Seeding SoTL Initiative

SoTL Logo

The Taylor Institute now offers a range of options to “seed SoTL," all of which are grounded in two assumptions:

  1. We crave autonomy and empowerment in pursuing the issues that are meaningful to us.  
  2. Conversations with certain colleagues can be remarkably impactful.  


The primary goals of the Seeding SoTL Initiative are to

  • support local communities focused on teaching and learning,
  • encourage deeper explorations of teaching and learning that may lead to SoTL projects, and
  • distribute across campus the processes and the products of generating knowledge about teaching and learning.

Its secondary goals—encouraged but not required—are to

  • extend the good work resulting from existing Taylor Institute programs, initiatives, and activities,
  • provide leadership opportunities for instructors (i.e., academic teaching staff, sessionals, teaching assistants) to help others engage in meaningful conversation and action around teaching and learning, 
  • facilitate the preparation of strong Teaching and Learning Grant applications, and/or
  • encourage partnerships with University of Calgary students in exploring issues of teaching and learning.


The Seeding SoTL Initiative includes four models of activities to support these goals. Each responds to the significance of community and conversation in our second assumption (above), which is grounded in Torgny Roxå and Katarina Mårtensson’s foundational research on “the conversations teachers have with colleagues” in which “teachers allow themselves to be influenced to such an extent that they develop, or even sometimes drastically change, their personal understanding of teaching and learning” (2009, p. 547-548).

Form a Reading Group

The Taylor Institute will provide up to $300 for books (or books and hospitality) and provide space (as available) for groups to read and discuss together a book related to teaching, learning, and/or SoTL in at least four gatherings over the course of a semester. See our information on organizing your reading group, including a list of recommended (not required) books.

Form a Teaching Square

The Taylor Institute will support teaching squares by providing up to $150 for a complimentary meal at the final meeting. Teaching squares are groups of four instructors who visit each other’s classes–self-reflectively, not evaluatively–once or twice, as well as meet to set up and then debrief and conclude the visits. See our information on organizing your teaching square.

Form a Community of Practice

The Taylor Institute will provide up to $800 and space (as available) to communities of practice (CoPs), groups of people who “share a concern, a set of problems, a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002, p. 4). Communities of practice should gather monthly and work together for the whole academic year.  Effective CoPs may apply for renewed funding each year for its continuation. (We recommend using the funds for hospitality at meetings, but they may also be used for relevant supplies and materials.) See our information on organizing your community of practice.

Host a Small Unconference

The Taylor Institute will provide up to $500 for hospitality and supplies and provide space (as available) to host small, themed unconferences, an alternative to the traditional academic conference of didactic presentations of the results of completed work. These unconferences will follow the Crossroads model:  participants submit proposals for the unconference in the form of brief explanations of a teaching and learning challenge related to the unconference theme. Once accepted, every attendee prepares by reading all of these statements ahead of time, and then everyone comes together as both presenter and participant in facilitated sessions that serve as “critical think tanks.” Each session has 2 or 3 presenters, each of whom gets 35 minutes: 10 minutes to expand on the challenge, 5 minutes for attendees to seek clarification, 15 minutes for attendees to discuss while the presenter listens, and finally a 5-minute response by the presenter. This model “puts the confer back in conference” (Settlage & Johnston, 2014, p. 67). See our information on organizing your Crossroads unconferences.


Anyone in an educational role at the University of Calgary may submit a proposal to the Seeding SoTL Program. Sessionals are welcome to apply provided they are contracted employees for the duration of the proposed activity.  Graduate and undergraduate students are welcome to apply as partners; however, for budgeting purposes, they must have a project supervisor who is employed at the university as a faculty or staff member. 

Recommended Topics

The following are areas of rich exploration directly significant to student learning and the teaching that facilitates that learning. However, projects may be based on topics related to teaching and learning but not mentioned here.

  • The relationship between teaching, learning, and learning spaces
  • Student learning and course/curriculum design
  • Assignment/course/curriculum design for student learning and mental health
  • High-impact educational practices (e.g., undergraduate research, inquiry-based or experiential learning) 
  • Student learning facilitated or made visible with technology
  • Facilitating learning in graduate-level courses
  • Facilitating learning in large classes
  • The relationship between learning and student identity (e.g., gender, race, ethnicity, class, first-generation at university, identity development)
  • Student engagement and learning
  • “Bottlenecks” in student learning (e.g., misconceptions, threshold concepts, gaps between expert and novice thinking; Decoding the Disciplines model is highly recommended)

Potential Products

The results of any Seeding SoTL project should “pay it forward.”  In addition to a final report, there are many ways to share the knowledge and innovations generated from a project, including but not limited to the following:

  • Write a series of blog posts for the Taylor Institute
  • Contribute to the Taylor Institute Guide Series (See our Guide Guidelines, coming soon.)
  • Apply for a University of Calgary Teaching and Learning Grant
  • Organize a learning event for relevant members of the campus community (e.g., unconference, brown bag lunch series, workshop or panel)
  • Develop a departmental resource (e.g., a collection of assignments and rubrics to share with colleagues teaching the same course)
  • Facilitate another Seeding SoTL project that will bring in new participants  


The online application form requires the following information: 

The Community

  • Primary applicant: name, email, faculty, department/program/unit, position/status, and (if relevant) Taylor Institute program/activity/consultation this application builds on 
  • Co-applicant (if relevant): name, email, faculty, department/program/unit, and position/status
  • Additional participants: projected number and description (if Teaching Square, name of each member)

The Conversation

  • Activity: title, type (see "Models" above), and topic (and book selection, for reading groups) 
  • Plans:  how you'll get organized and what your hopes are in convening this activity and group (250 words maximum)
  • Pay it forward: plans for sharing what the group learns learn (50 words maximum. See "Potential Products" above.)
  • Timeline: planning the activity, the activity itself (including estimated dates, frequency, duration), completion, paying it forward  
  • Budget:  how much you are requesting, and what it'll be used for (see maximum for each model, above.)

Complete an application here.


Download a one-page, abridged PDF of the Seeding SoTL Initiative.