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Faculty Perceptions on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, a Faculty Development Initiative

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Abstract

This article is a synopsis of one university’s experiment on a faculty cohort (n = 12) that participated in an inaugural program of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) program at a southwest regional university. Interviews were used to determine the perceived impact on teaching and research as a result of participation in this program. Investigators determined that the participants perceived a positive impact on their teaching methods with a transition toward evidence-based instruction. They also reported an expanded research agenda. [http://lillyconferences.com/tx/files/2015-Proceedings.pdf]
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Faculty Perceptions on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A Faculty
Development Initiative
Javier Garza
College of Science and Technology
Tarleton State University
Kelley Shaer
College of Education
Tarleton State University
James E. Gentry
College of Education
Tarleton State University
Donald G. McGahan
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Tarleton State University
Sarah Maben
College of Liberal and Fine Arts
Tarleton State University
Syed Hussain A. Jafri
College of Business Administration
Tarleton State University
Abstract
is article is a synopsis of one university’s experiment on a faculty cohort (n = 12) that participated in an
inaugural program of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) program at a southwest regional
university. Interviews were used to determine the perceived impact on teaching and research as a result of
participation in this program. Investigators determined that the participants perceived a positive impact on
their teaching methods with a transition toward evidence-based instruction. ey also reported an expanded
research agenda.
Literature Review
In the spirit of Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered (1990), one university’s faculty development team set out to
spread the word about the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) to colleagues. e systematic research
and reection on teaching and student learning was woven into the university’s new strategic plan, and the
faculty-to-faculty developers recognized the opportunity to develop a cross-disciplinary initiative to promote
this research among colleagues.
SoTL compels teachers to shi from thinking of teaching solely as student-teacher interaction to an “object
of investigation” (Bass, 1999). Hodges (2013) casts SoTL as a mindset of “questioning old assumptions about
what teaching entails and how our students learn, gathering and examining evidence of the eects of our
approaches, and reecting on and sharing insights gained” (p. 72). is transformational agenda cuts across
disciplinary silos, but not everyone has the social science methodologies needed to attain expertise applying
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SoTL (Hubball & Clark, 2010). Faculty members in schools of education are versed in bridging required
outcomes assessment to a legitimate research program, but faculty in other disciplines are not aware of the
opportunity to subject their pedagogy to the rigor of scientic research principles. Conclusions regarding
the success of a given instructional practice are oen grounded in anecdote and instructors’ prior experience
as a student. While epistemological viewpoints and nuances of sound pedagogical practices may be uneven
across disciplines, Huber (2006) argues for interdisciplinary interactions amongst faculty as these interactions
foster cross disciplinary discovery of those very nuances of pedagogical practices. e study explores how
one university’s faculty development team created, and the inaugural cohort members evaluated, the pilot
installation of a SoTL program.
e Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s initiative, CASTL Carnegie Academy for the
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL), sought to promote the concept of taking teaching seriously
and “continues to nourish academic practice” (Bender, 2005). e SoTL message has spread throughout the
academy, and faculty SoTL training programs have taken dierent forms on campuses across the United
States. For example, Southeast Missouri State University uses a SoTL Fellows model, where an annual
cohort of 10 meets monthly to cra SoTL research projects (Waterman et al., 2010). In a study of three
of the Southeast cohorts, 66% of the SoTL projects showed enhanced student learning (100 courses and
4,500 students aected). In addition, 15 projects were presented at conferences, and seven were published
in peer-reviewed journals. e University of Wisconsin System assessed its 11-year SoTL program to
nd that 96% of participants (n = 130) reported a positive impact from its program (Voelker & Martin,
2013). Sixty-two percent of participants published SoTL-related articles, essays and book chapters. At Iowa
State University, researchers interviewed 18 SoTL champions about their experiences with SoTL research
(Marcketti, Gidlewski, & Leptien, 2014). ree themes of faculty perceptions emerged from the qualitative
study: synergistic eorts (the overlapping of teaching, research, and service eorts), personal and professional
benets, and nuanced understanding (related to how a university perceives SoTL projects). Like these
universities, the university in this study began a SoTL program for its faculty.
e purpose of this paper is to document faculty perceptions of a SoTL program that was created to enhance
the participant’s ability and interest to complete and sustain an ongoing SoTL agenda at a regional university
in the southwest United States. Two research questions were posed: R1. How do SoTL program participants
perceive the impact of the experience on their teaching? and R2. How do SoTL program participants perceive
the impact of the experience on their research agenda?
