History of SoTL

History of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) at LCC 


Scholarly inquiry into teaching and learning (SoTL) achieved solid recognition in higher education only relatively recently. Commentators often refer to the year 1990, because that is the year of Ernest Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (Carnegie Foundation, 1990). Within ensuing rich discourse in 1999, Randy Bass shared the expansive and transformational perspective that “The movement for a scholarship of teaching seeks first and foremost to legitimate a new set of questions as intellectual problems. Arriving there, the discourse surrounding the scholarship of teaching can begin to chart what is yet uncharted terrain, a landscape that will feature the convergence of disciplinary knowledge, pedagogical practice, evidence of learning, and theories of learning and cognition.”

By today, SoTL has demonstrated potential in (1) providing powerful faculty professional development, individually and collectively raising the level of pedagogical understanding and expanding capacity for education study and reform projects; (2) accelerating and sustaining implementation of proven, evidence-based practices and pedagogies; (3) aligning and building pathways of success between institutions; (4) reducing and eliminating gaps in student success and educational opportunity; and (5) in the process, establishing infrastructure that will continue to address and improve education far beyond what is otherwise feasible.

Insight into support for SoTL within the community college is provided by excerpts from "The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at the Two-Year College: Promise and Peril" Howard Tinberg, Donna Killian Duffy and Jack Mino in the July-August 2007 Change magazine: 

The emergence of the scholarship of teaching and learning (commonly shortened to SoTL) as a viable alternative to traditional scholarship should come as no surprise to readers of Change. In recent years the magazine has featured the work of Lee Shulman, Pat Hutchings, Mary Huber, Eileen Bender, and others who have traced the trajectory of this movement. . . .

None of these scholars, however, has any illusions as to the obstacles facing those who wish to pursue such scholarship . . . .

Such obstacles have persisted despite the very strong case that has been made for teaching as a legitimate object of scholarly inquiry. . . .

While logic would suggest that teaching-centered institutions such as two-year colleges would welcome any national movement that paid serious attention to classroom instruction, the reality is otherwise. Where the fight at research-centered universities and colleges is to valorize teaching as a legitimate subject of scholarship and research, the struggle at two-year colleges is to convince faculty and administrators that intellectual inquiry and scholarly exchange are activities appropriate to the mission of the institutions. . . .

Ten years later, a rather optimistic view of this “struggle to convince faculty and administrators” has emerged at Lane and Oregon community colleges generally, when a Lane faculty member (Gilbert) returned from a 2015 spring term sabbatical titled: “Building a vision of support for the scholarship of teaching and learning by community college faculty -- an investigation through personal experience, analysis of current practices, and understanding strategic opportunities for collaboration.” There was immediate positive response, some of it in interviews during the sabbatical investigation.  

A colloquium by Gilbert sponsored by FPD the following fall was positively greeted by faculty and administrators. Among Lane faculty, nine colleagues soon formed a SoTL Initiative Organizing Committee, and an ad hoc Teaching and Learning room open Mondays was established. By the end of the year the college established a permanent Teaching and Learning room, and scholarly inquiry into teaching and learning by faculty was recognized in the college’s newly developed Strategic Plan. SoTL collaboration is now developing between Lane and Central Oregon Community College faculty, and more seems on the way.

In the 2016-17 academic year, each term, Gilbert led small group seminars called “What is SoTL?” eventually attended by 30-some faculty colleagues. These were 6-week seminars structured as Faculty Inquiry Groups (FIGs) administered through the Faculty Professional Development structure. The next seminar in the series was piloted. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Specific feedback included the following:

  • “Although I've been doing SoTL work for years I learned so much and had a lovely time collaborating with folks from across campus. It reminded me of my favorite parts of my teaching gig in IL where I had the joy of working on a truly collaborative, interdisciplinary, SoTL-focused campus.
  • “I was reflecting last night how enriching the experience has been for me. I feel connected to the college community in a way which has not been present for me previously.
  • “As I mentioned in our last meeting - while the seminar itself was well organized and informative, one of the most valuable aspects of the seminar was that it compelled me to actually make time during my busy week, sit, and think about my teaching and how my students are learning. All faculty members should have a channel available that allows them to reflect on their teaching and consequently improve it.”
  • “Thanks for running this. It really got me to thinking about my field in some new (and hopefully) constructive ways.”

An LCC infrastructure supporting SoTL by faculty

With the start of the 2017-18 academic year, SoTL collaboration is being established beyond LCC. At LCC, a broad set of SoTL opportunities is being established based on experience at Lane and the broader SoTL community. Its components are the following:

1. Seminar-1 “What is SoTL?” - a 6-week seminar, structured as a FIG.

2. Seminar-2 “Early SoTL Work” - a 6-week seminar, structured as a FIG. (Prerequisite Seminar-1 or equivalent)

3. Term-long inquiry and reform development focused on specific general questions. (Prerequisites Seminar-1and 2 or equivalent)

4. Year-long communities of practice of a common faculty cohort participating in 1,2,3 above. (Participants in Seminars 1 and 2 need not attend a common seminar.) This structure is suggested for inclusion in grant-funded efforts.

5. Informal SoTL colloquia. An opportunity to share your “work in progress” with colleagues, find out what others are doing, and build collaboration. 

6. Writing/presentation support groups. An opportunity to get and give colleagues feedback on public presentations, including conference talks, posters, and articles.

7. Grant proposal support group. An opportunity to leverage and build SoTL infrastructure in preparing grants for inquiry and sustainably implementing education reform.

In years ahead efforts will be made to create and secure funding for further infrastructure supporting SoTL at Lane and Oregon community colleges. Contact Dennis Gilbert, gilbertd@lanecc.edu, about any of the above activities, suggestions for further support needed, and look for announcements.