Considerations for your SoTL Project

David Porter

As an experienced educator, you have likely undertaken and published research in your discipline. But now you need to consider how to conduct research in your classroom.

Watch the video Examples of SoTL Projects, which provides examples from three instructors who describe their research projects, the questions they were seeking to answer, and how they benefited from the experience:

The video participants describe their large and small-scale questions, and their research projects that were very specific to their disciplines and their interests. You may wish to start small with your own research.

Video source: Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University and the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL). This video was produced for ISSOTL Online 2013.

Examples of SoTL Projects

Like any research project, a SoTL project requires you to formalize your research approach. Remember, what is different about SoTL is that the focus is on improving student learning outcomes as a result of classroom practices you implement, research, assess, and report.

Typical considerations include:

  • Identifying a research problem or a challenge of practice that interests you.
  • Developing a research question from the identified problem or challenge.
  • Using relevant literature to inform your study.
  • Designing a specific project and choosing an appropriate methodology.
  • Obtaining Research Ethics Board (REB) Approval for your research.
  • Finding support or funding to provide you time and space to conduct the research.
  • Considering a networking and dissemination strategy to share your research and invite discussion from colleagues.

Your own research experience may predispose you to follow a deductive or quantitative approach to test a current approach to the problem. Alternatively, you may wish to take a more exploratory, inductive approach using qualitative methods to illuminate new thinking about a teaching problem. It’s really up to you what approach you take.

Exploration of Teaching Practices

What areas of teaching practice would you like to explore?   Is there a teaching practice that presents a challenge?  Would you like evidence that something that you do has an impact on the way your students learn?  Is there something you would like to try in your classroom and explore if it works the way you intended?

There are some well-known areas of practice that SoTL researchers have probed through classroom projects. These resources from the University of British Columbia discuss some areas that may be of interest to you:

A Tool to Support SoTL Research

The University of British Columbia also provides SoTL Explorer, which you can use as you consider how to frame your projects in a research context:

a screenshot of the site linked above:

Extend Activity – SoTL #3 Refine Your SoTL Plan

image credit: “Pasadena Refinery” flickr photo by eflon shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Now we move into the phase where you will outline a research plan for an SoTL project in your area of interest. You will be doing your work in a document that will be used for the remaining activities in this module, and eventually shared in a SoTL Research Plan Folder with the ones done by previous participants.

If you want to work in Google Docs, you can make a copy of the SoTL Research Plan template that is saved in your own account. When the copy is made, edit the file name to include your name. Or if you prefer to edit in another format, you can view the document now and use the File ->Download menu to save it as a MS Word document.

Now that you have your working document…

  • Examine each of the practice resource links provided in the Considerations section and the SoTL Explorer.
  • Update your Research Plan to further refine your thinking about an area of research interest and a potential framework you are considering.
  • Post your new thoughts in the board below, or in your blog, and read/respond to what your colleagues are planning for their SoTL work.

Visit the Revise Your SoTL Plan activity to see an example and responses submitted by other Extend participants (for example the one shared by Mel Young).


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Considerations for your SoTL Project Copyright © by David Porter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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