Methodology
e faculty development team, called Faculty Fellows, created a program and solicited faculty applications to
participate in the university’s rst SoTL cohort. Priority consideration was given to those applicants without
prior experience with educational research. A cohort of 12 was selected with faculty members from a diverse
set of disciplines, including the natural sciences and the humanities. Most were assistant professors with
doctoral degrees, and had varying years of service at the university. Demographics are omitted so individual
identication is not possible. Because a keystone of a SoTL eort is communicating ndings (Bishop-Clark &
Dietz-Uhler, 2012), a central goal for the semester-long initiative was that every participant submit an abstract
or manuscript to present at a conference or for publication, respectively. is goal was incentivized because
participants did not receive their stipend until they responded to a Request For Proposal to present at a
conference or submitted a manuscript to a journal. Over the course of ve Saturdays, the faculty development
team at a mid-size regional Master’s granting university in the southwest U.S. led workshops and lectures.
Topics included: an introduction to SoTL projects and the SoTL research process including reection; research
question construction; study design; institutional review board (human subjects) process; data collection and
analysis; and publication and presentation avenues. At the time of publication, eight members of the cohort
had earned their stipends by submitting an article about their SoTL project to a journal, or had submitted to
present the project at an academic conference.
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www.lillyconferences.com/tx | 10Lilly Conference on College & University Teaching and Learning
Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning | Austin, TX Conference Proceedings | Garza, et al.
Aer receiving IRB approval of Exempt status (University IRB approval #2014-012314-14001), the faculty
development team utilized a qualitative design based on two research questions that guided the study. Because
participants’ perceptions were the focus of the study, interviews served as the primary data source. e
interviews were conducted at least three months aer completion of the program but prior to formal group
presentations of each participant’s SoTL project. All 12 participants were interviewed. e interview questions
were structured to give researchers a glimpse into participants’ perceptions regarding the SoTL experience.
e interviews were conducted in person, over the phone, and virtually by an independent interviewer.
Completed interviews were transcribed and delivered to investigators for analysis. e interview questions
were: 1) How has your participation in the SoTL cohort program impacted your ability to complete a SoTL
project? 2) How has the SoTL experience impacted your teaching? 3) How has the SoTL experience impacted
your research agenda? 4) What tools or strategies did you nd helpful when participating in SoTL? Tell us
why you found them helpful. 5) What changes in the SoTL process might have made it more eective and
applicable for your teaching and research eorts? and 6) Anything else you want to say?
Investigators used open coding as they independently reviewed all transcripts in their entirety for keywords
and themes. Keywords were collapsed into categories and further collapsed into patterns or themes (Gay,
Mills, & Airasian, 2012). Investigators (n = 6) compared coding and themes via peer debrieng (Creswell,
1998). From peer debrieng and discussions, overall themes emerged through debate and consensus. Narrative
samples from transcripts provided participants a voice concerning their SoTL experience.
Results
Transformation and transition were two overarching themes for both research questions. e major theme
for faculty member perceptions on a SoTL experience’s impact on teaching (R1) was a transition to evidence-
based teaching. Participants were testing assumptions about particular teaching methods. One participant
phrased it this way: “I think you get comfortable doing things a certain way and you know whether or not
that’s the most eective way in that particular context; you may or may not be true sic [correct]. You’ve got to
keep asking yourself those questions and nd ways to eciently and eectively get those questions answered.
Another said he “found that a lot of the things we were doing in the classroom don’t always increase student
engagement, that students have a dierent way of being connected … than we were expecting.” A third said
he was thinking of new ways of approaching the classroom, and the kind of eects that may have on student
learning and outcomes.
While some participants were in a transition to evidence-based teaching, others experienced transformation.
“I’ve kind of gone from just being someone in front of the room throwing information out, to trying to get
the students more involved and trying to make it more of an engaging environment for them,” said one
participant, who has already applied SoTL ndings to her classroom. She added, “...the assessment portion
of my SoTL research has been helpful in terms of how I can add value in my classes right now.” Another
participant said she is making sure that scholarship is involved when she implements something new into her
course, saying her teaching has “more of a purpose.
Two sub-themes included reection on their own teaching and beliefs about student learning, and exposure
to teaching ideas from colleagues. e reections included “reconsidering” and “rethinking” classroom
approaches. “It’s certainly made me think more about the way that students learn in a modern setting,” said
one participant. Another participant said the program did not change the way she taught, but she did add a
teaching component to her research agenda.
