With Stan Yu
In the summer of 2012, the GMCTE, with support from the Office of the Vice-President Research, undertook a study to assess the level and extent to which the scholarship of teaching and learning, or SoTL, was being conducted at the University of Saskatchewan. SoTL can be defined as, “[the] systematic study of teaching and/or learning and the public sharing and review of such work through presentations, performance, or publications” (McKinney, 2006, p. 39). The study identified a campus-wide community of 284 SoTL scholars, consisting of 247 faculty and 37 staff members. An electronic survey was sent to this cohort, which yielded a 70% response rate.
In the electronic survey, we found that, for 47% of faculty respondents, SoTL comprises less than ¼ of their scholarly work. Meanwhile, 18% indicated that SoTL comprised more than ¾ of their scholarly research. While half of faculty respondents indicated that the proportion of their participation in SoTL has not changed over time, 41% now spend more time on SoTL than in the past. Additionally, 64% of staff conducted SoTL as part of their professional responsibilities. For 27% of faculty and 81% of staff, SoTL projects were conducted collaboratively more than half of the time. 49% of faculty and 41% of staff reported that their SoTL projects were multidisciplinary. Finally, it was found that a considerable amount of faculty (40%) and staff (26%) have published, and 53% of faculty and 50% of staff have presented their SoTL findings at a conference(s).
When asked to describe any barriers arising uniquely from involvement in this type of research, faculty respondents indicated that the lack of perceived legitimacy of SoTL scholarship constituted the primary barrier. SoTL work tends to be viewed as “soft” or “secondary,” and this point of view pervades everything from departmental cultures to promotion and tenure standards. For these faculty members, the work is carried out in spite of this friction.
Overall, this study revealed a sizable community of scholars internally networked across disciplines, departments, and colleges on campus. Furthermore, the quantity of U of S scholars engaged in, as well as their level of engagement with, SoTL is increasing. Despite the reported challenges of the perceived legitimacy and value of SoTL continuing to be pervasive and substantial, faculty and staff involved in SoTL research have had remarkable success. The next step towards furthering this type of scholarship is an effort to move SoTL beyond the practice of individuals towards the institutionalization of SoTL. For us, this elicits the work of Hutchings, Huber & Ciccone (2011) which documents strategies for institutionalizing SoTL, such as: articulating an integrated vision for SoTL and connecting SoTL to student learning initiatives. This snapshot of SoTL on our campus provides an optimistic and encouraging picture moving forward.