Lessons About Teaching and Learning from the SoTL Academy
Sabrina Maginnis, Assistant Professor of Athletic Training Education
My decision to join the faculty at UNG in Fall 2018 produced feelings of excitement and nervousness – excitement because of the opportunity to impact a new population of learners and nervousness because I’d be stepping into a tenure-track position with expectations to engage consistently with research. While I had conducted research previously and presented my research at the national level, I did not aspire to work in a “publish or perish” culture. Although I teach health care to athletic training learners, my passion isn’t to contribute to my field by recruiting participants into studies conducted in lab settings. My focus has always been finding new ways to be more effective in my own classes. And that’s why the SoTL Academy was right for me.
I applied to join the SoTL Academy in my first year at UNG. While that timeline may not be typical of most, the SoTL Academy can benefit any faculty member at any point in their career. I learned that investigation into best practices in teaching and learning is a recognized field of research and that SoTL research is valued at UNG. The SoTL curriculum helps educators to reframe the scientific method to seek knowledge of instructional effectiveness. The process is simultaneously introspective and collaborative, and it yields information that helps faculty to make decisions that better serve students. I was delighted to learn that the rigorous application of principles of sound inquiry to classroom activities can contribute to and be welcomed by various fields of study. We explored hundreds of publications across numerous academic areas, all of which accept SoTL research. Additionally, the SoTL Academy normalized critical conversation about research across fields with the aim of improving study design for more generalizable results.
A bonus of joining the SoTL Academy has been learning more about how the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership supports faculty and helps them to excel at UNG. By offering opportunities to learn new approaches to research and instruction, to improve writing for publication, and to learn how to best represent our activities for promotion and tenure, CTLL offers faculty supports for growth at all stages of their careers.
To leave you with an example of SoTL research: I applied to the Academy with Dr. Jessica Miles of the Department of Kinesiology with an idea to study processes within the Master of Science in Athletic Training program. We designed a study to investigate the impact of various blocked scheduling models on student success and wellness – basically, we wanted to learn which blocked curriculum design seems to best allow students to maintain life balance while still thriving academically and in their clinical skill progression. At the conclusion of the SoTL Academy, we presented on average daily stress scores reported by students who experienced classes either 3 days each week, 2 days each week, or fully at a distance. We have taken steps to include data from our study into annual program outcomes for accreditation, and we’ve identified several opportunities to disseminate our findings in the forms of presentations and publications. The SoTL Academy helped us discover meaningful ways to apply rigorous scientific inquiry to answer questions about student success within our program, which has already led to better outcomes for our students.