In this installment of our SoTL faculty spotlight series, Valerie O’Loughlin (Professor of Anatomy and Associate Director, Undergraduate Education, Medical Sciences Program, School of Medicine) shares her path to becoming a SoTL researcher. Valerie first became introduced to SoTL in 1999 during an information session about creating a SoTL community at IUB, and she and immediately began attending workshops and talking with colleagues about SoTL.
During our interview, Valerie admitted that while she likes to teach and gets positive teaching evaluations, early on she felt that there was a proportion of students she wasn’t reaching and wondered if there was a way to teach them better. This self-reflection lead her to the realization that she could approach teaching the same way she approaches science, moving her from scholarly teaching into SoTL.
In her first SoTL project, Valerie asked, “Does the incorporation of active learning techniques in a large lecture class (averaging 400 students) improve student engagement and course performance?” She found these strategies helped students become more involved, practice study methods, and increase metacognitive awareness. These results encouraged Valerie to continue including active learning strategies in her courses.
Valerie advises other faculty members interested in SoTL work to resist fear and dive in. “Prepared to be surprised,” she says, encouraging SoTL novices to begin by reading blogs and articles, as well as to have informal conversations with mentors. Valerie credits her involvement in the SoTL program as the catalyst in moving her from a non-tenure-track line to a tenure-track line when an education track in the anatomy program was created.
Her current SoTL work falls within 2 tracks: (1) graduate student professional development, moving new instructors from novices to scholarly teachers; and (2) anatomy/medical education. This work is facilitated through collaborations with colleagues both in anatomy and other disciplines. For more information on Valerie’s SoTL work, visit the IUB SoTL database.
If you are interested in learning more about incorporating active learning strategies into your large courses, like Valerie did, save the dates of November 8-9, 2018. Todd Zakrajsek (UNC) will be on campus to discuss Dynamic Lecturing. If you would like to be part of our SoTL faculty spotlight series or would like to recommend a colleague to spotlight, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to indicate your interest.