An international conference on SoTL brought together hundreds of researchers from around the world in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Dec. 4, 2023

4 letters everyone should know: SoTL

Barbara Brown shares why scholarship of teaching and learning is finding fertile ground at UCalgary

In a world of acronyms, there is one you’ll be hearing a lot more of in the future: SoTL. The scholarship of teaching and learning, or SoTL, is a growing field and for good reason. It is research and inquiry focused on current issues in teaching and learning with the intent to improve student experience and learning, and the University of Calgary has become fertile ground for it.

“This growing field conceptualizes teaching and learning as a research-intensive and scholarly process that transcends disciplines and is aimed towards improving educational outcomes,” says Dr. Barbara Brown, PhD, associate professor in learning science and associate dean, teaching and learning at the Werklund School of Education.

Brown recently presented at ISSOTL23, the international conference on the subject that brought together hundreds of researchers from around the world in Utrecht, Netherlands. It is the conference for ISSOTL, the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, the world’s leading organization in the space.

Portrait of Barb Brown on a white background

Barbara Brown

Brown wasn’t alone: in fact, UCalgary had a contingent of researchers on the ground to present their work, including educators from Cumming School of Medicine, faculties of Arts, Nursing, and Science, Haskayne School of Business, Libraries and Cultural Resources, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, and Werklund School of Education.

“There was a great delegation from UCalgary faculty, libraries, and graduate students who attended this year and with each presentation, UCalgary is recognized and promoted as a leader and destination for students and faculty who conduct research in teaching and learning.”

Brown’s research is focused on research-practice partnerships and community engagement, with an aim to advance innovations in teaching, learning, and leadership through interdisciplinary designs and online learning in K-12 and higher education contexts. The ISSOTL presentation shared results from a 2021 SSHRC-funded Insight Development Grant, Exploring Online Pedagogies for Social Connectedness and Advancing Professional Collaboration.

“In our study, instructors and students in undergraduate education programs from two post-secondary institutions discuss how their teaching and learning experiences supported the development of online professional collaboration skills,” she says.

“Our research team shared a number of findings related to defining professional collaboration skills needed for educational professionals, examining frameworks used for designing and examining professional collaboration skills in online education courses, recommendations for designing group assignments that can support learner collaboration in online settings, and implications for future research ideas, such as the use of artificial intelligence in designing for online learner collaboration.”

Curious about doing your own research in teaching and learning? UCalgary educators not currently engaged in SoTL work have no shortage of opportunities to get involved.

“UCalgary has a strong teaching and learning grants program that has helped fund SoTL projects related to institutional strategic priorities,” she says. Faculties may offer funding to researchers in their areas — Werklund School of Education has a seed grant for getting started, for example.

“My own project built on a smaller scale project that was initially funded by the UCalgary Teaching and Learning Grants program in 2017,” she says.

SoTL around campus

The UCalgary Teaching and Learning Grants program is currently accepting proposals for the 2023/24 cycle. The Yellow Cube is offering targeted discussions about SoTL to gain a better understanding and offer programming to support course instructors — or complete a short survey. The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning has an entire category dedicated to the subject in its Resource Library.

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