Stirring Minds: From STEM to SoTL

Engineer Susan Nesbit and Scientist Niamh Kelly travel a new research path together from STEM to SoTL

From STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to SoTL
(the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning): A Difficult Journey

On February 23, 2012, Engineer Susan Nesbit and Scientist Niamh Kelly discussed their transition from STEM practitioners to SoTL scholars.  The story of their journey inspired their audience of  scholars and graduate students to begin a dialogue.

Niamh and Susan’s work unearths difficulties experienced by scholars trained in the STEM disciplines when transitioning into the (new) research context that is SoTL. Engaging in a series of audiotaped reflective discussions, facilitated by a social science researcher, they teased out some of the difficulties associated with this contextual shift. Their discussions pointed to issues that go beyond the oft-quoted methodological differences of a quantitative versus qualitative approach, speaking instead to barriers associated with: time, emotions, intellectual training and world-views. Embracing a complexity approach to the generation of knowledge led them to appreciate the role of narrative and allowed them to move towards dissolving the dualisms that they had hitherto associated with STEM and SoTL.  They welcome this opportunity to share their story with you and to hear your response to it.

Niamh Kelly, academic ‘cross dresser’: a medical microbiologist who is a scientist, not an MD; a scientist who is researching teaching and learning, not science; a teacher at the University of British Columbia who is designing curricular interventions for high school students. As a life time academic cross dresser she is interested in breaking down the (perceived) barriers between the humanities and science. In light of this, Niamh’s current research interests include: what it means to think like a scientist when engaging in the scholarship associated with teaching and learning; and, how integrating the arts into a high school biology curriculum influences students’ attitudes toward, and beliefs about, science.

Susan Nesbit is trained in both the study of history, and the applications of engineering science to the industrial sector. Susan currently teaches sustainability concepts, and develops sustainability curriculum, in the civil engineering program at UBC’s Vancouver campus.  She is curious about the application of teaching and learning theories in course and curriculum design, and more generally, about the behaviour and management of socio-curricular systems. (read more)

Sponsored by the Faculty of Education’s Centre for Research on Mindful Engagement (CRME), a transformative learning resource for researchers to develop collaborative approaches  to mindful engagement (read more).

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