4 Supporting SoTL through communities
At the OU, the Centre for STEM pedagogy,, provides a community to support SoTL practitioners in the Faculty of STEM (Figure 1).
eSTEeM facilitates the pairing of mentor and mentee. eSTEeM approaches a mentor whose experience, background and skills match with the requirements of the SoTL inquiry for the proposed mentee and enquire about their interest in supporting the SoTL project. Once the mentor and mentee have been paired, eSTEeM recommends that they set up a mentoring agreement in the first meeting. This involves completing a form/template that includes aspects such as duration of the mentoring relationship, aim of the partnership, expected roles of the mentor and mentee, frequency and duration of meetings and modes of contact in-between meetings. The agreement ensures those involved are clear on how to progress the relationship, the boundaries governing it and how to act within those boundaries.
eSTEeM provides light-touch training to new SoTL mentors. The training covers topics such as what mentoring of SoTL research involves, expectations of mentoring relationships, skills of questioning and listening (Mentoring Matters, 2020) and working through typical scenarios of the challenges that mentees may face and the strategies that mentors could adopt to support the mentees.
eSTEeM organises community events for training for SoTL skills, annual conference for showcasing SoTL outputs in workshops, tutorials, poster-sessions and paper-presentations, and SoTL showcase events in individual departments of the STEM faculty throughout the year. In addition, it offers induction events for colleagues embarking on SoTL projects which have been funded by eSTEeM. eSTEeM has two funding calls every year. It has a mailing list of past and current project leaders through which it sends updates.
eSTEeM’s events facilitate networking opportunities for connecting with colleagues with different disciplinary backgrounds who share an interest in teaching and learning research. SoTL practitioners hear experience stories and strengths and weaknesses of research methods (e.g. surveys, interviews, focus groups, case studies, experiments, etc.).
As a community of SoTL scholars, eSTEeM reinforces a sense of belonging and identity that is the foundation for collective learning and collaborative activities.
In the next activity, you will learn how eSTEeM supports SoTL activity in STEM at the OU.
Activity 3 About eSTEeM, OU’s centre for STEM pedagogy
As you watch this 3 minute video, make notes on how an institutional or discipline-specific centre for SoTL can support SoTL activity.
In this video, Diane Butler from the OU’s Faculty of STEM, discusses the role of eSTEeM in supporting SoTL projects through shaping up research proposals and aligning them with the strategic priorities of the STEM faculty, by funding projects and helping towards dissemination. She outlines the role of SoTL in improving student learning by investigating student experience and notes that the OU also has SoTL centres in other faculties.
In the next section, you will learn how two colleagues who were brought together by eSTEeM ran a collaborative SoTL inquiry in the OU’s School of Mathematics and Statistics.