In addition to transforming the participants’ perceptions about teaching, the investigators noted a change
in participants’ perceptions about research as well as a broadened research agenda (R2). e keyword data
taken from the transcriptions suggests a transition of foci from solely traditional discipline specic research
to an expanded research agenda which now includes SoTL research. Evidence of a change in participants
perceptions were statements such as “I’ve been able to add more of the teaching component to my research
Plenary Presenters
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www.lillyconferences.com/tx | 11Lilly Conference on College & University Teaching and Learning
Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning | Austin, TX Conference Proceedings | Garza, et al.
agenda in addition to my other posted research” and “...this is good because it provided another area to focus
on.” When describing how this experience has impacted their research agenda, a third participant remarked
that SoTL is a “secondary area of research that I can kind of focus in” and further stated she would denitely
incorporate SoTL into her research objectives. Another said, “I would have never gotten into SoTL — it’s a line
of research that would be missing in my kind of [research] tool bag.
For the novice researchers, the SoTL program provided guidance and assistance to motivate them to not only
complete this research project but also increased their self-ecacy about unfamiliar research methods. During
the post program interview, one participant stated, “e support of the Faculty Fellows and all the resources
provided [to] us really helped me to see a project all the way through.” Another participant displayed some
trepidation because she did not have any prior experience with human or classroom research. Yet another
participant interjected that she did not feel condent in her research abilities prior to starting the program.
Since completing the program, this same participant stated, “I feel more condent in my [research] abilities
and skills.” Another participant started the program lacking condence with qualitative research methods.
However, upon completing the program, his perspective changed. He stated, “[SoTL] helped me get my mind
around the idea that [qualitative research] is OK and that’s real too.” One of the greatest successes of this
program is that aer completing this program, one of the participants decided to enroll in a doctoral program
because she felt more condent in her research skills.
e investigators also noted benets to those participants who were experienced researchers. One participant
noted, “Being able to do research on what I’m passionate about, which is teaching, was kind of eye opening.” A
participant from the natural sciences stated, “Learning how to take something that we’re doing in the research
lab and how to bring it into the classroom is an important change in the way I do research.” In addressing the
program, this participant further elaborated, “It’s helped me to fuse together an educational component with
the actual research I’m doing.” A male participant stated that his SoTL experience “opened up some doors
on some other research areas to go into” further stating, “It will lead to several more conference papers and
proceedings or journal articles.
Discussion
e research ndings are consistent with Hodges (2013): “rough the SoTL perspective, faculty realize that
course design is an intellectual endeavor, that students are complex individuals from whom they can learn, and
that teaching is an ongoing transformational journey to be shared.” (p. 72) Participants began to recognize and
started to practice evidence-based teaching with plans for broader dissemination of ndings. Participants also
realized the value of SoTL research and have expanded their research agenda to include projects that involve
the SoTL and its impact on students.
A limitation for this study is the small number of participants from a single institution, which weakens
generalizations to larger populations. Another limitation of the study is the potential bias introduced into
the study by investigators who are also mentors for the program. Suggested areas for further research include
collecting longitudinal data to track how the participants incorporate SoTL into their research agenda and
how their teaching evolves as a result of their research.
Huber and Hutchings (2006) stated about SoTL, “doing it enables one to use it” (p. 28) and one institutions
foray into a SoTL cohort experience helped 12 faculty members start their SoTL journey. As a result of this
investigation and the perceived success by the participants, the university has decided to continue the program
with revisions to capitalize on promoting a campus culture of evidence-based teaching and research.
Plenary Presenters
Conference Papers
Abstracts Preface
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Thank Your to Cosponsors
www.lillyconferences.com/tx | 12Lilly Conference on College & University Teaching and Learning
Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning | Austin, TX Conference Proceedings | Garza, et al.
References
Bass, R. (1999). e scholarship of teaching: What’s the problem?. Inventio: Creative inking About Learning
And Teaching, 1(1). Retrieved from http://www2.okcu.edu/cetl/randybass.pdf
Bender, E. T. (2005). CASTLs in the air. Change, 37(5), 40-49.
Bishop-Clark, C., & Dietz-Uhler, B. (2012). Engaging in the scholarship of teaching and learning: A guide to the
process, and how to develop a project from start to nish. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus.
Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. New York: Carnegie Foundation for
the Advancement of Teaching.
Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among ve traditions. ousand Oaks,
CA: Sage Publications.
Gay, L.R., Mills, G.E., Airasian, P. (2012). Educational research: Competencies for analysis and applications (10th ed.).
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Hodges, L. C. (2013). Postcards from the edge of SoTL: A view from faculty development. Teaching and
Learning Inquiry: e ISSoTL Journal 1(1), 71-79. Indiana University Press. Retrieved November 8,
2014, from Project MUSE database.
Hubball, H., & Clark, A. (2010). Diverse methodological approaches and considerations for SoTL in higher
education. e Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(1), 1-11.
Huber, M.T. (2006). Disciplines, pedagogy, and inquiry-based learning about teaching. New Directions for
Teaching and Learning, 107, 69-77.
Huber, M.T., & Hutchings, P. (2006). Building the teaching commons. Change: e Magazine of Higher
Learning, 38(3), 24-31.
Marcketti, S., Gidlewski, S., & Leptien, J. (2014, November). SoTL champions: Leveraging their lessons learned.
Presentation at the 39th Annual POD Conference, Dallas, TX.
Voelker, D., & Martin, R. (2013). Wisconsin teaching fellows & scholars program assessment project: Final
report. University of Wisconsin System, Oce of Professional & Instructional Development. Retrieved
from http://tinyurl.com/jvrgkd8
Waterman, M., Weber, J., Pracht, C., Conway, K., Kunz, D., Evans, B., ... & Starrett, D. (2010). Preparing
scholars of teaching and learning using a model of collaborative peer consulting and action research.
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Article
Full-text available
The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Fellows Program at Southeast Missouri State University supports an annual cohort of 10 faculty Fellows to evaluate, through individual research projects, the effect of teaching on student learning of two or more of the university's General Education objectives. Designed around practical action research and collaborative peer consulting, the SoTL Fellows Program creates a multidisciplinary community of peers who meet approximately monthly (seminar schedule included). Subgroups within the seminar address sequenced questions about research processes and then collaboratively consult with one another as they apply the research processes to their specific projects. The Fellowship year culminates in a presentation of project findings to the University community. The Program is well supported by the Administration. Fellows receive up to $1500 for research and travel. Analysis of 3 cohorts of Fellows showed that 66% of the projects had clear results showing enhanced student learning. The surveyed Fellows affected over 4500 students in 100 courses. Most of the projects emphasized a new teaching approach, new curriculum materials, integrated applications, and active learning. Fifteen projects were presented at conferences and 7 were published in peer reviewed journals to date. Participation in the SoTL Fellows Program is viewed positively in promotion and tenure decisions, with Fellows reporting a variety of intrinsic rewards as well. As a comprehensive regional university already committed to the Teacher Scholar model in its tenure and promotion processes, Southeast Missouri State University (Southeast) has deeply supported that commitment by initiating, funding, and continuing a faculty development opportunity called the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Fellows Program. Now in its fifth year (2009-2010), the SoTL Fellows Program has three main goals: to improve student learning, to strengthen faculty skills and dossiers in the scholarship of teaching and learning, and to develop and reward a community of faculty members with expertise in the scholarship of teaching and learning. In addition, this program facilitates the incorporation of learning objectives from our general education program into courses that might not otherwise deliberately address such objectives. Faculty members selected for participation in the year long-program are called "SoTL Fellows." The Southeast SoTL Fellows program is centered on action research projects proposed by the SoTL Fellows. Fellows attend a seminar structured around a practical model of action research (Mills, 2003). Using a sequenced set of open-ended questions about the research process, small groups of Fellows and program leaders (designated "SoTL Associates") consult with each other during seminar time using a process we call "collaborative peer consulting." This method of peer consulting is used to help the Fellows develop and shape their projects, interpret findings, and prepare presentations. In this paper we will situate our program in the context of SoTL concepts and projects elsewhere, describe our program, and report results of a study of the first three cohorts.
Article
As a past SoTL scholar turned faculty developer, I have come to realize that SoTL is a mindset: one of questioning old assumptions about what teaching entails and how our students learn, gathering and examining evidence of the effects of our approaches, and reflecting on and sharing insights gained. This perspective changed my own teaching. Now it informs each consultation I have with faculty, upending much of what faculty traditionally believe about teaching on intellectual, social, and personal levels. by adjusting the frame through which we view teaching, SoTL has revelatory power in catalyzing change. In this article, I discuss how key precepts of SoTL enhance the day-to-day work of faculty development. Specifically, through SoTL, faculty realize that course design is an intellectual endeavor, that students are complex individuals from whom they can learn, and that teaching is an ongoing transformational journey to be shared. Copyright © 2013 The International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
Article
As a past SoTL scholar turned faculty developer, I have come to realize that SoTL is a mindset: one of questioning old assumptions about what teaching entails and how our students learn, gathering and examining evidence of the effects of our approaches, and reflecting on and sharing insights gained. This perspective changed my own teaching. Now it informs each consultation I have with faculty, upending much of what faculty traditionally believe about teaching on intellectual, social, and personal levels. By adjusting the frame through which we view teaching, SoTL has revelatory power in catalyzing change. In this article, I discuss how key precepts of SoTL enhance the day-to-day work of faculty development. Specifically, through SoTL, faculty realize that course design is an intellectual endeavor, that students are complex individuals from whom they can learn, and that teaching is an ongoing transformational journey to be shared.
Article
The disciplines contribute in a variety of ways to inquiry-based learning about teaching but they also can be seen as the beneficiaries of such pedagogical work.