Why this SoTL resource seemed necessary?

The need for a resource such as beSoTLed seemed apparent from the recent Learning Community (LC) of University Teachers at GU (see Bell et al., 2006 and MacKenzie et al., 2010).  This group of University Teachers (UTs) met every month for one year with the purpose of ascertaining what SoTL is and how best to engage with it.  It emerged that UTs wishing to engage in SoTL felt unequipped to do so, both in terms of knowing what SoTL involves, and how to engage in SoTL projects.  This lack of clarity about SoTL is echoed in the literature (Nicholls, 2004; Martin et al., 1999). Although the LC was a useful and practical support for the UTs involved in exploring these issues, the authors of this resource believe that other staff could benefit from information and resources regarding SoTL, particularly in light of the importance placed on the enhancement of the learning environment by many universities.

 

The authors of BeSoTLed are 3 University Teachers at the University of Glasgow who do not see themselves as SoTL experts but as SoTL enthusiasts.

The authors' personal testimonies regarding the exploration of what SoTL is:

 ‘Initially, for me, SoTL was a vague and fuzzy concept, an abstract notion of something rather intangible and frustratingly difficult to grasp.  As I was able to explore SoTL with other colleagues, I became aware that actually I’d been engaging in SoTL already to a certain extent, without even realising it.  In considering how I could become a better teacher and better engage my students in the learning process, in reading about pedagogical theories and finding out about other people’s teaching practices, in designing and implementing teaching methods with these things in mind, and in evaluating learning activities that I’d set up, I had already, unwittingly, become something of a scholar of teaching and learning.  I was rather surprised to learn that these teaching methods and changes to my teaching practice, things that I had previously seen as just part of my duty to students, were also of interest to other scholarly teachers, and so I am learning to disseminate these scholarship projects to others.  I think a big part of this for me was just managing to develop the confidence to engage in SoTL, but for this I really benefitted from the input of others - that was a really invaluable part of the process.’ 
Lorna Morrow, Department of Psychology, University of Glasgow.  1st May 2008.

‘To me SoTL appeared a very woolly, hard to qualify concept.  In discussion with colleagues I quickly realised that my view was a shared one, they also had difficulty defining exactly what SoTL was and how it impacted on their practice as academics.  As part of a learning community I had the opportunity to investigate SoTL, research the literature and discuss pedagogical theories.  I came to realise that to an extent I had been engaged in aspects of SoTL.  In my practice I have evaluated various teaching/learning methods in an attempt to improve the student experience and engagement with the subject, something I felt was an important aspect of teaching.  One aspect of SoTL that until recently I had not given much thought to is the idea of publicising what I do/have done, in other words giving it up to ‘peer scrutiny’.  This need not mean journal papers but providing the opportunity to share your experiences with like minded individuals and reflect on feedback received, an exercise that I find extremely rewarding.’
Rob McKerlie, Dental School, Faculty of Medicine, University of Glasgow.  19th June 2008.

 ‘I became aware of SoTL around five years ago and I have to confess that then (and to some extent now) I struggled with it as a concept; I still think the distinction between SoTL and educational research is blurred.  Having said that, I find the existence of a concept that recognises that teaching in HE is so much more than standing at the front of the class reassuring and inspiring.  SoTL has become a 'movement’ in the United States with many organisations, conferences and journals dedicated to its pursuit.  It's much newer in the UK and that's one of the reasons I wanted to be involved in this resource.  SoTL is both a process and an outcome.  For me, it is making the practice of educators public, sharing our findings and beliefs but in a structured and rigorous manner.'
Jane MacKenzie, Learning and Teaching Centre, University of Glasgow.  1st September 2008.


References

Bell , S., Bohan, J., Brown, A., Burke, J., Cogdell, B., Jamieson, S., MacKenzie, J., McAdam, J., McKerlie, R., Morrow, L.I., Paschke, B., Rea, P. & Tierney, A. (N.B. All of the authors have joint authorship status) (2006). The scholarship of teaching and learning - a university teachers learning community's work in progress. Practice and Evidence of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 1 (1), 3-12.  Available here.

Martin, E., Benjamin, J., Prosser, M. & Trigwell, K. (1999). Scholarship of teaching: a study of the approaches of academic staff. In: C. Rust (Ed.) Improving Student Learning: Improving Student Learning Outcomes, Proceedings of the 1998 6th International Symposium, pp. 326-331 Oxford: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, Oxford Brookes University.

Jane MacKenzie; Sheena Bell; Jason Bohan; Andrea Brown; Joanne Burke; Barbara Cogdell; Susan Jamieson; Julie McAdam; Robert McKerlie; Lorna Morrow; Beth Paschke; Paul Rea; Anne Tierney (2010) From anxiety to empowerment: a Learning Community of University Teachers. Teaching in Higher Education 15(3): 273 – 284.

Nicholls, G (2004).   Scholarship in teaching as a core professional value: what does this mean to the academic?   Teaching in Higher Education 9(1): 29-42.