Lauren Scharff, John Draeger, Arshad Ahmad, Jennifer Friberg
SoTL research has grown over the past three decades with a majority of the work motivated by questions focused within specific course or institutional contexts. This type of work is at the heart of SoTL. The Culture for Learning theme asks, How do we generate and sustain meaningful teaching and learning that have a lasting impact, within and across courses, programs, departments and institutions? Inspired by the success of the globally-relevant Grand Challenges of Engineering (NAE, 2008), members of the ISSoTL Advocacy and Outreach Committee believe that the time has come to establish the Grand Challenges for SoTL. Grand challenges address wicked problems related to a discipline, although solving them will require multidisciplinary efforts, as well as culture changes across a variety of levels within and across institutions (Roxå & Mårtensson, 2015).
Identification of Grand Challenges can promote greater concentration of research efforts and far-reaching collaborations. Additionally we believe that a clear articulation of SoTL Grand Challenges might resonate broadly and facilitate conversations beyond SoTL researchers, increasing the likelihood of impact on policies and creation of new funding opportunities.
Previous SoTL leaders have proposed some big ideas that projected the future of SoTL (Shulman, 2000) and offered direction for leaders to support SoTL engagement and growth (Hutchings, Huber & Ciccone, 2011). These might provide a start in the development of SoTL Grand Challenges. We also would like to capture challenges faced by SoTL practitioners and educators as they work to enhance teaching and learning. For example, what challenges are faced by those who strive to develop student competencies such as those identified by the Association of American Colleges and Universities as being vital to prepare students for 21st century challenges (e.g. quantitative literacy, ethical reasoning)? As was determined in the Engineering Grand Challenges, we think it’s likely that challenges might cluster within a smaller number of themes. For example, some themes might relate to resources for SoTL research, while others might relate to promoting lifelong learning or the effective use of technology to support learning.
We propose following an identification process similar to the Grand Challenges of Engineering: first gather inputs from a large and varied group of stakeholders, and then have recognized experts within the field to help cull the inputs into the final list of Grand Challenges. This ISSoTL poster will provide a start at gathering inputs from SoTL stakeholders from around the world.