This post is my response to the SoTL #2 Engage with SoTL activity, included in the Scholar Module of Ontario Extend.
Right from the first time I found myself in front of a classroom, I knew I needed to conduct research in education. Teaching and learning are incredibly complex activities, and as a twenty-something TA flung in front of a group of undergraduates, I was acutely aware of how little I knew about all of it.
Years and multiple degrees later, I still feel as though I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. I certainly engage in scholarly teaching practice – I regularly consume and implement recommendations I find in academic research, engaging my students in continuous dialogue about what resonates, what doesn’t, why. I also help other educators do the same, which is an incredibly fulfilling component of my professional practice.
However, I want to do more. I want to contribute. So, I few years ago I applied to Athabasca University’s Doctorate of Education in Distance Education program. I’m on a pathway to becoming an academic researcher. Even though I’m only a few years into the process, I’ve already transformed my course design, pedagogical approaches, and faculty support strategies based on the scholarly research I’ve been exposed to via the program.
I’ve never really stopped to ask myself why I’m motivated to engage in SoTL activities. I’m so immersed in it, and have been for so long. But why?
I guess I’ve always felt an immense pressure to do right by my students. There they are, showing up, investing their time and money in this learning experience. I’ve been a student long enough to know how awful it feels to learn under an educator who couldn’t care less about you. To be stuck in a course that feels like a total waste of time, no more than a check in a box, devoid of any personal meaning.
I engage in SoTL because I want to effectively collaborate with students to create and support the ideal conditions for deep, personal, transformational learning. I engage in SoTL because I know that technology-enabled learning can be so much more human than a bunch of pre-canned, “scalable” SCORM packages. I engage in SoTL because teaching is a massive responsibility, and I want to do everything I can to use my position of privilege and power for emancipatory purposes, and to share and discuss my findings with others.
Engaging in SoTL activities adds a rigorous framework of inquiry to the huge questions and goals that are inherent to my teaching practise, to the profession generally, and offers the potential for me, little old me, to make a positive and lasting impact on my students, and maybe even on my field.