International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Being a constructive and collegial ISSOTL conference reviewer

Submitted by Jessie Moore on Tue, 04/02/2019 - 11:18

Thank you! We appreciate your contribution to the growing ISSOTL scholarly community. Here is a short document we hope supports you as a reviewer.

How have reviews of your SoTL work made you feel? 

For most of us, reviews provoke emotional reactions: joy, satisfaction, anxiety, relief, distress, confusion, anger. This makes sense because writing about our SoTL shapes how we see ourselves as SoTL scholars. Healey, Matthews, and Cook-Sather (forthcoming) talk about publishing SoTL as identity work that influences our scholarly identity. Your comments to authors seeking to present at an ISSOTL conference can have a profound impact on them - on their identities and self of belonging in ISSOTL, along with having an impact on the quality of their SoTL work.

Conference reviewers shape both the ISSOTL conference program and the identities of SoTL scholars.

Being an ISSOTL reviewer

ISSOTL is a collegial community of scholars who are committed to teaching and learning as serious intellectual work. Your role as a conference reviewer for ISSOTL is twofold:

  1. You will offer a recommendation about whether a submitted work should be included in the conference program
  2. You will offer comments explaining your recommendation

Your recommendationWe ask you to consider the criteria and draw on your professional judgement as a member of the ISSOTL community to indicate an accept, decline, or revise recommendation. When indicating a revise recommendation, keep in mind that ISSOTL proposals are unlikely to be re-reviewed. Rather, authors are instructed to revise proposals (longer) before submitting their final abstract (shorter excerpt from the proposal) for inclusion in the conference program. 

Your comments. No matter what your recommendation, comments elaborating on your recommendation are an expected part of the peer-review process. Please provide collegial comments to the proposal author; these comments typically are shared verbatim with the author. Use the “Additional Comments for Conference Co-Hosts” for comments you wish to share only with the conference hosts. 

Writing comments to the proposal author(s)

Here is one suggested approach for crafting your written feedback as you contribute to the collegiality that we want to define ISSOTL:

  1. Remember each abstract has been written by your colleagues, so acknowledge how your colleagues have sought to contribute to SoTL knowledge and practice.
  2. Tell the proposal authors why you have made the recommendation you have made.
  3. Instead of a ‘what you did wrong’ tone, adopt language that guides proposal authors by drawing on ‘what you could do to enhance your proposal’ perspective. 

Below we share how we have translated these three points into a template, not to constrain your writing or force a structure to your review, but rather to show one approach that you might find helpful as a reviewer.

I appreciate the focus of this work on [insert topic]. Your work could enrich the conference program because [why]. I think you can strengthen the work in these ways: [add]

Examples of different ways to communicate written feedback

Below we offer three examples of written comments that accompany a reviewer’s recommendation. Each example is based on the same proposal to show how feedback can be written in different ways. 

Example 1: Not collegial or helpful comments when recommending rejection 

There is no clear methodology. The empirical material that was provided is very poor. It is not enough to support any argument. There are no clear conclusions.

Example 2: Collegial and informative comments with an accept recommendation

I appreciate the focus on a relevant topic in the SoTL community. You are proposing to tell a reflective story, and as such, I am finding it hard to review using the conference criteria that are underpinned by an empirical and traditional notion of research. Nonetheless, I see a strong contribution in your argument that calls into question dominant thinking about expertise in SoTL. Your approach to co-create conclusions with the audience during the presentation aligns with the ISSOTL conference pedagogy. Thank you for your submission and I think it will enrich the conference program.

Example 3: Collegial and informative comments with a reject recommendation

I appreciate the focus on a relevant topic in the SoTL community. I feel this submission, in its current form, does not meet the criteria for the conference. Yet there is clear potential and I offer guidance with the intention of enhancing the author’s inquiry and writing moving forward with three points for consideration: (1) clearly link to the method of reflective essays (see Cook-Sather, Abbott, & Felten in Teaching and Learning Inquiry), (2) include references to SoTL scholars who have been discussing pedagogical partnerships (look at the International Journal for Students as Partners and 2016 special issue ofTeaching and Learning Inquiry), and (3) explicitly tell readers the contribution you are making that is linked to the ongoing scholarly conversation on the topic. 


Contributed in 2019 by Monica Henderson, Bettie Higgs, Kelly E Matthews, Jessie L. Moore, and Michelle Yeo via the ISSOTL Conference Convenings Committee



Healey, M., Matthews, K., & Cook-Sather, A. (2019). Writing scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) articles for peer-reviewed journals. Teaching and Learning Inquiry. Forthcoming.

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