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Imagining Public SoTL

by Nancy Chick (Rollins College, USA) & Jennifer Friberg (Illinois State University, USA)

As last month’s Call for Facilitators relaunched ISSOTL’s International Collaborative Writing Group (ICWG) initiative with the Public SoTL track, we want to share a couple of resources to support the imagining of this work.

In Going Public Reconsidered: Engaging With the World Beyond Academe Through SoTL (Chick & Friberg, eds., 2022), our introduction briefly explores what public SoTL might be about and offers a framework for engaging in public SoTL, or sharing SoTL-informed knowledge with the world beyond higher education. Below, we offer a few relevant excerpts in the hopes that some of you will see yourself in this work and apply to be part of this new track of ICWGs.

What Might Public SoTL Be About?

We address this question directly on the first page of our introduction:

As we’ve written and edited this book, this country has been, as documentarian Ken Burns argues, “beset by three viruses”: “a year-old COVID-19 virus, but also a 402-year-old virus of white supremacy, of racial injustice. . . . And we’ve got an age-old human virus of misinformation, of paranoia, of conspiracies” (Martin, 2021, para. 3). Surely, each of these invites SoTL scholars’ voices to share what we know about the following:

  • bottlenecks in scientific literacy, contributing to resistance to mask wearing, social distancing, and vaccination
  • how people react to learning about race and racism and how that learning can be supported
  • where White supremacy might emerge in racial identity development
  • effective ways of invoking and increasing empathy with others
  • demonstrably effective ways to prevent and debunk misinformation
  • learning in virtual environments, after the world shifted from brick-and-mortar classrooms
  • the powerful effect of metacognition in facilitating and sustaining all these
  • and more

We in SoTL know that there is good research on each of these, yet the findings of that research aren’t what’s being discussed or implemented, especially in the world outside the classroom. Why aren’t we in the SoTL community stepping up and contributing our expertise in conversations about the crises that face our communities, nations, and the world? (emphasis added; Friberg & Chick, p. 1-2)

What Does Planning a Public SoTL Project Look Like?

Our introduction also offers a heuristic or framework for doing public SoTL. Recognizing at least two different reasons why SoTL-engaged colleagues might be interested in this work, we outlined two processes:

  • the first describes how SoTL scholars can “support and extend the scholarship they produce, allowing them to share their work most broadly,” and
  • the second presents how SoTL scholars can “inform and affect public issues and events that unfold in our society” (Friberg & Chick, p. 5).

Each of these processes is summed up in a table, linked below:

Now that you have some ideas for what public SoTL might look like, join ICWG-Public Co-Leaders Janel Seeley, Siobhán McPhee, Henk Huijser, and James Cronin by applying to envision and facilitate one of the groups. The deadline is January 15, 2022.


Chick, Nancy L. and Jennifer C. Friberg, eds. 2022.Going Public Reconsidered: Engaging With the World Beyond Academe Through SoTL. Sterling: Stylus.

Friberg, Jennifer C. and Nancy L. Chick. “Introduction: A Framework for Public SoTL.” In Going Public Reconsidered: Engaging With the World Beyond Academe Through SoTL, edited by Chick and Friberg. 1-14. Sterling: Stylus.