Stage 1 – Developing clear goals

Stage 1 – Developing clear goals

   

 

In 'doing SoTL' it is vital to decide what it is you want to investigate and/or achieve.  This isn’t always easy however, and without a clear goal you might end up engaged in an unmanageable task or one that tells you little about your practice or your students’ learning.

It's therefore worthwhile taking the time to interrogate your practice, in order to identify an area that you might be interested in exploring.  Here are some questions to help:

  • What’s the worst/most challenging thing that has happened, in terms of your teaching/support of learning?
  • Did this relate to the learning of your students?
  • Was it in your control?
  • Why do you think this happened?
  • How can you ensure that the same thing does not happen next time?
  • What’s the best/most rewarding thing that has happened, in terms of your teaching role?
  • Did this relate to the learning of your students?
  • Was it in your control?
  • Why do you think this happened?
  • How can you ensure that the same thing happens next time?
  • Is your role likely to change in the coming months/year? If so, how?
  • Are the learning requirements or learning environment of your students likely to change in the coming months/year?  If so, how?
  • What challenges does this change present?
  • What area of academic practice in a more global sense would you like to find out more about?

Once you have identified an area of your practice you would like to know more about the next step is to try to formulate a concise and clear question or statement about the project.

Start by taking one of the responses from your answers to the questions above and turning it into a statement of intention that will allow for you to take some positive action/influence future practice.  For instance:

“I don’t understand why students don’t prepare for tutorials.”

This would then become

“I will find out what influences students to prepare for tutorials.”

It might be useful to come up with two or three such statements of intention. 

Next it is important to define all of your terms. For example, when you say students do you mean all of the students in the course or just the ones you tutor? 

Consider not only the element of your practice you wish to investigate but also how achievable a meaningful investigation actually is - might you be trying to do too much?  Does your question or statement of intention need to be focused a bit more? 

Once you’ve established a clear statement or question regarding your SoTL project (and again it might be useful to keep 2 or 3 possible projects in mind at the moment) try to write a descriptive paragraph of what all of your terms mean.  This paragraph will mark the starting point for your SoTL project.