Grand Challenges for SoTL in Action
SoTL’s Grand Challenges are meant to be put into action. Their five-year development process wasn’t simply an intellectual exercise: it was a collaborative effort to identify SoTL topics that are “both universally important and relevant to specific situations” and complex enough that “identifying and addressing them will require long-term efforts involving diverse and divergent voices” (Scharff & Hamshire 2022, 63). This page features some of the “long-term efforts” required to address SoTL’s Grand Challenges.
For these actions to “involve diverse and divergent voices,” there are three key areas of influence and implementation:
- ISSOTL and other professional SoTL organizations,
- SoTL scholars more broadly, and
- public outreach.
Of course, these three areas overlap, as ISSOTL and other SoTL organizations serve SoTL scholars and the work of SoTL, many SoTL scholars are members of SoTL organizations, all engage in public outreach, and all are informed by what happens in public spheres, including but not limited to educational contexts. (See Figure 1.) At the same time, it’s helpful to distinguish how SoTL’s Grand Challenges can guide relevant action in and across these areas, so the sections below identify specific activities that may be undertaken by ISSOTL and other SoTL organizations, by SoTL scholars, and for the purpose of public outreach.
The actions listed below reflect many of the recommendations collected from panelists and participants in a session entitled “Grand Challenges of SoTL Phase III: Promoting A Way Forward” at the 2022 ISSOTL conference in Kelowna, BC, Canada (Scharff et al. 2022). The lists are meant to be generative rather than comprehensive.
ISSOTL & Other SoTL Organizations
There are many ways organizations that support or promote teaching, learning, and/or SoTL can support and promote the Grand Challenges of SoTL. To illustrate, as the international, multidisciplinary professional organization for the scholarship of teaching and learning, ISSOTL can play a key role in putting SoTL’s Grand Challenges into action:
The above actions collectively achieve a few key goals. First, they elevate SoTL’s Grand Challenges as a strategic priority for ISSOTL by making them and the work on them visible to both ISSOTL members and external audiences. Next, they demonstrate this priority by intentionally and publicly recognizing (and thus valuing) relevant work. Finally, they facilitate the data collection to track, analyze, evaluate, and showcase Society-wise efforts to address the GCs.
Individually or collaboratively, SoTL scholars can put SoTL’s Grand Challenges into action by doing the following:
In the actions outlined above, SoTL scholars advance what is known about each of SoTL’s Grand Challenges, facilitate ongoing research and scholarship by other scholars, and advocate for SoTL that’s attentive to the GCs.
Both ISSOTL as an organization and SoTL scholars as individuals can put SoTL’s Grand Challenges into action by reaching out about SoTL’s Grand Challenges or what’s currently known (and not known) about each in the following ways:
These actions support efforts to advocate for greater understanding of the work undertaken by SoTL scholars to effect meaningful change in higher education and beyond.
The ultimate aim of all of the actions described above is to help educators better understand and improve the complex, wicked challenges in postsecondary teaching and learning today.
Scharff, Lauren, and Claire Hamshire. 2022. “Determining SoTL’s Grand Challenges: Advocating for a Broader Endeavor for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.” In Going Public Reconsidered: Engaging with the World Beyond Academe Through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, edited by Nancy L. Chick and Jennifer C. Friberg, 62-75. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
Scharff, Lauren, Holly Capocchiano, Michelle Eady, Jennifer Friberg, Diana Gregory, Claire Hamshire, Kara Loy, and Trent Maurer. 2022. “Grand Challenges of SoTL Phase III: Promoting A Way Forward.” Panel presented at ISSOTL Annual Conference: At the Intersections of SoTL: Transfer and Transformation, Diversity and Inclusivity, Kelowna, Canada, November 3, 2022.
Scharff, Lauren, Holly Capocchiano, Nancy Chick, Michelle Eady, Jen Friberg, Diana Gregory, Kara Loy, and Trent Maurer. “Grand Challenges for SoTL in Action.” International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, November 2023. https://issotl.com/grand-challenges-for-sotl/gcs-in-action/