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SoTL Scholars Program

The SoTL Scholars Program introduces participants to the principles and practices of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, an international, multidisciplinary field of disciplinary specialists studying student learning. SoTL (pronounced “sō-tul” in the U.S.) is a synthesis of teaching, learning, and research in higher education that aims to bring a scholarly lens—the curiosity, the inquiry, the rigor, the disciplinary variety—to what happens in the classroom.

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SoTL asks us–as expert researchers in our disciplines–to apply and extend those skills into the classroom. It begins with asking questions about student learning, followed by gathering and analyzing a variety of evidence of learning to answer these questions. (In the SoTL Scholars Program, you may focus on your own classes or–if you’re not teaching–someone else’s, with permission.) This evidence often takes the form of essays, in-class writings, concept maps, minute papers or muddiest points, observations, questionnaires, relevant portions of exams, et al. For more explanation of SoTL, see the CFT’s SoTL Guide, which serves as the e-textbook for the Program.

"Getting Started" handout from the CFT's SoTL Guide

This two-semester program (8 hours per semester) is highly collaborative. Each session includes discussion of a key reading in the field and a workshop activity focused specific aspects of participants’ projects. By the end of the year, each participant will have the first eight-pages of a publishable SoTL article, a twenty minute SoTL conference presentation, or a SoTL conference poster.

Fall 2014 Semester Schedule

TBA

Spring 2015 Semester Schedule

TBA

Questions?
Email Assistant Director Nancy Chick at nancy.chick@vanderbilt.edu.

Program Description

The purpose of the SoTL Scholars Program is to help graduate students cultivate a scholarly, evidence-based approach to their students’ learning and their own teaching.  SoTL is a way of treating teaching as a scholarly activity by posing questions about student learning and its relationship to the ways in which they are taught.  SoTL practitioners collect and analyze evidence of their students’ learning to understand what happens in the classroom more fully and to facilitate learning more effectively.

The SoTL Scholars Program is directed by CFT Assistant Director Nancy Chick, who brings years of SoTL experience and expertise, as well as publications and presentations in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary venues.

Program Requirements

Participation in a two-semester Program that meets for 8 hours over each semester. The SoTL Scholars will meet in a collaborative, workshop setting. (See above for the exact dates and times.)  Each session is designed to help participants make progress on their projects, as well as introducing them to the key texts, principles, and figures in SoTL.

Ongoing mentorship. In addition to regularly scheduled workshops, participants may receive one-on-one consultations with the director and with CFT Graduate Teaching Fellows. As relevant, Nancy may also connect individual participants with outside scholars with expertise on specific projects.

Completion of a SoTL project. Participants will design and carry out their own individual or collaborative SoTL projects.  They will investigate student learning in their own classrooms, in a peer’s classroom, or in a faculty host’s classroom.  (For more explanation and examples of SoTL projects, click the FAQs tab.)  The projects should be completed by the end of the academic year, demonstrated by sharing out at the CFT’s Celebration of Teaching and one of the following:

  • the first eight pages of a SoTL paper, with the goal of publication, or
  • a 20-minute SoTL presentation of the project, ready for submission to a conference, or
  • a polished, professional-looking SoTL conference poster, ready for submission to a conference.

An introduction to each of the above genres (SoTL papers, presentations, posters) is part of the SoTL Scholars Program curriculum, so participants will have instruction and support in preparing their final products.

 

Program Outcomes

After completing the SoTL Scholars Program, participants will be able to do the following:

  • identify the history of SoTL, including its major thinkers and texts, its key concepts and language, and its relationship to older forms of classroom research
  • ask meaningful questions about their students’ learning and its relationship to their own teaching—and answer them meaningfully
  • recognize the value of using both qualitative and quantitative methods to more fully capture evidence of student learning
  • develop and carry out a SoTL project, documented in either the first eight pages of a publishable SoTL paper or a 20-minute presentation of the project, ready for submission to a SoTL conference.
  • gain tools for presenting the project in scholarly public forums, including relevant conference presentations and publications

Program Application

Please complete the application form below, which includes uploading one or two documents :

  • Fill out this application form, which includes a) a cover sheet requiring your DGS’s signature,* and b) the substantive application of a brief (500 words or fewer) statement of your teaching philosophy–and the issues of student learning that interest you as the potential focus of your SoTL project.
  • If you’re not an instructor of record/teaching your own course during the Program year and you need access to a classroom, get this access form signed by an instructor of record who will grant you access to his or her students for your project (e.g., survey the students, analyze a set of anonymous papers or exams, or gather evidence of their learning in some other way relevant to your project). You’ll work out the details of this plan early in the Program and in agreement with this instructor of record.

Please send any questions to nancy.chick@vanderbilt.edu, and feel free to schedule a pre-Program consultation with her (322-7290) to begin thinking about your project, especially if you are–or your instructor-of-record host is–teaching in the fall.

* The Scholars Program asks participants to begin with the support from their departments. We find that participants who begin with support from their DGS develop projects that are much more meaningful to them. This initial contact based on Program participation will ideally lead to support and encouragement once the project is under way and perhaps even a venue for showcasing once it’s complete. (If this is a problem, please email Nancy.)

SoTL Scholars Application Form

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Upload your access form


SoTL Scholars

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you mean by “SoTL Project”?

