Designing Your SoTL Project

David Porter

Now comes the interesting part: designing a SoTL project of your own.

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), the University of Guelph, and Western University provide useful links for planning a SoTL research projects:

Each of these sites also discusses the types of data collection strategies you might consider, such as:

  • Portfolios
  • Interviews and focus groups
  • Observational research
  • Questionnaires
  • Experiments and quasi- experiments
  • Case studies
  • Secondary analysis of analytical data that may already exist

It is up to you to select the method that best suits your problem and intent.

Ethics of SoTL Research

As you design your project remember that SoTL research primarily addresses the impact of one’s teaching practice upon student learning. SoTL’s ethical challenges stem from the fact that this has the potential to create a power differential between the researchers and their students. In situations where we conduct research in our own classrooms, these issues can be complicated by our dual responsibilities as both teacher and researcher and by the power differential inherent in the relationship between teacher and student. Other potential issues may arise around the confidentiality of data, the use of class time for research and students feeling compelled to participate in the research for fear of non-participation impacting their grades.

Institutions of higher learning throughout Canada have adopted the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS2) as the core human research ethics guideline. The information on the TCPS2 website covers the ethical conduct of all faculty (full- or part-time), post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, undergraduate students and staff who conduct research with humans, including research on teaching, learning and student outcomes. The website provides considerable support materials, including an online tutorial.

SoTL researchers should contact their institutions’ research ethics offices early in the research design phase to ask for advice about how to address any ethics issues that might arise during their SoTL research.

Extend Activity- SoTL #4 Design Your SoTL Project

image credit: “Industrial drafting table” flickr photo by Paris on Ponce & Le Maison Rouge shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
  • Based on this module of study and its resource links, continue to build your own SoTL plan using the document created in SoTL Activity 3.  Reflect on whether there are likely to be any ethical concerns with the research you are planning.
  • Post your thoughts or a link to your plan in the discussion board below. If you are using a Google Doc, click the Share button in the top right, then Get Sharable Link to find the web address for sharing your document for others to view.

Visit the Design Your SoTL Project activity to see an example and responses submitted by other Extend participants (for example the one shared by Melanie Lefebvre).


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