Early in graduate school, I was introduced to the idea of the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). At that time, I was learning that my interest in academia was centered on teaching, but I was still invested in research. I saw SoTL research as an opportunity to use the classroom as a tool for research. It allows me to assess my classes, with the potential for improving learning outcomes for my students. As a doctoral student that will soon be on the job market, I like the idea of being able to evaluate my classroom or a new technique and publish my findings in a peer-reviewed journal. It helps me improve my teaching, and adds an extra line on my CV. It’s a win-win. However, as I gain more experience as an educator, I have learned to think of SoTL as a tool to improve teaching, rather than thinking of the classroom as a tool for research.
Many SoTL projects are considered “exempt” by IRB’s. However, the role of ethics within the academic community exceeds that which is maintained by IRB committees. Here are some things I have to remind myself about, as I consider conducting SoTL research:
Carefully consider whether making changes in the classroom is inspired by previous research or anecdotal evidence
If you find that one method of teaching is more effective than others, don’t withhold that from one group of students simply for the sake of comparison.
If possible, keep your students in-the-know about what you are doing.
Protect your student’s right to confidentiality.
Students are at greater risk for coercion in SoTL research.
Carefully consider the harm (not just the benefit) that a new teaching strategy could cause.
Keep it simple.
SoTL research allows us to improve our classrooms by assessing our teaching strategies. It helps us test new methodologies to figure out how we can become more effective educators. Rather than viewing the classroom as a tool for research, I now see SoTL research is a tool to improve my classroom, and therefore help my students. Has SoTL influenced your teaching style? How do you incorporate assessment into your classrooms?
Written by Karly Schleicher