenure evaluations.
  2. Defining what SoTL means at DePaul. In close collaboration with COLT, a definition of SoTL within the context of DePaul’s mission has been developed.
  3. Sponsoring university-wide events that focus on SoTL. The theme of the 2013 Fall Forum was centered around the concept of the scholarship of teaching and learning. In her post, Jen O’Brien provides a thorough review of this university event sponsored by our office and notes future SoTL-themed events scheduled for later this year.
  4. Establishing SoTL reading groups for faculty. The establishment, in the fall of 2012, of a group of faculty in the College of Science and Health (CSH) and the Theatre School who committed themselves to reading relevant SoTL materials and meeting to discuss them at least once per quarter. I was personally involved with the CSH group, while Claudia Anderson (Theatre and then chair of COLT) helped to coordinate the Theater group. We hope to continue working with these groups and to increase the number of active SoTL groups throughout the University.
  5. Publishing original SoTL research. In September of 2013, the paper “Finding Out What They Really Think: Assessing Non-Science Majors’ Views of the Nature of Science,” co-authored by Bernhard Beck-Winchatz and myself, was published in the prestigious journal College Teaching.
  6. Exploring grant opportunities for SoTL projects. In October 2013, TLA met with the SoTL committee of the Society of Vincent de Paul Professors. The idea of providing SoTL grants to faculty was considered as one appropriate means to help faculty begin or develop SoTL projects.
  7. Immersing TLA’s professional staff in the field of SoTL. In the spring of 2013, I attended the SoTL Commons Conference held in Savanah, Georgia. And in the fall of 2013, three professional staff members and I attended a SoTL conference organized by the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Raleigh, North Carolina.

As the New Year unfolds, we will continue our commitment to form a community devoted to establishing and maintaining a culture of scholarship of teaching and learning at DePaul University.

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