Teaching and learning may be an uncomfortable process, especially for graduate students who are relatively new instructors. I found myself questioning my own teaching practices as a graduate student with only a handful of years as the instructor of record. I’ve taught composition and sociology courses in the public university and community college settings with anywhere from 8 students to 60. No matter the setting or student population, I’ve had persistent doubts and questions about the quality and results of my teaching. Are students truly learning? What does it mean to have really learned in this course? What does it mean to teach at the college level? For me, the systematic study of teaching and learning satisfied my curiosity about the efficacy of my own teaching practices. And, with the start of IU’s Graduate SoTL Journal Club, the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) can provide a context for an engaging community in support of introspective teaching practices across disciplines.
The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) encourages research practices for understanding how teaching (beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, and values) can maximize learning, and/or develop a more accurate understanding of learning, resutling in products that are publicly shared for critique and use (Potter and Kustra, 2011). For associate instructors (AIs), engagement in SoTL is an introspective practice that can bring clarity to common types of discomfort in learning and teaching. I had the pleasure of organizing last month’s Graduate Student SoTL Journal Club, which was designed for the discussion of how SoTL activities fit within an institution and departmental expectations. This month’s Graduate Student SoTL Journal Club invites participants to delve deeper into the SoTL discussion and inquire into our identities as graduate students, researchers, and teachers.
When graduate students engage in SoTL practices by conducting research in our own classrooms, how can we reveal preconceptions and assumptions of what it means to teach and learn? For some teachers, the disciplinary conventions in research may yield answers. Miller-Young et al (2018) found that there were areas of discomfort deriving from epistemological differences between the discipline and what it means to assess learning in the classroom. Scholars from both STEM and humanities disciplines, in particular, noticed a discomfort with the assumption that a certain kind of objectivity is required to describe a reality about learning (Miller-Young et al, 2018). Establishing an interdisciplinary community of practice is one implication of the authors to mitigate some of the confusion and discomfort around teaching and learning. And, doing so fits nicely with one of the ending steps of SoTL practice—publicly sharing the discourse around learning. For graduate students at IU, such a community of practice meets once a month where we discuss a SoTL journal article and build a community focusing on our identities as teachers, researchers and members of disciplinary communities.
These preliminary thoughts are only a few of what will be discussed at July’s Graduate Student SoTL Journal Club. Attendance at a previous journal club meeting is not necessary to come to the July meeting. Join me in sharing more ideas about the scholarship of teaching and learning!