Each issue we will be using this space to shine a spotlight on a different research center at Illinois State University. First up is the Office of the Cross Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL).

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SoTL at Illinois State is led by Interim SoTL Chair Kathleen McKinney, who works out of an office in the Instructional Technology and Development Center. She and her SoTL colleagues conduct, promote, and support research that stretches across campus and disciplines and well beyond the University’s borders.

“At Illinois State University, the scholarship of teaching and learning is defined as the ‘systematic study/reflection on the teaching and learning of our ISU students made public,’” McKinney said. “Therefore, SoTL is research that is conducted and scholarship and creative activity that is produced, usually, by faculty practitioners in any discipline about the learning of their students.”

McKinney helped us answer four questions about this unique Illinois State research center.

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How did the office start?

Well-known scholar and Illinois State alumna K. Patricia Cross ’48 endowed the SoTL office in honor of her father, Clarence L. Cross, a teacher of physics at Illinois State for over 30 years. The office opened in 2002. It has since become internationally known and has served as a model for a similar position in Canada.

Who does scholarship of teaching and learning research?

Scholars, nationally and internationally, engage in SoTL research, and organizations such as the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning host international conferences focused on this research. At Illinois State, SoTL serves as an additional line of research for professors in many different fields. For example, McKinney is a professor of sociology, and a quick scan of the office’s website shows SoTL research produced by professors from the School of Communication and the departments of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Educational Administration and Foundations, and Family and Consumer Sciences.

How do you find SoTL research at Illinois State?

The office shares SoTL research in a variety of ways. It works with the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology to encourage SoTL presentations at the University-Wide Teaching & Learning Symposium held each January at Illinois State. The SoTL office’s website serves as a home for current and past research. Gauisus, the office’s peer-reviewed journal, is available online as is the office’s blog, The SoTL Advocate, which features SoTL tips and research from Illinois State faculty. The office also maintains an active Twitter feed (@ISU_SoTL) and Facebook page.

Are there funding opportunities available?

The office offers several grant programs to Illinois State faculty. These include research grants of up to $5,000, a scholar-mentor program that offers $3,000 for research and travel, and smaller grants for travel and for work on a specific SoTL topic. There is also a universitywide SoTL award that provides $3,000 to the winner.