3. The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and the Status of Women
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II. Focusing on Marginalized Groups in SoTL 35 3 The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and the Status of Women Maxine P. Atkinson and Scott T. Grether We begin this chapter with brief biographies focused on how we became teacher scholars and how we see the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) strongly linked with issues of social justice. We focus on the status of women but are acutely aware that SoTL should, and hopefully does, serve the interests of other disadvantaged groups. We believe that reflection is an important part of SoTL and that thinking about thinking is fundamental to the work we do. SoTL inspires us to be better teachers and to work toward a more just society. We are both sociologists; Atkinson is a full professor and Grether is a senior-level graduate student. Grether: I am twenty-seven years old, white, heterosexual, American, and male. Along with my brother, I was reared in a two-parent, middle-class household. My social location has afforded me many unearned privileges and continues to do so. One of the biggest challenges I have to becoming a sociologist is to recognize these unearned privileges, one of which is being ascribed authority, competence, and respect in the classroom. My experiences in the classroom have been fairly straightforward. My learning objectives and lesson plans are designed around active learning, and, for the most part, students are compliant. Rarely do I get pushback on my classroom management or pedagogical practices. My evaluations indicate that students enjoy how they are learning and how classes are structured. Furthermore, I consistently score above the department mean in almost all measures of teacher effectiveness. When talking with my colleagues, the majority of whom are women, their experiences are quite different. They have harsh student evaluations and encounter instances of sexual harassment, unruliness in the classroom, and 36 | Atkinson and Grether consistent challenges to their authority. Like me, they have an intermediate level of teaching experience, attend teaching workshops, actively participate in teaching communities, and read in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. I like to think that I am better at teaching than my colleagues. But I know better. Something seemed odd because my training and level of enthusiasm were matched by many of my colleagues. As embarrassing as it is to say, I was not thinking like a sociologist about what happens in the classroom and how to account for the differences between my colleagues and myself. Not until I started to actively read and research in SoTL did I become aware of inequalities in the classroom. This body of research forced me to confront how my assessment strategies, interactions with students, assigned readings, classroom activities, facilitation of class discussions, and so on catered to students from a similar social location as myself. Not only were there discrepancies between what I said and what I did, but I was unintentionally contributing to institutional forms of inequality by catering my class to students like me! Being involved in SoTL helps me recognize how I am advantaged, both culturally and structurally, to succeed as a teacher and offers strategies to address issues of social injustice. For example, I have begun to incorporate material from sociologists who are women and nonwhite. An evaluation on a lecture of mine discussing government and the economy suggested that including research from sociologists who are women and nonwhite would demonstrate to students that sociologists are not just white and male. I have started to implement a variety of assessment techniques after researching the difficulties associated with “deep learning” (Roberts & Roberts, 2008) and how traditional forms of assessments, such as exams, contribute to forms of institutional bias against nonwhite students (Steele, 1997). I also create learning objectives and active-learning techniques that demonstrate the (re)production of inequality because such activities engage students with the material and enable them to apply what they learn in the classroom to the world in which they live (Van Auken, 2013; McKinney, 2005). Atkinson: I am an older white woman who grew up in poverty; issues of social justice have been a driving force in my life. The teaching and learning movement that produces the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning was transformational for my career. To say that it changed my life is not an exaggeration. By the late 1990s on my campus, there was a move toward a learning (versus teaching) paradigm (Barr & Tagg, 1995) and the recognition of SoTL as a legitimate form of scholarship worthy of...