In 2004, a committee of 67 scholars founded the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL), which held its first conference that October at Indiana University Bloomington. Thirteen years later, ISSOTL has collaborated with the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University to host ISSOTL 2017 Reaching New Heights, Oct. 11 to 14. More than 700 delegates from around the world are expected to arrive at the Telus Convention Centre to discuss, present and share the latest developments in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).
ISSOTL’s focus on SoTL refers to a robust, dynamic field of research and inquiry with an emphasis on student learning. SoTL synthesizes post-secondary learning, teaching and research, lending a scholarly lens to the causes and effects of different classroom experiences. Ultimately aiming to understand or improve post-secondary student learning and teaching practices, SoTL is informed by relevant research in the field. It is conducted by members of the educational community from across campus, who draw from their own disciplinary contexts and expertise. SoTL communities share this evidence broadly to enrich knowledge and practices in teaching and learning.
Scholarship of teaching and learning connects interdisciplinary experiences
What does SoTL look like in action? A project might entail a sociology instructor observing the effects of team-based learning in her own first-year sociology course, then publishing her findings as an academic article; it might involve the ethical study of student self-reflection within the context of a graduate seminar. The possibilities are dynamic, far-ranging, and rife with possibilities for improving student learning.
Mick Healey, higher education consultant, researcher and emeritus professor at the University of Gloucestershire, U.K., emphasizes ISSOTL’s importance for SoTL at large. “This is the only truly international SoTL conference in existence,” he says. “It provides an opportunity, as it moves around the world, to bring together people from many different backgrounds to share their passion for enhancing the quality of teaching and learning.”
Nancy Chick, academic director of the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning and University Chair in Teaching and Learning, enthuses that ISSoTL is “the premiere international conference for the field” of SoTL.
The workshops and presentations at this year’s Reaching New Heights event cover an array of topics, ranging from mentoring undergraduate research to models for decolonizing education.
Students and instructors attend ISSOTL
Healey connects the conference to SoTL’s rapidly increasing presence in the academic world. “SoTL involves three essential and integrated elements: engagement with the scholarly contributions of others on teaching and learning; reflection on one’s own teaching practice and the learning of students within the context of a particular discipline; and communication and dissemination of aspects of practice and theoretical ideas about teaching and learning in general and teaching and learning within the discipline,” he explains.
“For me the last of these is perhaps the most important. I often refer to it as a ‘coming out’ process. When I began my academic career in the early 1970s the one thing that colleagues did not talk about was what they had tried out in their teaching sessions or that they had a problem around student learning which they would like help with. Now such conversations are much more common. ISSOTL has contributed to the legitimization of these conversations and has helped establish SoTL as an authentic topic for critical academic investigation.”
Chick notes the importance of ISSOTL’s growth in putting students at the center of SoTL. She says, “The conference has grown in terms of how many and who comes. It’s grown in size, but more importantly, it’s grown in terms of who comes. It’s truly international, and we’re now seeing greater involvement outside of faculty members. Our librarian colleagues are coming in greater numbers, which is great for the field of SoTL. And of course with the emphasis on students as co-inquirers, we’re seeing a lot more students — graduate and undergraduate.”
For the academic community, ISSOTL presents a unique context for innovation, reflection and connection.
Registration for ISSOTL is open until and during the conference. For more information, visit the ISSOTL website’s Logisticspage. See the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning’s Seeding SoTL page for exciting possibilities to contribute and participate in SoTL.