2.4 Planning for impact
Wherever possible, the possible impact of a SoTL inquiry should be intrinsic to its design. This will ensure that planning for an impact evaluation begins early, allowing for the collection of baseline data or the use of other strategies to investigate causal attribution (e.g. observed changes due to a specific intervention).
You may like to consider the following questions when conceptualising a SoTL inquiry.
- What aspects of student experience need to be improved? How will you know that the student experience has improved?
- Are there any learning analytics that are feeding into the design of a SoTL inquiry? Can learning analytics inform the effects of the intervention or investigation embodied in the SoTL inquiry?
- How does the proposed SoTL inquiry fit within the department’s and faculty’s plans for scholarship, or plans for curriculum and teaching and learning?
- How does the proposed SoTL inquiry fit within institutional strategies and plans? For example, at The Open University, SoTL activity is guided by a number of institutional plans, priorities and strategies: Scholarship plan; Student Success priorities; Teaching and Learning Strategy; Access and Participation Plan; and the Enhanced Employability and Career Progression plan.
- Which stakeholders need to be involved? Is this project best achieved as a collaboration? What can each stakeholder bring to the table to achieve impact?
- What are dissemination channels for this initiative and what metrics (e.g. impact factor of a journal) can be used to judge the effectiveness?
The 12 criteria of the IEF (Minocha, 2021) that you encountered in the previous section can help towards planning for impact when designing an inquiry or during a SoTL inquiry.
It is important to start small. Once you have gained some experience with SoTL practice and seen the impact of it in your local context, you should start thinking about how it could be of benefit in other contexts, or extending the reach of your impact. For example, you could collaborate with a colleague to implement the outcomes of your current SoTL inquiry in another discipline; or you may decide to build on the current inquiry through one or more SoTL projects to expand the scope or demonstrability of the original inquiry.
Case study: Students’ support networks during lockdown
A SoTL project funded by eSTEeM at The Open University, ‘Students’ support networks during lockdown [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ’ is investigating STEM students’ support networks at the beginning of the UK’s COVID-19 related lockdown, and how they evolved in the following months. These insights will be useful for considering what support students in stressful situations need in general and how the university can help in filling any gaps in the support. The project involves colleagues from three units with skills in educational research, counselling, student mental health and wellbeing, STEM teaching and biological psychology. Even though the project is focused on STEM students, involvement of colleagues from three different units of the university may help in transferring and applying the outcomes of this SoTL inquiry into their own units for uptake and further investigations.
In the next section, you will consider strategies for planning for impact while a SoTL inquiry is being conducted.