By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—The second annual Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Conference at IU Southeast convened last week with recognizable signs of success: more people and more sessions.
Launched by the Institute for Learning and Teaching Excellence (ILTE) last year, the gathering has doubled its attendance to 115 instructors, drawing participants from IU Southeast, IU Bloomington, IU Kokomo as well as Bellarmine University, Spalding University, Jefferson Community and Technical College (JCTC), Sullivan University and Ivy Tech.
SoTL is a rapidly growing field that investigates the relationship between the ways that teachers teach and the ways that students learn.
Practitioners research instructional practices, and ultimately seek to develop evidence-based teaching methods to make learning more informed, effective and fruitful.
With 25 concurrent sessions spread over the entire day, the conference delved into issues ranging from using smartphones for teaching and leveraging adolescent risk-taking for learning to the benefits of service-learning travel experiences and the virtues of teaching students not to follow instructions.
The spirit and practice of innovation was rampant, and discussions were both theoretical and unabashedly how-to.
Keynote speaker was Dr. Jennifer Meta Robinson, professor of practice in the Department of Anthropology at IU Bloomington.
Robinson discussed how instructors might use student data gleaned by university administration to tailor courses to who their students really are, as individuals, rather than relying on purely academic assumptions.
Robinson shared results of a major research project at IU Bloomington involving over 7000 first-year students across four disciplines. Administrative “big data” on gender, ethnicity, high-school GPA and other criteria helped Robinson identify trends in student outcomes. The results would be useful in adapting the contours of instruction to student needs in a more accurate way.
“Students can benefit when their teachers know the best order in which to introduce concepts, the best ways in which to ask questions during discussion, the activities that best promote learning or how students’ prior experiences affect their learning in a particular course,” Robinson said.
This year’s conference enjoyed the sponsorship of every school on the IU Southeast campus, in addition to the IU Southeast Office of Academic Affairs, FACET and Spalding University, demonstrating an increase in both awareness and support.
The growth of the conference is also a sign that instructors globally are paying more attention to students, and are invested in finding innovative ways to conduct classes and support student success.
The International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning was founded at IU Bloomington in 2004, and has since held its annual conference in Europe and Australia in addition to North America.
Preparations are already underway for next year’s conference, slated for Sept. 20, 2019.
“IU Southeast is in a great geographical position to engage faculty members not only in Indiana but also in several surrounding states,” Robinson said. “Through the conference, it is already serving as a leader in transforming discussion about higher education in the region.”
Homepage photo: Dr. Jennifer Meta Robinson of IU Bloomington delivers the keynote address at the second annual Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Conference.