Structures and Considerations for SoTL Educational Development

Structures and Considerations for SoTL Educational Development

Jennifer C. Friberg, Lauren Scharff
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2212-7.ch003
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Colleges and universities around the world share a broad focus on education. However, unique characteristics and priorities across institutions may lead to vastly different educational development opportunities for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and levels of impact for the SoTL efforts (e.g., micro, meso, macro, mega). This chapter is organized in two distinct parts. Part 1 examines five different structures typical for SoTL educational development with a focus on their organizational structure within the institution and the SoTL expertise of individuals who that lead these efforts. Strengths and limitations of each structure are presented. Part 2 provides a discussion of critical considerations that impact all SoTL educational development efforts regardless of the type of structure that exists within an institution.
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Educational development—and educational developers—can be viewed from a variety of perspectives and are impacted by numerous variables. Considered leaders in understanding teaching and learning in higher education, most educational developers work interactively with individual course instructors, academic departments, and other institutional groups or units to facilitate the use and understanding of effective pedagogical approaches. To accomplish this, educational developers represent a wide range of topic area specialties (i.e., online learning, culturally responsive teaching and learning, instructional design, embedded assessment) within the areas of teaching and learning. Increasingly across institutions, some specialize in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), developing programs to support research on teaching and learning. This chapter presents possible organizational structures for SoTL-focused educational development, along with important considerations for stakeholder groups with an interest in SoTL.

Unique characteristics and priorities across colleges and universities around the globe may lead to vastly different ways of doing the business of educational development. Many institutions have established structures for educational development that involve teaching and learning centers (TLCs) where students, staff, and faculty might learn about a variety of teaching and/or learning topics. Other institutions have smaller units or single individuals tasked with providing educational development to those interested in such opportunities. Lee (2010, p. 23) proposed a list of five basic organizational structures for educational development in higher education:

  • 1.

    Centralized TLCs

  • 2.

    An individual faculty member-leader, with or without a physical center

  • 3.

    A committee that supports faculty development

  • 4.

    A clearinghouse for programs and offerings

  • 5.

    Structures that encompass more than one institution (system-wide offices)

Across each of these organizational structures, similar work occurs. Educational developers design and/or engage in workshops, consultations, classroom observations, orientations, grants/funding, faculty fellows, teaching circles, learning communities, research centered on teaching and learning, and external projects or collaborations. It should be noted, however, that the breadth and depth of programming these structures may offer to stakeholders varies depending on several factors: the institution type (e.g., comprehensive, research, liberal arts), the mission of the institution, resources allocated to the educational development unit (e.g., personnel, financial, space), and the interests and experiences of those affiliated with each structure (Lee, 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

SoTL Expert: An individual who, in addition to possessing knowledge of evidence-based pedagogies, has a broad understanding of different research designs, methods, data sources, analysis schemes, etc.

4M Framework: A scaffold for conceptualizing the impact of SoTL work across different contexts, including micro (individual/classroom), meso (department/program), macro (institutional), and mega (beyond a single institution).

Stand-Alone SoTL Unit: A SoTL educational development structure wherein a SoTL educational development unit exists separately from a teaching or learning center or other campus entity.

Grassroots Effort: An informal SoTL educational development structure directed by volunteer faculty and/or staff to identify resources for learning about and supporting SoTL within that institution’s context.

Teaching and Learning Center Structure With No SoTL Expert: A SoTL educational development structure housed within a TLC coordinated by a non-expert educational developer who provides general support for SoTL to interested stakeholders.

Teaching and Learning Center Structure With a Dedicated SoTL Expert/Program: A SoTL educational development structure led by a SoTL expert serving either as a full-time SoTL educational developer affiliated with a teaching and learning center or as the director of a more formally established SoTL program within the teaching and learning center.

Teaching and Learning Center: Centers within an institution where students, staff, and faculty engage with educational developers to learn about a variety of teaching and/or learning topics including evidence-based pedagogies.

Teaching and Learning Center Structure With a Non-Dedicated SoTL Expert: A SoTL educational development structure led by an educational developer with expertise in SoTL who does not serve solely in the role of SoTL educational developer.

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