My SOTL Plan for Group Work

This blog post is in response to Ontario Extend module for Scholar.

What resonates with you about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL)?

  1. “syllabus as hypothesis” – I like this analogy because many new faculty that I meet during orientation week have a difficult time creating a syllabus with the end in mind. I teach backwards design for course planning and how the syllabus plays a part in that design process, but I will use the analogy of the syllabus as a hypothesis in my next orientation. I like the idea that the syllabus is a guess at what the best path to student learning will be and only by reflecting on success (or lack thereof) can we see if our syllabus was effective.
  2. “personal” – I’m not interested in doing research that isn’t interesting or exciting for me and this is what I love about SOTL. I can research the questions that I have and the things that will have an immediate impact on my teaching practice. 
  3. “sharing publicly” – I always tell my students to ask the questions that they have in class (instead of a private conversation or email) because other students likely have the same question. It hit me like a ton of bricks why this is also important with SOTL research — we need to share what we find because other teachers may have the same questions or challenges we are researching!

What motivates you to become more engaged in SOTL?

  • Better student outcomes and assessment scores.
    • I became a teacher because I want students to succeed in whatever their goals may be. I want students to find joy in learning. I want students to engage in lifelong learning after they leave my classroom because they have found joy in learning things that interest them. I want to use SOTL to inform decision I make about effective assessments, feedback and grading. I don’t want students doing assessment for the sake of getting a grade. I want students to see my assessments as relevant and have an impact in their future professions and lives outside of post-secondary school.
  • Increased reflection on teaching and learning among colleagues.
    • I want to champion reflective practice on my campus. Often we do this behind closed doors, but it has a much bigger impact if we reflect on our successes and failures with a wider audience.
  • Promotion of new networks among faculty members.
    • I love when faculty see that someone in a different program or department is facing the same challenges because they form a bond that wouldn’t normally happen! Working together they can use SOTL to generate discussion and possible solutions to their challenges. When they disseminate their information, they then start to build networks with more faculty inside the institution and beyond that may also have been facing the same challenges in the classroom. Beautiful!

The final three components of the module:

  • Share your SoTL research plan through a blog post that reflects your thinking from the beginning of the Scholarship module to the point at which you begin to plan your research.
    • I know what SOTL was when starting this module, as I had participated in SOTL projects when I taught at the high school level. When I first started my faculty position at the post-secondary level, I wasn’t given a teaching load so I didn’t engage in any SOTL projects. I’d like to try and engage myself in more SOTL research now that I am back in the classroom part-time.
  • In the blog post, describe your research questions, prior research you will undertake to inform your research design, your plan of action, and a dissemination strategy.
    • My research question is: How do I facilitate group work in my classes so that students find value in the process and collectively engage in the assessment task?
    • Prior research: read journals on the topic of group work, ask students for feedback about what they like and dislike about group work, look for other teachers’ successful group work stories, etc.
    • Plan of action: put out a call to colleagues to see if anyone would like collaborate on this SOTL research topic, gather feedback from students, research and read journal articles about group work strategies, pick 2-3 strategies to try, report findings with collaborators, draft dissemination
    • Dissemination plan: hold a PD session at our campus’s Teaching and Learning Hub about our SOTL project, draft open source publication and post to open source journal, link findings in social media and blog sites, attend at least one conference to share findings
  • Make your personal reflection the core narrative of the blog post, along with your written plan through a link to the file and/or a summary and an image that illustrates the direction in which you intend to go with this SoTL research.
    • I chose a picture of bees working together in the hive to demonstrate the direction I’d like to go with this research project. The picture is meant to demonstrate how working together on any project has a bigger impact with you collaborate with colleagues – like bees working together to create honey in the hive.

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