SoTL developments at Mount Royal University

By Janice Miller-Young, Director, Institute for SoTL

Things are busy here at MRU with the end of the semester approaching and many of us rushing around trying to finalize abstract submissions for ISSoTL and our own annual Symposium on SoTL. Also, we are just now putting the finishing touches on our spring event (the Forum) as well as deep into the planning of the Symposium!! In fact, there is so much SoTL activity at the moment that I’ve almost forgotten about the rotten weather and also that I really should have started my tomato seeds weeks ago. Now that’s saying something!

Recent Developments

Up until this year, the major programming of the Institute has primarily been the Symposium and the Nexen Scholars Program, an annual one-year program that brings together faculty from a range of academic disciplines into a community of practice committed to developing and conducting course-based teaching and learning inquiries. Thanks to our recent TransCanada donation, we also now offer Collaborative SoTL Inquiry Grants, and this March we received 7 strong applications, including whole-program, inter-disciplinary, and multi-institutional studies ranging from one to three years. Successful applications will be announced shortly – stay tuned by following the Institute’s blog!!


5th annual Symposium on SoTL in beautiful Banff, Alberta, November 6-8, 2014

We are thrilled to announce that Sherry Linkon will be one of our keynote speakers at this year’s Symposium. This year’s theme is Collaborative Conversations. The call for proposals can be found here and they are being accepted until April 30. We would also like to invite our colleagues from other institutions to become more involved with the organization and execution of the conference, so we’ll be sending out a request for reviewers to SoTL Canada shortly.

TransCanada International Forum on SoTL May 20, 2014

We are reviving the Forum event thanks to a generous donation from TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. The theme this year is Undergraduate Research and Inquiry for Student Learning. The day will include keynote presentations from Mick Healey, presentations from some of Mount Royal’s own SoTL scholars and their students, and lots of time for discussion. Faculty, students and staff from outside Mount Royal University are also invited to attend (and for students, it’s free!)

The Institute at MRU

It has been my privilege be the new Director for the Institute for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at Mount Royal University since July 1 2013. The goals of the Institute include supporting and facilitating the engagement of Mount Royal University faculty in teaching-learning related scholarship, building a culture of scholarship related to teaching and learning, and encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration.

The Nexen Scholars Program has been operating since 2009 and I can see that we are really starting to reap the benefits of that program, with many scholars going on to conduct new inquiries, to develop multi-course, multi-disciplinary initiatives on important questions about students’ reading, writing or inquiry skills, and also to mentor and collaborate with new SoTL colleagues. Former scholars have also contributed to the Institute by helping to facilitate the Nexen Program, review grant applications, sit on the advisory committee, and contribute to various other Institute projects and initiatives. The capacity of the Institute really depends on the contributions of such smart and generous people! A group of us are doing a systematic study of the impact of the Nexen Program as part of a collaboration with the SoTL Canada publication special interest group.

One of my own goals has been to communicate a broader, more inclusive definition of SoTL and the kinds of inquiries the Institute will support, because I know that not only does each discipline have its own “signature pedagogies”, but it will also have methodologies and philosophies that will align with the discipline and the kinds of questions about teaching and learning that the discipline might be interested in. To conclude, I invite your feedback on MRU’s description of SoTL:

  • focused on student learning, grounded in context, methodologically sound, conducted in partnership with students, and publicly disseminated (Felten 2013);
  • inclusive and unified by its potential to have impact in the classroom and to contribute to the production of knowledge and the understanding of teaching and learning;
  • diverse in discipline, theory, methodology, and method.

For more information, see our website at


Felten, P. 2013. Principles of good practice in SoTL. Teaching & Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, 1:1, 121-125.

Gurung, R., N. Chick, & A. Haynie, Eds. 2009. Exploring signature pedagogies: approaches to teaching disciplinary habits of mind. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

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