Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in STEM
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in STEM

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Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in STEM

1.1 Strategies for confronting the challenges to making SoTL public

Some of the strategies which will help you to confront the challenges of going public are as follows.

  • Work in a team, where possible; work with colleagues who are experienced in writing for dissemination and peerreview. Collaborators provide new insights or access to expertise or strengths beyond that of a single educator, just as they do in traditional disciplinary research.
  • Approach your mentor or critical friend to support your SoTL activities (Dewar et al., 2018). You could ask your project sponsor to suggest/allocate a mentor to you, or you could approach somebody directly who you feel could help (e.g. a subject matter expert in your area; an experienced SoTL colleague; a colleague who has published extensively and is known for the impact their research and scholarship generates) and ask if they would be willing to be your mentor or critical friend.
  • Look for training opportunities to learn and develop skills such as academic writing, preparing posters, how to write for social media, etc. If your institution doesn’t have in-house training facilities for such topics, you will be able to find many free training resources online.
  • Participate in writing away-days or retreats, or suggest such events in your department or institution, wherever possible.
  • Connect with other institutions (in the region, nationally and internationally) to develop a community of SoTL practitioners to receive and provide support and peer mentorship, or to develop individual or collaborative SoTL projects (Plews and Amos, 2020).
  • Attend SoTL events to gain insights into how SoTL is disseminated.
  • Carve out time for dissemination in your workload (with support from your manager).
  • Start small; not every SoTL inquiry has to be disseminated internationally. In fact, you may choose to start with a poster, or give presentations within your department or institution, or develop a report for internal distribution in the first instance.
  • Local dissemination activities will help you to get early feedback, provide opportunities for reflection and to understand the requirements of your audience (why is your inquiry of interest to others; what would they like to know and why?). Receiving peer feedback within your department or institution will help build confidence for academic writing and presentations.
  • Look out for strategies and role models: what are the strategies that colleagues employ to make their SoTL work public? What are the most common and most accepted ways to share?
  • Act as agents of social change in order to change the value and reward structure of SoTL within your institution so that the culture, human resource policies, learning and development opportunities and workload allocation systems recognise scholarship and its dissemination.
  • Look for funding opportunities within the institution or from external sources that will support travel to national and international events for dissemination of SoTL.

In Activity 3, you will hear the experiences of an Open University STEM colleague’s experiences of working on SoTL projects funded by eSTEeM [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , OU’s Centre for STEM pedagogy, and the plan for disseminating the outputs.

Activity 3 Disseminating outputs of SoTL projects

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

As you are watching the following 4 minutes 51 seconds video, reflect on the path Sally Jordan from the OU’s Faculty of STEM, has taken for dissemination of the outputs of her SoTL practice.

Download this video clip.Video player: sotl_1_s6_act3_vid1.mp4
Skip transcript: Video 2 Thresholded assessment: does it work?

Transcript: Video 2 Thresholded assessment: does it work?

Sally, you’ve just been working on a project funded by eSTEeM called, gender differences in completion and credit obtained in level two study in physical sciences. Now, we'll go on to talk about that in a minute. But before then you've got a bit of a back story with eSTEeM haven't you?
Yes, I have. I had teaching fellowships with two of the Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, the CETLs, back more than 10 years ago now. And it was those that led to the formation of eSTEeM. It was reckoned that a scholarship center like that was a good thing to do. So I was involved right at the beginning. And I’ve been involved in a number of projects through the lifetime of eSTEeM. I think probably the most significant one that's completed was one which was investigating the use of formative thresholds assessment. And particularly, the impact of the use of that sort of assessment on our students.
Hang on. Formative threshold assessment. You have to tell me what that is.
OK. So it’s assessment that the amount doesn't count towards a student's overall grade, so it’s formative in that sense. But it has a threshold. And the reason it has a threshold, and that means that students need to get more than a very low threshold in order to pass essentially. Low as in about 30%. And the idea is because it's formative, students can relax. They don’t need to worry about their mark. They can learn from the feedback. They can engage with assessments as a learning process. But because there's the threshold it encourages them to engage. And basically, it appears to be very successful.
So that's a couple of projects. How would you say, though, that eSTEeM has helped you in your research or personally if you like.
I consider myself to be a physics education researcher. And I always feel that for me what you might call scholarship, or what you might call research, and what you might call teaching, in fact, they all kind of interrelate. The boundaries are very fuzzy. I'm passionate about getting it right for students but on making decisions that are based on real evidence if you like. And as you can imagine, eSTEeM has helped me hugely in that. It's helped me financially. It's helped me in lots of practical ways, and it's helped me with lots of encouragement.
Those things combined have enabled me to go to conferences. They've enabled me to write papers. And a particular thing that's of relevance for the project that we're going to be talking about in a minute is that eSTEeM actually paid for us to have a visiting researcher called Hillery from Canada who was with us for two months. And we couldn't have had her over without eSTEeM. We needed to be able to pay for her to come, obviously. And that was good for her.
But it was also good for me because I'm now head of the School of Physical Sciences and that means I don’t get very much time to do a lot of the things. And we had a load of data that needed analyzing. She wanted the experience. She was able to come to do the work. She put in a poster to the eSTEeM conference. It won the poster prize, so we were obviously pleased about that. And she’s also submitted a project, a paper on the work to a leading physics education research journal. So we’re just waiting to hear whether that’s been accepted or not.
What did Hillery find out?
OK, she found that men do slightly better than women on most questions. But the difference actually was smallest on the multiple choice questions. In other words, multiple choice questions or at least the ones that module team are asking just not a problem. She then looked at the scaffolding idea. There she found that if you compare two questions that are otherwise the same, it may be that scaffolding is having an impact. But there were other bigger factors at play as well. And the really significant thing that she found was that we found three particular questions where there was a huge difference between men and women. And each of those had got a really complicated diagram that students needed to interpret before they were able to go on and do the question.
So what we're looking at the moment is whether it might just be the presence of that diagram. And the fact that female students are less able to interpret it in some way, that might be causing the problem. So I think I should probably emphasize that this is just part of a bigger piece of work that’s ongoing.
Sally, thank you very much. I shall come back and speak to you when you've got more results.
Thank you, Janet. Thank you very much.
End transcript: Video 2 Thresholded assessment: does it work?
Video 2 Thresholded assessment: does it work?
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While speaking to her colleague, Janet Sumner, Sally reflects on her association of ten years with eSTEeM (The Open University’s Centre for STEM pedagogy) and how eSTEeM has supported Sally’s SoTL project. With eSTEeM’s support, Sally has been able to travel to conferences to present her work. More recently, eSTEeM provided funding for Hillary, a researcher from Canada who was looking to gain some research experience, to visit the OU and spend a couple of months with Sally. Hillary helped with data analysis in Sally’s SoTL projects, also working with Dr Holly Hedgeland. Hillary won the poster prize at the eSTEeM conference and she, Holly and Sally have submitted a paper to a leading physics education research journal.

Sally is currently finalising another journal paper which has as its starting point in this eSTEeM project ‘Thresholded assessment: does it work’ and applies the findings in the context of the growth of online assessment across the sector in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

If you are interested in knowing more about Sally’s project, the details are available at: Thresholded assessment: does it work?


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