What IS SOTL and Why Should You Care?

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What is the scholarship of teaching and learning or SOTL as it is also known? It is an alternative focus for your research and/or studies. Instead of focusing on the content of a particular field, in this case early childhood, the researcher focuses on HOW that content is delivered to his/her students. When the term and its attendant research first surfaced in 1990, some questioned whether such research deserved the same status as field content-related research. That question has since been answered. It is now seen as a viable field of study.

So what does that mean to us, the college-level professors and instructors, who are preparing the next generation of early childhood educators? It means that we can now take a close look at how we teach and what works (and what does not work as well). We can also learn a lot from reading studies or attending presentations of others who have studied their teaching methods, not just in early childhood but also in other disciplines.

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My involvement over the past eight years in a professional development consortium has brought home for me just how very important it is to consider on an on-going basis how we deliver the content of our field so that our students can best learn it. We all talk to our students about being reflective teachers. Should we not do the same? And, if we are doing that, why can we not document and publish or present it?

My last three national presentations have all been on my study of my own teaching style, all at different types of conferences. I presented at NAEYC, Critical Questions in Education, and Sloan-C Emerging Technology Symposium. There are, however, many conferences that deal specifically with SOTL. For a list of those, visit either of the websites below.

http://sotl.illinoisstate.edu/conferences/

www.washington.edu/teaching/sotl-annual-conferences

There are also many journals devoted to SOTL.

http://www.fctl.ucf.edu/researchandscholarship/sotl/journals/

There are also associations focused exclusively on SOTL. Check out the links at http://www.issotl.com/issotl15/node/23, from the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

We are lucky to have such an active resource for SOTL in our state at Illinois State University. Take advantage of all their hard work in collecting all sorts of information pertaining to SOTL at http://sotl.illinoisstate.edu/.

Do I have you interested in looking into SOTL more? If so, you will find a helpful tutorial at Vanderbilt (https://my.vanderbilt.edu/sotl/) that will walk you through the steps of starting your own studies in this area. And remember, when you present at a conference, there is a lot of time to attend the presentations of others and bring back great ideas you can use in your own classes.

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If you have done research in the field of SOTL before, tell us about it in the comment section. OR, if you have not done it yet, tell us about what you would like to study.

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