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Advocacy and Outreach Committee

Advocacy and Outreach Committee Mission

ISSOTL promotes faculty, staff, and student voices, informed by research on learning in classrooms and related contexts, in discussions of pedagogy, curricula, and success in higher education. ISSOTL encourages its members to make their voices heard in colleges and universities, disciplinary and professional associations, and other relevant organizations and public bodies, as well as through the media.

The Advocacy and Outreach committee was formed to foster such discussions – as an organization but also among ISSOTL members – about the relevance of SOTL for improving education and for policy development within and outside of the academy. The committee will support such communication via the organization’s website, a social media presence, collaboration with special interest groups, and active involvement at conferences. It also provides resources, guidelines, and models to help ISSOTL members share research-based insights on teaching and learning with audiences within and outside of the academy, including the media and policy makers.

Committee Projects

The Advocacy and Outreach Committee currently has two major projects underway: SoTL in the Margins, and The Grand Challenges of SoTL. See below for brief descriptions. Soon we will have further details posted for each. 

SoTL in the Margins: Case Studies of Teaching-Stream Roles 

The number of teaching-stream faculty (those hired to focus on teaching, rather than research) continues to rise (Vander Kloet, Frake-Mistak, McGinn, Caldecott, Aspenlieder, Beres, et al., 2017), raising concerns about opportunities for these academics, who are hired to focus on teaching, rather than research, to engage in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Various names for these teaching-stream positions include, but are not limited to, instructional limited term faculty, permanent but not eligible for tenure, equivalent to tenure-track (eligible for tenure), etcetera. Regardless of title, these academics face a unique challenge: hired for excellence in teaching, and often committed to focusing on improving teaching and learning, they face challenges associated with their academically marginalized positions (Flavell, Roberts, Fyfe, & Broughton, 2017; Vander Kloet, Frake-Mistak, McGinn, Caldecott, Aspenlieder, Beres, et al., 2017). 

What are the key experiences of these teaching stream faculty vis-a-vis SoTL? In what ways does the institutional culture around teaching and learning affect these roles and in what ways do they affect the culture? Building on our sessions at ISSoTL in Calgary in 2017 and in Bergen in 2018, we have invited teaching-stream faculty to contribute narrative examples of institutional SoTL challenges and strategies for overcoming them. In these case studies, teaching-stream faculty share their perspectives on the following issues:

  1. Are you able to engage in SoTL?
  2. Do you feel supported when you do?
  3. When you engage in SoTL, what barriers or supports do you encounter that are related to your position?
  4. Are SoTL grants or other forms of monetary research support available to you?
  5. Are there other exclusions or incentives for engaging in SoTL relating to your position?
  6. What supports or institutional factors (including culture) would assist you in engaging in SoTL within your institution?  

The soon-to-be posted case studies are starting points for discussion, and we invite you to examine their compelling themes and the extent to which they resonate with your experiences. If you have questions, please contact the project lead: Dr. Nicola Simmons (

Grands Challenges of SoTL: 

Grand challenges address wicked problems related to a discipline, although solving them will require multidisciplinary efforts, as well as culture changes across a variety of levels within and across institutions (Roxå & Mårtensson, 2015). Now that a broad foundation of SoTL work has been accomplished (Hutchings & Shulman, 1999; Kreber & Cranton, 2000; McKinney, 2007; Felten, 2013), we believe that there is benefit in identifying broad themes and challenges of SoTL. Such SoTL Grand Challenges could provide a framework for SoTL-related collaborations and conversations that impact not only our individual classrooms and institutions, but also combine to impact education, outreach, policies, and funding on world-wide level.

This effort will follow an identification process similar to that used to determine the Grand Challenges of Engineering (2008): first gather inputs from a large and varied group of stakeholders, and then have recognized experts within the field to help cull the inputs into the final list of Grand Challenges. A poster at ISSoTL in 2018 in Bergen provide da start at gathering inputs from SoTL stakeholders from around the world. Further outreach for inputs will be made in the coming months. If you have questions or would like to participate, please contact the project lead: Dr. Lauren Scharff (

Committee Responsibilities

At the meeting of the Board of Directors at the annual face-to-face meeting, the committee presents a written report about its activities, issues to which ISSOTL can contribute constructively, and opportunities to do so. It also makes suggestions to the Conference and Convenings Committee about signature features of the annual conference that can promote networking and collaboration for advocacy and outreach. 

The Board of Directors appoints co-chairs for this committee who have two-year alternating terms, and at least one member of the Board and one member of the Communications Committee serve on it. The committee has a minimum of five members, and all members must be current members of ISSoTL. Those interested in becoming a member of the committee should contact one of the co-chairs, each of whom has the authority to add members to the committee at their discretion.  (List of Committee members and leadership)

The committee will also gather and maintain resources related to advocacy and outreach on the ISSoTL site, and maintain a social media presence to support broad outreach to those who might be interested in or benefit from SoTL research.

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