A SoTL project begins with asking a question about student learning, followed by developing a plan to gather and analyze a variety of evidence of learning to answer this question, culminating in sharing this work publicly to build to the body of knowledge about how university-level students learn.

See the CFT’s SoTL Guide for more introduction to SoTL. Participants in this Program will be guided through every step of the process and given ongoing feedback as they carry out their projects.

What are some examples of SoTL projects?

The “Getting Started” page in the CFT’s SoTL Guide briefly explains the different kinds of projects. The PDF at the bottom of the page (also linked in the image above) offers some preparatory questions and then gives some examples.

How much time each semester will I spend on this Program?

The program participants will meet together for eight hours in the fall and eight hours in the spring.  (Schedule TBA.)  Each session is designed to support you as you develop, design, and carry out your project. However, some of the work (reading, reflecting, writing, teaching or working with your student subjects, gathering and analyzing evidence, talking with instructor-of-record hosts [if relevant]) will need to be done in between meeting times.

What if I miss a meeting? / What if the meeting schedule doesn’t work for me?

Given the collaborative focus of the meetings in which participants give ongoing support and feedback on project development and design, participants should make every effort to attend all meetings each semester. However, we do know that sometimes scheduling conflicts arise and you may miss a meeting. With that in mind, we’ll follow the general rule that if you miss more than two meetings in any one semester, you’ll be asked to leave the Program but are welcome to apply again in a future semester when you have more time.

Do I need to be teaching my own course in order to successfully complete this program?

No. Since not all graduate students are instructors of record, you may participate in the Program by identifying an instructor-of-record “host” who will grant you access access to his or her students for your project (e.g., surveying the students, analyzing a set of anonymous papers or exams, or gathering evidence of their learning in some other way relevant to your project). This host may be another TA or a faculty member. The host may be in your department, or another. The students should be an appropriate demographic for your question about student learning. You’ll work out the details of this plan early in the Program and in agreement with this instructor of record–and in accordance with Vanderbilt’s Institutional Review Board (IRB).

What if I need more than two semesters to complete my project?

Sometimes, completing the final stages of a SoTL project takes more time than anticipated.  Sometimes, life intervenes with plans. If you’re not finished with your project by the end of the academic year, you should continue to work toward completion on your own (with as-needed consultation by CFT Assistant Director Nancy Chick and/or a CFT Graduate Teaching Fellow), and you will receive a certificate of completion when you are finished.

Is the Certificate in College Teaching a prerequisite for this program?

No, the Certificate is not a prerequisite. However, we do anticipate that those individuals who complete the Certificate before completing this program will have the advantage of a more extensive understanding of some of the recent literature in teaching and learning, and thus might have an easier time identifying a potential topic to study.

Can I complete the Certificate in College Teaching while simultaneously completing this program?

We’d prefer that you didn’t. Each segment of the Certificate requires about 10 hours of your time. This program would add an additional time commitment on top of that. For most graduate students, that’s simply too much to take on in the average academic year. If you’re in your last year of study at Vanderbilt, we suggest that you choose between the two programs.

What if I’ve already completed the former Teaching Certificate Program; can I still participate in this program if I want to?

Yes.  The SoTL Scholars Program is different enough (see below) that any Teaching Certificate recipient is welcome to participate.

Questions about the Former “Teaching as Research” Program

What happened to the funding awards?

The funding that TAR Fellows received in the past were derived from a grant awarded by CIRTL. That funding was discontinued in the 2011-12 academic year.

Is this program still related to CIRTL?

While this program is partly based on the TAR Fellows model, it is no longer sponsored by CIRTL, but it may continue to make use of some of the larger CIRTL Network’s resources and alliances.

Questions about “Cycle Three” of the Former Teaching Certificate Program

How does the SoTL Scholars Program differ from the old Cycle Three of the Teaching Certificate Program?

Here’s how the two program differ:

  • Time Commitment: The time commitment in both programs is similar: each takes place within two academic semesters with about eight hours of scheduled group meeting time to design and implement a scholarly project on student learning.
  • Program Leadership: In Cycle Three, participants met with a Graduate Teaching Fellow (GTF) trained to lead this group. SoTL Scholars Program participants will meet both as a group and in one-on-one consultations (as needed) under the leadership of Nancy Chick, CFT Assistant Director, who also designed the Program.  Nancy brings years of SoTL experience and expertise, as well as publications and presentations in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary venues.  She is founding co-editor of Teaching & Learning Inquiry, peer-reviewed scholarly journal of the the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL).
  • IRB Approval: Cycle Three did not require participants to seek IRB approval since many of the projects were shared only within the Vanderbilt community. Because SoTL Scholars will share their projects more widely, including developing plans to present their work at conferences or through publications, they will seek IRB approval early in the program year.
  • DGS Sign-Off: Whereas participants in Cycle Three weren’t required to inform their DGS of their participation in the program, the Scholars Program asks participants to begin with the support from their departments. We find that participants who begin with support from their DGS develop projects that are much more meaningful to them. This initial contact based on Program participation will ideally lead to support and encouragement once the project is under way and perhaps even a venue for showcasing once it’s complete. (If this is a problem, please email Nancy.)

 

Resources for SoTL Scholars

 

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