Of International Societies

I just came back from the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Vancouver, BC. In addition to deciding that I want to move to Vancouver as quickly as possible, I came away from the meeting with some new things to think about.

Sometime toward the end of the meeting it dawned on me that the presenters–the vast majority of whom were from the US and Canada, with a nice sized contingent from the UK and Australia–fell into three distinct groups:

1. The Americans tended to be focused on practical applications of SoTL research and were very worried about how they might convince their colleagues that the SoTL “counts” toward tenure and promotion in much the same way that more conventional scholarship might. They also generally expressed strong concerns about the motivation of their faculty colleagues to even consider the SoTL.

2. The Brits and the Canadians sounded much more like American educational researchers–lots of tables, correlations, that sort of thing. They seemed to focus on process and research outcomes much more than on practical applications and were hardly concerned at all that their work might count or that their colleagues would be willing to buy in.

3. The Australians were well ahead of everyone else in both practical applications of their SoTL work and in their integration of the SoTL into the lives of their institutions in all ways. On the downside, they were facing substantial interference from central authorities in their day to day work and some serious cuts in funding.

When I go to Sydney in two years for the next non-US iteration of this conference, I plan to try to figure out how our Australian colleagues got so far ahead of us. One good example of how we have so much to learn from them is the World History curriculum in the Department of Modern History at MacQuarie University in Sydney. In the US World History is a field with only one course–the freshman survey. For years, those in the field have dithered about developing a series of upper division World History courses, but in this department they have already brought several upper division World History courses into their curriculum and these courses are organized largely around the results of the most recent research in the SoTL in history.

The rest of us have some catching up to do…