Forming a Community of SoTL Scholars or a Game of Where’s Waldo?

By Mandy Frake-Mistak, PhD, MEd, BEd, PhEd – Educational Developer, York University

One thing that I have come to learn about SoTL research is that teachers all across my campus are engaging in SoTL – but they don’t always recognize their work as being SoTL or as being scholarly. I’ve learned this lesson in my work as an educational developer in having conversations and doing consultations with those who teach at our university. During these interactions, we discuss approaches to teaching, reflections on teaching and how it happens in the classroom, and what impact on the student experience their teaching has. What I hear from teachers is that they are analyzing and critically reflecting on their experiences.

These meetings are often happen-stance whereby I may be chatting with someone during an in-house conference, workshop, or meeting of some kind. These events provide me with a brief opportunity to connect and learn about SoTL projects that are being done all around me. In other situations, these individuals are reaching out to me (or a colleague) because we have a service that they are in need of. It is in these conversations that I learn about the work they are doing and often want to do. And so we talk about SoTL.

What I struggle with is how I can help turn these one-off meetings into something more significant and ongoing.

What I (currently) lack is a formal way to bring these SoTL researchers together to form a community of mutually supportive SoTL Scholars.

I recognize the criticality that individuals from all over campus be connected with others – in this instance it is those who are doing SoTL. In this community (that currently exists in a disconnected or unknowingly way), SoTL scholars will be able to share and talk about their work and what they have learned as a result. More importantly they will learn what their colleagues are doing in their classroom be they in the same faculty or department or another discipline entirely. I have a clear vision in my mind of what I would like to have happen by way of a community of engaged SoTL scholars – my pet name as it stands now is the “SoTL Scholars Network” – but am eager to hear what the community members themselves would like.

Aside from those with whom I have chatted with throughout my time as a developer, how does one invite others to engage in a formal network that does not yet exist? How does one acknowledge the campus-wide SoTL work that already exists? How does one seek out these individuals? How are you doing this at your campus?

A group can only exist when there are members who participate in it and I have high hopes that whatever emerges from this endeavour that it be a warm, welcoming, intellectually supportive and stimulating environment in which we can learn and grow together as SoTL scholars.

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