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VII. Going Public With Your SoTL Project: Where to Go Public

Mar 30, 2018 by Caroline Eisner

Once you have completed your research and are analyzing your findings, consider how to share your project with your colleagues who may be also teaching in your discipline and doing their own SoTL research. Think about presenting your findings at department meetings, roundtables sponsored by your school’s Teaching and Learning Center, or at a conference. Nowadays, most disciplinary conferences host SoTL panels at their annual and regional meetings. After presenting, be sure to incorporate the useful feedback into your project.

As with the disciplinary organizations in your field, SoTL organizations—either about SoTL in general or about SoTL in your discipline—offer resources for Going Public with your research: links to their own journals, sponsored conferences, resources such as listservs and discussion groups hosted by the organization, and lists of other SoTL journals and sites that they have vetted.

For example, the POD Network—Professional and Organizational Development in Higher Education—is a smart place to start. POD provides an online community of faculty, practitioners, and researchers interested in teaching and learning across the disciplines. POD hosts a major annual conference, as well as several smaller regional conferences, which focus on pedagogical themes.

SoTL and Disciplinary Conferences

While publishing research in peer-reviewed journals is likely your ultimate goal, presenting at national conferences is a good first step, and your presentation can then be converted into a manuscript for submitting to a journal.

Conferences are a great way to get your teaching and learning ideas out to your discipline or to other like-minded folks. You can write up an abstract of your project and submit it during a Call for Participation, or CFP. In fact, many times, people present on their work prior to fully conceptualizing and polishing up their research project for publication. Conferences offer opportunities to engage with colleagues for networking, coauthoring, and feedback.

In addition to the SoTL panels that may be presenting at your discipline’s conferences, check out national SoTL conferences, such as the national Lilly Conference Series on College and University Teaching and Learning, which is held each year in Oxford, Ohio, with smaller offshoots happening around the country. The conference is a wonderful forum on “evidence-based teaching and learning” research. In addition, many of these SoTL conferences publish their own journals and include the best papers presented at their conferences. For example, Lilly publishes the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching and the Learning Communities Journal.

SoTL and Disciplinary Resources

Another reason to check out SoTL and disciplinary organizations is that they provide a wide range of additional resources. For example, the POD Network dedicates a portion of their website to the “wikiPODia,” where it posts links to periodicals related to college teaching and student learning.

POD also runs an energetic discussion group, which is archived and searchable. Over the past year or so, conversations have ranged from teaching rubrics to blended learning to faculty evaluation to conference announcements.

Journal Submission

Nowadays, more and more journals publish SoTL research. Some of these will be in your discipline, as in, for example, Mathematics Education and Teaching Sociology, and some will be specifically SoTL research, as in the Journal of Scholarship and Teaching (JoSoTL) and American Educational Research Journal, which publishes “articles that advance the empirical, theoretical, and methodological understanding of education and learning.” Likewise, the interdisciplinary higher-ed journal, Pedagogy, “seeks to reverse the long history of the marginalization of teaching and of the scholarship produced around it. Fusing theoretical approaches and practical realities, Pedagogy is an essential resource for teachers.”

Review SoTL journals in your field and those you believe will be a good match for the research you hope to publish. Start by scanning the journal’s table of contents across several issues. What types of articles does the journal publish (studies, position papers)? How large are the sample sizes in the research articles (small class sizes, 500 students)? What types of methodologies appear most often in the articles (qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods)? Is the article primarily written by and/or for K12 or college-level faculty?

Be sure that the manuscript you want to send is a good “fit” with the journal. You do not want to prepare your article for a journal only to find, for example, that the journal does not publish studies with sample sizes fewer than 50 students. This does not need to be disheartening. With growing calls for accountability and assessment in higher education, SoTL journals that provide concrete and well-researched evidence for why and how we teach are popping up all the time.

Spend some time checking out journals, their mission statements, the types of articles they publish, and even who they publish.

Journal Aim and Scope

To begin reviewing a journal to see if it is good fit for your article manuscript, visit a journal’s home page, where you will most likely find either the “Aim and Scope” or “Mission,” which includes information on the journal’s

•    Summary of purpose
•    Focus and perspective
•    Types of articles published
•    Peer-review policy, and
•    Acceptance rate

Pay attention to the journal’s manuscript guidelines. For example, the editorial policies of JoSoTL, are clearly posted on the journal’s website under the tab, “Focus and Scope.” In describing the types of articles the journal seeks, this information is revealing:

“Data-driven studies: formal research projects with appropriate statistical analysis, formal hypotheses and their testing, etc. These studies are either with a quantitative or qualitative emphasis and authors should indicate the appropriate domain. Acceptable articles establish a research rigor that leads to significant new understanding in pedagogy.”

As you think about where to present and publish your research,  review a number of potential journals to find one that best matches your needs and is a good fit for you and your research. Select a journal that is most likely to be interested in what you have to say.

Journal Impact Factor

Another important issue to consider is a journal’s “impact factor.” Nowadays, tenure and promotion committees often require that faculty publish a certain number of articles in what are called “high-impact” journals, or publish books only by certain presses that are revered in your field or at your university. With fewer academic jobs available and more PhDs hitting the market, the expectations for publication have never been higher and more stressful.

A journal’s impact factor is a number from .3 (low) to 5.5, which

•    Represents the average number of citations for articles in that journal, and
•    Is based on continued publication as a representation of ideas in the wider world.

Be realistic about the journals, especially those with high impact factors, to which you send your manuscript. Again, by looking closely at a journal and the type of authors it tends to publish, you should get a pretty clear idea if your submission will be accepted. If a journal only publishes tenured professors from R1 institutions, and you are a tenure-track professor at a small liberal arts college, you may need to submit elsewhere. Be selective about where you submit because norms dictate that you send your manuscript to only one journal editor at a time and need to wait until you receive a reply before sending your manuscript to another journal for publication.

Journal Instructions for Authors

Also often referred to as Submission Guidelines, the Journal Instructions for Authors tab on a journal’s website may provide:

•    General guidelines to follow on page length, tables, images, etc.
•    Templates to follow for formatting, and
•    Which style guide—APA, Chicago, etc.—to follow on spacing, capitalization, tense, point of view, etc.

Be sure to follow these guidelines when you submit your manuscript. Journals that receive many submissions could easily reject your submission based solely on the fact that you did not follow the instructions, despite your ideas being fresh and important.

The last blog entry in the series will offer guidance on writing up your SoTL project for publication.

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