Scholarly Reflection

Pathway looped in bands of light with a background of lighted buildings.
Photo by Cédric Servay on Unsplash

I found it really difficult to get started with the Scholar module. I had heard of SoTL in the past and had explored some aspects of it through reading and research. I liked the idea of some systematic approach to trying to improve some aspect of your practice and following that up to  see if it actually worked. I would describe the approach as a spiral that may loop around but does represent movement forward. Articulating a working definition was a way to step into the Scholar module.

I did get stuck on the idea of amateur SoTL work for a short time. I am still not sure why that is such a bad thing. If we have this idea that only professionals (who ever that may be) can participate in SoTL how does that fit in with the idea of co-creating with students who would be amateurs or apprentices of learning? So, upon reflection, I have decide to reject the idea that there is some danger to be had from amateur work in SoTL and leave that for others to debate.

nigel-tadyanehondo-200541-unsplash
Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo on Unsplash

At this point in my work on the Scholar module, I did find myself drawing upon past research, readings and professional development. I find that happens more often where things am exposed to don’t immediately connect but do roll around in my head and start to line up where the connections become clear.

Before moving on to the next Extend Activity, I need to set a foundation for my thinking and demonstrate how I landed on staying small and selecting an aspect of Tutor Training to build a research question around. Focusing in on exploring a modeling technique for Math tutoring is a practical way to try SoTL in the field I am working. Part of my process was to do some further reading about models such as Model-Coach-Fade and the theoretical background on Cognitive Apprenticeship.

Man tossing a snowball in the air.
Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash

Before finalizing my plans, I would continue to read around this topics and add it active learning activity opinions in addition to my role-playing idea. I enjoy reading around topics, starting with a few key terms to find some new sources and then finding new terms in those readings that may take me elsewhere. Sometimes I use the snowball technique as well. If you are not familiar with that term, it is the idea of using the reference list of one article to find the next article you read.

My next steps was to answer the SoTL questions about my research. It is dry reading but there is a nice cat picture included.

I ended with a somewhat salty post expressing my frustration on a couple of levels with the Scholar module and my thoughts about ethical concerns. This was probably the most fun post to write as it was a chance to get it all out and on paper (screen?) so to speak. Thank you, David Porter, for reading it and offering encouragement:

My last step for the Scholar Module is to select an image to illustrate the direction I plan to go with my SoTL research. This will not be my last step for the research because the plan is to actually do the research, but that may need to wait for the Fall. I will ask the faculty lead from the Centre for Academic Excellence at my college to review my plan in addition to gaining approval from my Director, Cindy Crump.

Woman in red boots climbing outdoor stairs.
Photo by Diana Feil on Unsplash

So what direction do I plan to go? Upward and onward, right after I put on my fancy big girl boots and my determined face!

 

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Dilemmas with the Scholar Module

AHHHHHH! I want to scream out the backdoor and shake my fist in the air!! Maybe it is just me but the Scholar Module is tough! Actually, wait, it is just me!! Please, other Extenders, do not give up on the Scholar Module because I am having a tough time getting my head around it. Here’s why:

As a faculty member who has working exclusively in Student Services for the past 11 years (in August), I don’t have a course or a classroom to work with. This has made figuring out a suitable SoTL research project a bit more challenging. However, through our ExtendWest Lunch dates with @Cogdog, I have found both support and inspiration. It was at one of the Zoom discussions that Alan suggested I stay small and focused on one thing. That helped me narrow down to one aspect of our Tutor Training that I wanted to improve. I also want to give a shout out to Danny who said he thought I was determined! Thank you, I am determined and that compliment helped to push me to continue!

It is scary to practice out loud like this. I have created a few posts about the Scholar Module and my ideas for SoTL and there is a part of me that is afraid someone will come along and question “What on earth is this woman doing??” It is risky and uncomfortable. I would rather just be right all the time and only show things in a perfectly finished product that is sure to get approving nods! Heh, like life is really ever like that!

Man reaching out a hand to a woman to help her out of the water.
Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

Right now, I am giving myself permission to make mistakes, to put out work that is unfinished and maybe even completely wrong. And I am giving myself permission to say – I don’t get it and this is hard! Why? Because I have worked in Student Services for the past 11 years and have been the faculty advisor for tutoring services and have seen so many scared and frustrated students walk through the door thinking that they are stupid because they don’t get it and they think it is hard… AND that is it so easy for everyone else. I think that when I look at the Extend Activities that others have posted. I only see the end results and they all sound so smart and it looks like it was easy. I am going to bet that it wasn’t alway easy for them either!

If you are struggling with any of the modules, I hope you find this and know that you are not alone!

So, continuing on with my post, no course, no classroom, this is hard, AND I have no idea if I could publish the results, or if anyone would be interested in them and finally, who, exactly, am I studying?

First, can I publish the results? I can do the research project because it is looking at improving a process of training that we do for tutors. I have done similar work to examine our processes in order to improve quality and have checked with our research office and did not have to apply for permission or present to the Reseach Ethics Committee. We do other surveys for student satisfaction with tutoring for our own quality control where the surveys are both anonymous and voluntary. The trick is, we don’t publish results outside our department and upper management. It all stays in-house. The guidelines seem to indicate that when the results will be published, permission from the committee in addition to immediate manager approval is needed. However, we are now in vacation time and I can’t begin the process of checking if permission is needed if I am only writing up the results on my personal blog.

Second, would anyone be interested? People involved in tutor training is a pretty narrow field and it might inform people who use similar models for tutors. I don’t think there is a wide interest. That is one of the reasons I consider this for my own professional development rather than worrying about whether anyone would be interested in the results.

Door in brink building labeled Employees
Photo by Olivier Collet on Unsplash

Finally, who am I studying? This is an intriguing question. Am I studying students or employees? We discuss this quite a bit within the department. Most tutors are full-time students as a job eligibility requirement. We do have a few contract positions for grads and part-time faculty for some difficulty senior year courses, but most positions are filled by students. Because of the addition of Retention Coordinators as faculty advisors, we have taken the view that our tutoring lab are labs and we are similar to placement or clinical supervisors who are concerned with tutors’ practice and development in tutoring, communication skills and employability skills. We actively look for teachable moments with our tutors. So, Marko and I consider tutors as our students. This adds another layer to the questions of ethics.

This is my second to last post about the Scholar module. I am almost there! If you made it to the end of this post, thank you! It was very satisfying to write! Very wordy! I enjoy lots of words and bristle at the number of reports that I have to write that are little more than elevator pitches because they can only be one page in length or no one will read them! Maybe no one will read this but it felt good to write!

Featured Image: Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash