The SOTL Story
By Lori J. Carrell
In the opening scene of Lord of the Rings, Frodo says to his companion, "I wonder what kind of story we are in?" From the beginning of SOTL work – with Earnest Boyer's Scholarship Reconsidered serving as exposition - to later rising action generated through Carnegie catalysts and current connections with international iterations, this genre of research has been dynamic. In this SOTL plot, we approach a climax - a critical time for the editorial review board of Teaching Forum, the UW System Office of Professional and Instructional Development, and scholarly teachers across the UW System to ask and answer Frodo's question: What kind of story is this SOTL story?
Subplots have included relationships with principle characters like assessment, institutional reward systems, faculty development programs for all career stages, diverse disciplinary lenses, a multiplicity of research methodologies, and a myriad of administrative initiatives. Amazing plot developments have occurred including the opening or expansion of teaching and learning centers on most of our campuses and an increasingly supportive campus-culture setting in which our stories can continue to unfold. The scholarship of teaching and learning is a more well-known story than ever before, being told across the campuses of the UW System. Why then must we pursue an answer to Frodo's question?
We know that stories are powerful teaching tools, powerful shapers of thinking, and powerful agents of change. So while details may vary in each telling, the central lesson of the story cannot be lost by the teller. As the editor and reviewers of Teaching Forum examine and discuss submitted articles, we have discovered one key element for SOTL narratives: the measurement of student learning. Though we value all critical reflection as potentially healthy activity and we honor the need for programmatic review as part of assessment, those kinds of documented endeavors may or may not tell a SOTL story.
So, Frodo, we are in a story about student learning, a creative and complex narrative that continues to evolve. As weavers of this tale - formulating research questions, choosing methodology, investigating, sharing results, and integrating findings into practice – we must not become confused by our own sub-plots. As scholarly teachers we must remain committed to maximizing student learning through intellectually rigorous investigation and integration of research into practice.
With great gratitude to reviewers Bill Cerbin, Nancy Chick, Renee Meyers, Theresa Castor, and Peter Meyerson for their enormous efforts on behalf of the scholarly teaching story in
Lori J. Carrell, Editor
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