Using a SoTL Framework and Disciplinary Context to Sketch Teaching and Learning Research: Preliminary Work for a Grant Application

Using a SoTL Framework and Disciplinary Context to Sketch Teaching and Learning Research: Preliminary Work for a Grant Application

Shalin Hai-Jew (Kansas State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 41
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4516-4.ch004
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The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) enables ways to improve teaching in various disciplinary contexts, in higher education; this framework begins with measures of what learners actually learn in a formal course and identifies ways to improve the teaching. The SoTL framework was used to inform part of a recent grant application for a multi-institution, multi-year research project in the soil sciences. Using SoTL for projected grant-funded work involved the following, an in-depth exploration of the literature a light exploration of the local context (soil science and agronomy) variations on traditional SoTL (and innovative thinking from educational research) pragmatics and practical planning, frugal budget planning to inform a general sense of direction, with the details to be filled in later (if funded). This work suggests the importance of studying a framework in depth but applying it lightly to enable riffing in new directions.
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When working as a member of a cross-functional team working on a large-scale grant application, there is a necessary finesse. One is in a room with scientists and data analysts and sociologists, and everyone’s time is expensive and severely limited. The deadlines are short, and there is a fair amount of team silence up to and sometimes right past the deadlines. The standards for the grant proposal are severe, with small misses possibly leading to an automatic rejection (according to the government documentation). The face-to-face meetings are expensive for multi-institution grant endeavors, and most of the work is done from a distance and not always collaboratively. The work requires close reading of the call for proposals, the signaling from the co-PIs, and the initial pre-proposal. For this work, part of the project required evidence-based research of learning in multiple contexts:

  • Various learning and behavioral opportunities for farmers and private landowners

  • Various outreaches to state and national legislators

  • Various learning opportunities for the general public using open-shared open educational resources (OER)

  • An online course for undergraduate learners

  • Two different online courses for graduate learners

  • Various learning opportunities from an OER lab manual

  • Various learning opportunities for professionals in the soil science field and agronomy and agriculture through professional presentations and peer-reviewed publications

  • Various learning outreaches for K12-aged learners

In other words, the project itself had within it various target learners and learning contexts. In some cases, there were clear teachers in the “teaching and learning” interactions; in other cases, the learning would be fairly automated.

To get started then, some basic questions were brainstormed to help focus the review of the literature. These questions evolved and changed as some of the initial research was conducted. These are listed in Table 1.

Table 1.
Initial and evolving questions about the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL)
Initial and Evolving Questions about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) for the Literature Review
1. What is the “scholarship of teaching and learning” (SoTL)?
2. How did it originate? What traditions did it draw from?
3. How did it evolve? And why? Where is SoTL today? (in terms of acceptance/non-acceptance, in terms of thinking and practice, and other aspects)
4. What are the main concepts behind SoTL? What have the main educational theories been that influenced SoTL? What are the main practices behind SoTL?
5. What is *not* SoTL? (as a comparative, as a limit)
6. Who were its main thinkers? Who are its main proponents today?
7. Who are its main practitioners?
8. What are the standards for practice? Is there some overlap with educational research?
9. What are the perceived benefits of SoTL? What are the perceived weaknesses of SoTL?
10. What are the most common methods of SoTL for research?
11. What are the most common methods of SoTL for teaching?
12. What are the most common methods of SoTL for learning?
13. What are the most common methods of SoTL for sharing? Dissemination?
14. What are some of the social aspects of SoTL in relation to students / learners, colleagues in a field, teaching colleagues universally, administrators, librarians, and other stakeholders?
15. How is SoTL practiced in soil sciences and agronomy? Why? Agricultural practice? Why?
16. What are some practical ways to set up SoTL research that is solid and novel?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reflection: Intentional and deeper thought.

Scholarship: High-level academic study.

Threshold Concept: An idea or pattern which must be understood in order for more advanced learning to occur in a particular discipline or field.

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): A rigorous approach to the study of measurable student learning and what they might indicate about the teaching and ways to improve teaching methods (involving a variety of research methods—qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, and multi-methods).

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