Zoë Soon: Experience with SoTL

1. How has your research in your classroom affected the way you teach?
I have been involved with SoTL for just over 2 years and really enjoy incorporating SoTL research into my classes!  As most instructors do, I refresh and revise my courses each year and SoTL provides are perfect avenue to implement and assess any changes that are made. SoTL forces you to really think about the learning objectives for the course and go through the literature specific to different lesson strategies that have been used to cover this material. SoTL is all about using your own strengths in balance with current research to design lesson plans that make each component “pop” for each particular cohort of students.  I have found the students really enjoy SoTL in my classrooms as well.  They immediately get the sense that the course is fresh, current, and that steps are being taken to make sure the course is geared towards their best interests and success. SoTL has challenged me to teach in more exciting ways, incorporate current technology into the classroom, and to embrace student engaged learning in the form of hands-on learning, peer- teaching, and discussion groups.

2. How has your research in your classroom affected the way students learn?
At the end of each SoTL study, the results are usually positive:  students have enjoyed the new activities and students have found the activities beneficial to their learning.  Successes like this are always encouraging and press on one to improve more and more.

3. How important is it to you that you measure teaching methods or read other research to ensure evidence-based teaching?
I really enjoy going to conferences, to hear about other approaches to teaching.  Incorporating these ideas into my classes keeps the course fresh and exciting not just for me but my students too.  For me to contribute to this body of literature in important.  I feel that evidence-based teaching is much more rigorous that anecdotal evidence and also forces one to really be organized, efficient and thorough with the implementation of a new strategy.  Likely this leads to better implementation in the first place.
Additionally, when tested rigorously the results can be surprising and will therefore definitely lead to evolving better teaching practices and better courses.  Many times the most vocal students are in the minority and ideally classes should be designed for the majority.  SOTL results will easily tweeze this data out for you and allow you to perfect your course in the best way possible.