Utrecht, The Netherlands – 8-11 November 2023
Hosted by Utrecht University’s Centre for Academic Teaching and Learning, the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL) Conference 2023 unfolded against the backdrop of one of Europe's oldest cities. With this year's theme 'Context Matters,' 11 UNSW Education Focussed (EF) academics shared their work and explored the multifaceted dimensions of teaching and learning contexts.
Unique Workshop Setting: Aboard a Train Carriage
A/Prof Linda Ferrington from the School of Clinical Medicine shared the unique experience of delivering a workshop within the confines of a train carriage. This unconventional setting became a symbolic highlight of the conference, fostering an atmosphere of creativity and collaboration.
"We had a great time at the ISSOTL Conference, a particular highlight was delivering our workshop in a train carriage! The conference was a great opportunity to connect with our EF colleagues away from the pressures of our daily work, as well as catching up with colleagues from other institutions. We had great opportunities to meet new educators, make new connections, and learn!"
Global Connections and Sustained Collaborations
Echoing the sentiment of many attendees, Dr Nirmani Wijenayake from the School of Biotech & Biomolecular Science emphasised the power of sustained connections within the scholarly community. Beyond presenting research findings, ISSOTL23 served as a platform for quality discussions about teaching practices. The UNSW group, one of the largest contingents representing a single university, underlined the growth and solidarity within the ISSOTL community.
"My favourite thing about ISSOTL23 was being able to catch up with two colleagues I met at ISSOTL22. I presented with one of them at this conference and it was great to be able to spend some quality time with them and chat about our teaching practices."
"I also loved our UNSW group because I think we were one of the biggest groups representing a single uni other than the host university. Each year the number of us attending ISSOTL is increasing, and it always reminds me how lucky we are to have such a supporting EF program that allows us to do this."
Leadership in Conversations: UNSW EFs take the lead
Business A/Prof Lynn Gribble underscored the influential role of UNSW EFs in steering conversations within the ISSOTL community. She highlighted the extraordinary initiatives within the UNSW EF community, becoming benchmarks for others to look up to. The conference, for A/Prof Gribble, extended beyond sharing individual contributions, fostering international collaborations that transcended disciplines and contexts.
"UNSW EF’s not openly joined the conversation, in most places we lead it, our community is doing extraordinary things that others look up to."
"Being at this conference was about more than sharing what I was doing; it was about collaborating with others internationally to extend what we are doing and look beyond our own context (and disciplines). Conferences are a great opportunity to explore possibilities, for your practice and research, particularly ISSOTL."
A glimpse into STEM Education: an educator’s insights
Dr Samane Maroufi of the School of Materials Science & Engineering shared her journey of delving deeper into the research-teaching nexus. A poster journey session provided a platform for STEM researchers like her to share findings, experiences, and challenges related to incorporating research into teaching. Her reflections highlighted personal growth in understanding SoTL content and the challenges associated with publishing in the education domain.
"One of the biggest challenges for me when it comes to publication or applying for an award (in Education domain) is how to show impact and how to prove the technique/strategy was useful for students. Getting to know other people's work always gives me better ideas which I can apply in my classes."
UNSW Represented: Advocating for Global Connections
Collins Fleischner, Head of PVCESE’s Insights and Engagement team, viewed ISSOTL23 as a stellar opportunity to showcase research and the impactful work undertaken at UNSW. Beyond individual contributions, he valued the connections made with education focussed colleagues globally. The UNSW EF community's active participation underlined a sense of camaraderie and support among its members.
"The ISSOTL conference was a great opportunity to share my research and the work we’re doing here at UNSW. I really valued learning from and establishing connections with education focussed colleagues around the world. It was encouraging to know that we face similar teaching and learning challenges, and to learn about the diverse ways colleagues are addressing those challenges for the benefit of students."
Encouraging new scholars: the SoTL Peer Reviewer of Journals Mentor Program
A/Prof Karin Watson, PVCESE’s Education Director, and Collins Fleischner facilitated one of the workshops at ISSOTL23 entitled 'Encouraging new scholars: the SoTL Peer Reviewer of Journals Mentor Program.' The session highlighted the ongoing SoTL support offered by UNSW’s EF program to nurture emerging scholars in the field.
The 12-month pilot program, pioneered by A/Prof Watson, mentors 24 UNSW EFs through the process of becoming peer reviewers of SoTL journals, in collaboration with the international 'Teaching & Learning Inquiry', the official journal of ISSOTL.
The program encourages and mentors EFs to actively engage, review, provide feedback, and build capability in SoTL by reviewing articles submitted to TLI. In doing so, participants gain confidence in their own SoTL writing.
"EFs are usually confident in writing and publishing in their own discipline, however converting their expertise, teaching experience, and pedagogy into a SoTL publication can often be daunting - and academics don’t really know where or how to start," Karin emphasised.
The workshop was well received, with reflections from mentees Collins Fleischner and Emma Mills, alongside TLI editors Prof Kelly Schrum and Dr Katarina Martensson. The success has resonated beyond Utrecht, with several attendees from universities in the USA and Russel Group institutions in the UK expressing interest in joining the program or adopting it as a model for implementation at their institutions in 2024.
ISSOTL23 emerged not only as a platform for scholarly presentations but also as a vibrant tapestry of global connections, sustained collaborations, and meaningful conversations for our UNSW EF academics. The theme 'Context Matters' wove through each session, workshop, and interaction, emphasising the intricate relationship between teaching and learning and the diverse contexts that shape educational endeavours.
For a detailed look at the ISSOTL23 program, you can find the official program book here.
UNSW staff who attended and presented during the ISSOTL23 Conference: A/Prof Linda Ferrington, A/Prof Lynn Gribble, A/Prof Karin Watson, Dr Gavin Mount, Dr Nirmani Wijenayake, Dr Samane Maroufi, Dr Jess Macer-Wright, Dr Evelyn Lai, Emma Mills, Collins Fleischner, and Karan Bland.