An emerging movement called the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) is becoming popular among postsecondary education, aiming to improve learning and educational quality for students. In the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department at Illinois State University, SoTL has become a significant driving force in the work of Assistant Professor Lisa Vinney, Cross Endowed Chair of SOTL at Illinois State Jennifer Friberg, as well as student Mary Smyers.

Lisa Vinney (left), Mary Smyers, Jennifer Friberg

Lisa Vinney (left), Mary Smyers, Jennifer Friberg

Starting in the spring of 2016, Vinney and Friberg offered an independent study revolving around the interdisciplinary management of laryngeal cancer (LC). They focused on topics such as the functions/duties of professionals serving on the team, treatments of laryngeal cancer, and far more.

This experience was unique and special for students because of the multiple lenses in which they were presented to look at LC. Students weren’t confined to how their specific discipline, speech-language pathology, played a role, but were exposed to various other perspectives, including the family, palliative care team, and nurses. Weekly discussions, activities, and reflections enhanced the learning experience.

In the summer of 2016, Smyers assisted Vinney and Friberg in their research. Aware of the importance of SoTL and Smyers increasing interest and potential, Vinney and Friberg did not hesitate to extend Smyers’ work and give her additional roles and responsibilities in the coding and analyzing of data taken during the independent study.

“The research highlighted change within my own learning by allowing me to think metacognitively not only as a clinician but also as a learner,” Smyers said.

This experience guides the way she thinks about what benefits and impedes her learning, as well as the learning in her current and future patients and patients’ families. This work also resulted in two publications for Smyers, Friberg, and Vinney. Smyers was first author on one published in Teaching and Learning in Communication Sciences and Disorders, and was a co-author on one published in Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

There is no doubt that the co-teaching experience between Vinney, Friberg, and Smyers proved beneficial. By working as a team, Smyers was able to better understand the research, method, and importance of her own thinking and learning that has not only assisted her in the research done, but far beyond, in both her professional and personal life. Through their research, we can appreciate more how teaching and learning complement one another and enhance the educational process for both those who teach and those who learn.