Making the Most of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): Asking Questions of Value

Vancouver Island University (VIU) Workshop

Delegates from BC’s teaching and learning centres attended a workshop at Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) beautiful Nanaimo campus on May 8th 2009. The workshop was hosted by the Vancouver Island Educational Developers Alliance (VIEDA) which is associated with the broader provincial group, the Universities, Colleges and Institutes Professional Developers (UCIPD). VIEDA is composed of North Island College, Vancouver Island University, University of Victoria, Camosun College and Royal Roads University. Participants were present from all VIEDA member institutions as well as BCIT, Mount Royal College in Calgary, SFU, University of the Fraser Valley and VCC.

Delegates were welcomed at the base of the spectacular, VIU campus structure by smiling greeters who ushered them to the workshop. The workshop itself was very well organized and educational. Break-out groups were created by synthesizing data from a pre-assessment survey to determine special interest. The workshop was so popular with BC’s education developer community that there was a long wait list after the 50 participant limit was easily met. Worskhop proceedings will be posting on the VIU SoTL Learning Together Collaboratory WIKI

Ginny Cathcart attended on behalf of the VCC Centre for Instructional Development (CID). One of the pillars of the VCC-CID is the Study of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) making this workshop relevant and timely. The commencement of the Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) program at VCC has created a need for research and scholarship support. The VCC-CID also believes that all educators need to consider the value of researching student learning outcomes and sharing SoTL findings among its programs.

The CID is interested in supporting faculty members wherever possible with relevant information about posing good research questions, using evidence-based research principles and methodologies, managing information literacy skills and human research ethical processes in the study of teaching and learning.

Highlights of the day included the following

• Asking questions of value; making the most of the scholarship of teaching and learning
• Philosophy is to understand, make public and learn from SoTL
• Focus on what your students are doing
• SoTL includes inquiries about shared goals, policy, needs-based, peer-oriented, opportunistic, geographic, idiosyncratic, extra-ordinary, or even once-in-a-lifetime opportunities

Scholarship of meaningful change: Important themes for learning “higher value” issues

• Empathy and tolerance
• Equity and social justice
• Activism and empowerment
• Responsibility and engagement
• Civic participation and cosmopolitanism

Formulating and Structuring a Research Question: Key features

• A good research question focuses on student learning; starts with what you see and have seen; what is important in context
• Good questions come from your class; a persistent issue or difficulty; an important concept or skill set; a road not yet taken
• Good questions matter because of focus and trajectory; evidence and argument; ethics and accountability; dissemination and improvement
• Question sof value include I individual considerations and concerns; context-oriented issues and ideas; community-oriented beliefs and intentions and collaborative or collective possibilities.
Efficiency is a reality of our working environments but you can still study higher value learning as above.
The workshop aspect was then developing questions and helping each other to funnel them from a larger concept through to a testable focused researchable question.

Disciplinary Affinities and Affiliations: Considerations examining inquiry through a disciplinary lens

• What ways of knowing are acceptable to your colleagues?
• What matters in your field and how do these ways of knowing apply to answering questions you might ask about student learning?
• What does a typical research design look like and what methodologies are commonly used to solve research questions in your field?
• How might these be used or adapted to answer questions about student learning?
• Might there be other methods you would like to use instead about which you would like more information?
• What do “rigour, sufficient evidence and supporting data” mean to you?
• How is the process of ethical review typically handled? Click here for VCC’s Research Ethics Review process
• Is your field typically used to dealing with human subject research?
• How will you know that your question has been answered to the satisfaction of your peer group?

Some SoTL questions from the workshop

• What works best to recognize prior learning in new degree programs?
• What works to cultivate an integrative and intentional affective learning outcome in aboriginal education courses for non-aboriginal students?
• How has student identity changed as colleges and university colleges have changed to universities?
• What do ESL students bring to English classes that instructors might be missing if viewed through Eurocentric lenses?
• Do hierarchical learning strategies help students learn complex concepts?
• Do nursing students and their preceptors have the same definition or notion of safe practice?
• Would removal of letter grades result in better learning?
• How do you measure the benefits of collateral unintended learning outcomes?
• Is the way we currently teach the best way to elicit academic writing learning outcomes?
• How do we measure an affective change in students regarding social issues?
• What is the process that students go through when visualizing a 2D picture into a 3D setting?

Some links on BC’s education development websites to get you started asking questions of value:


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