View of child's hands coloring bright pictures.

Amateur Work in SoTL

Hmmmm…. so what is the Amateur work in SoTL. A quick search on my favorite engine brought up a few perspectives:

Peter Felten (2013), in Principles of Good Practice in SoTL, describes an “amateur culture [that]  of­ten makes US SoTL more of a methodological and theoretical mutt than its cousins from other countries” (p. 121).

Michael Potter and Brad Wuetherick (2015) concluded in Who is Represented in the Teaching Commons?: SoTL Through the Lenses of the Arts and Humanities that  “as a result of social science dominance in SoTL, many humanist faculty members and educational developers find that they are either excluded from participating or forced to adopt a different identity … to be considered “legitimate” SoTL scholars” (p. 2)

Okay, so amateur work is this idea that folks do participate in SoTL activities from different disciplines and others may think they are not doing it right. I can live with that. I am reminded of Douglas Hubbard’s How to Measure Anything. I read this for personal professional development a few years ago and plan to review it again in the July/August period. There are a few ideas from Hubbard’s work that stick with me:

  1. You can measure anything, even things you thought could not be measured.
  2. Making decisions with some data is better than relying on gut instinct or expert opinions.
  3. When you know nothing, anything you find out will lead to a better decision.
  4. Use a model and a plan.

One of the stories he uses to illustrate this is of Emily Rosa, a nine year old girl who designed an experiment to measure the validity of therapeutic touch. She was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Am I intimidated by OntarioExtend’s Scholar Module? Yes. Am I going to keep doing it? Yes. Because after reviewing SoTL the value statements, I am going to focus on:

  • Faculty development opportunities.
  • Renewed faculty excitement about teaching and greater self-awareness.

So what if I am an amateur. So was everyone else the first time they tried SoTL. Even if folks were able to generalize their skills from other research or they current disciplines, there was still their first time. Like a child coloring a picture, I am not going to worry about going outside the lines. I will aim for joy in the process and something I can hang on my fridge!

Featured Image: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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Irene Stewart

Learning and teaching is my passion; books, coffee and cats are my pleasure. Life is like a 3-D chess game I am playing in my head with the universe. So far, I am winning!

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