Before You Begin a Project

If you are thinking of starting – or perhaps are already working on – a SoTL project, then consider scheduling a consultation with the Center for Transformative Teaching. There are several members of the team with SoTL expertise, but the point of contact for SoTL support inquiries is Eric French (efrench6@unl.edu). In the meantime, below are a few general suggestions for anyone thinking of getting a SoTL project underway.

Clarify your motivations

What exactly is your aim in pursuing the project? Do you have a curiosity you want to pursue? Have you designed a new teaching approach or intervention and would like to investigate its impact? Or are you simply wanting to enter the teaching and learning conversation in your field? Whatever the case, it is helpful to keep this front-and-center in your thinking as you proceed. Once you start working through the details of what kind of project might be possible, it will be easy to lose sight of why you are doing it in the first place, which risks throwing your project out of alignment with your core goals in doing the project.

Depending on your core motivation, there is a chance that you will be better served by reading SoTL than by creating it. Not every inquiry is in need of investigation: often, someone has already done something similar enough that you can learn from them instead of retreading a very similar path.

Consider your professional situation

Another question to ask yourself before you get underway is: What level of investment are you able to make in this project? In part, this question concerns time management: Do you have the time to commit to a significant project right now? Does the project you have in mind involve a specific timeline, or are you able to complete it at a more convenient pace if needed?

This question also concerns your professional incentives: In some cases, SoTL work will help you build your professional profile, and in other cases, it will be viewed as outside the realm of what is expected or encouraged. If, for instance, you are a tenure-track faculty member, then there is a chance that work you have done on a SoTL project would not count as relevant activity in your tenure dossier. Although it might technically be a piece of research, it might not fit the criteria of what qualifies as “research” for your promotion and tenure purposes. It could, however, help to bolster your teaching portfolio in the P&T process. In this case, you should examine whether your teaching portfolio in fact needs to be bolstered or whether your time might be better spent on a different area of your dossier – with the SoTL project held off until after tenure.

Consult with your mentor, department chair, or P&T committee if you need help figuring out if and how pursuing a SoTL project might be advisable.

Pedagogy