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From Inquiry to Wisdom: Lessons Learned in Our SoTL Inquiry

By Lu Kehan, Amrita Kaur, Zhou Yu, He Yuzhen, Huang Yuchong, Zhan Yinuo, Mohammad Noman

The two faculty authors of the publication “Seat Selection as a Function of Cultural and Individual Differences: Insights from Undergraduate Students in China” take pride in their roles as SoTL practitioners, embracing challenges and opportunities in the teaching and learning spaces as they undertake comprehensive SoTL inquiries. This publication stems from their lived experiences in transitioning to a new teaching and learning environment at a Sino-American university in China. Intrigued by the diverse seating choices made by students and in collaboration with students, the authors initiated this inquiry to delve into the motivations of Chinese students when determining their seating preferences. The team employed a qualitative exploratory design to conduct this inquiry.

Two key lessons have emerged from this project. First, allowing students to participate in a social inquiry adds significant value to research exploration. In the context of our project, having students help us design our research protocol provided us with an in-depth understanding of the way things are done in Chinese culture. Moreover, in the interview process, extracting rich data and eliciting detailed responses using pertinent questions was only possible due to the engagement of our student research partners who integrated Chinese language and cultural nuances in the process. Building on this experience, we are committed to incorporating students not only as informers but also as designers of our SoTL research inquiries in the future.

The second key takeaway from this project is our enhanced understanding of the seating preferences of Chinese students, which international faculty members may have misunderstood, risking the perpetuation of stereotypes. This inquiry provided meaningful insights into the reasons, factors, and sources that influence student choices. The seating arrangement is not only crucial for students but also impacts professors and the overall classroom dynamic. We hope that by reading the findings of this research, other international faculty members will benefit and design effective classroom arrangements that promote student learning and engagement.

Read the TLI article here.

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