SoTL Imperatives: Theoretical and Socio-Political Contexts

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The twenty years between Scholarship Reconsidered (Boyer, 1990) and The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning [SoTL] Reconsidered (Hutchings, Huber, and Ciccone, 2011) has inculcated within higher education the conception of teaching as a form of inquiry into student learning (Huber & Morreale, 2002, p. 9). This has become the signature of SoTL at its most fundamental level: inquiry into teaching and learning for the purpose of improving student learning. Simultaneously, the movement has catalyzed a shift in perceptions of teaching from private and idiosyncratic to public and community oriented (Gilpin, et al, 2009 and Huber & Hutchings, 2005). It is against this backdrop that SoTL inquiry as research involving questioning, designing, investigating and analyzing and subject to peer review and evaluation (Bass, 1999) gained legitimacy in some settings. This session explores two specific contexts as imperative for SoTL if it is to maintain momentum and broaden its influence over the next decade. The first deals with the theoretical and previous research grounding of works done under the auspices of SoTL. The second concerns the socio-political milieu in which teaching and learning and, by extension, SoTL inquiries, is set. Kanuka (2005) has called for SoTL works to be grounded in theory and informed by previous research, while Gerhard & Mayer Smith (2008) have charged those engaged in SoTL to use a wider range of theoretical perspectives including classic cognition perspective, constructivism socio-cultural theories of learning, and complexity theories. Further, SoTL scholars highlight the urgency for SoTL to work toward social transformation with “moral and civic purposes” (Kreber, 2006, p. 88) and “toward our ideals of equality and justice” (Atkinson, 2001 p. 1227). For foundational literature on SoTL promote it as context responsive, to changing demographics and technologies for instance, and laden with moral and pedagogical imperatives (Huber & Hutchings, 2005; Hutchings, 2002; Huber & Morreale, 2002; and Shulman, 2002). This presentation highlights the importance of these two contexts in SoTL and illustrates SoTL works, drawn from a review of over 300 pieces of SoTL literature, which exemplify them. The session highlights the need for SoTL works to be situated in and contribute to broader theory building. The theoretical framework, including epistemological stance, is the vantage point from which inquiry is launched and conducted. Contribution to theory building will help with external validation of SoTL as ‘legitimate’ research and scholarship. The need for SoTL works to be responsive to the social, political, and economic contexts in which they are set is also highlighted. The landscape of SoTL works is a diverse terrain laden with histories of privileges and prejudices. SoTL will most rapidly transform education if it helps to close this gap. Participants will be engaged in the discussion of questions such as the following: What is SoTL’s role in transforming the educational experience for those who have historically benefitted the least from education and its litany of reform movements? What is SoTL’s responsibility to theory building within and across disciplines? Must SoTL impact the academy in socially and theoretically meaningful ways?


International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Annual Conference (ISSOTL)


Hamilton, Canada