Cluster Scholars


August 2004

The goals of this competitive small grant program, Cluster Scholars, will encourage networking about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), additional SoTL writing and research across institutions, the dissemination of Cluster collaborative projects and products via presentation and publication, and increased public awareness of Cluster work. The program provides funding for small grants to individuals in teams from two or more core institutions in the Organizing to Foster SoTL AAHE CASTL Cluster. Proposals will describe a SoTL project and a conference at which to give a presentation/paper/poster on the SoTL project.

For the purpose of these grants, we define SoTL as “systematic reflection on teaching and learning made public.” This definition allows for work in any discipline and the use of various methodologies and epistemologies. Our definition of SoTL encompasses work in the following areas:
” classroom research,
” program research,
” assessment in a discipline,
” research on teaching and learning in out-of-class experiences, and
” reflections on teaching and learning such as a course portfolio or performance.
While, all SoTL work must be made public and peer reviewed in some way via presentation, performance, juried show, and/or publication, the expectation for this grant is that the work will be presented at a conference. The work may be empirical (quantitative or qualitative) or theoretical/conceptual in nature.

Teams of 2-3 individuals may be funded for up to $1000 for each team member. The cluster will distribute a total of $5000 for this program. Funds are to be used toward travel to present the SoTL work. Funds will be disbursed when awardees provide proof of acceptance at a conference and an abstract of the presentation/project.

Types of Collaborative Projects
Collaboration may involve SoTL projects where team members develop a paper based on data they already have, data they wish to combine, or conceptual/theoretical work in which they engage together. Collaboration may also take the form of team members designing a joint SoTL research study, and collecting new data to be analyzed and shared in a presentation/paper/poster. Collaboration may be within or across disciplines.

Team Composition
Faculty members or academic staff members at any of the ten institutions in our Cluster (see below) who are interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning are eligible to apply for these funds. Each proposal, however, must be from a collaborative team consisting of at least two people, each of whom is from a different member institution in our Cluster. Teams may consist of additional members from the same two or additional cluster core member schools. Including a student team member is strongly encouraged. Given the limited funds, however, each team should be limited to 2-3 people. To network with potential team members, you may access a database of SoTL researchers (including names, disciplines, SoTL interest areas, and contact information) at

Application Materials Required

Please send an electronic copy of the following materials to both Kathleen McKinney at and Scott Johnson at by January 18, 2005.
1. A cover page with names, institutions, departments and email addresses of applicants, and project title. Information identifying the authors and institutions should only appear on the cover page.
2. A narrative addressing the selection criteria below (not to exceed 4 double-spaced pages).
3. A reference page/bibliography (not to exceed one page).
4. The name of one or more conferences to which the work could be submitted and any additional information about the conference(s) available at this time (e.g., dates, location, last year’s program, etc.).

Selection Criteria

Reviewers from the Cluster institutions will conduct a blind evaluation of the proposals using the following criteria:
1. Project clearly fits SoTL related to college teaching and learning as defined in the overview.
2. Proposal clearly states the teaching-learning issue or problem to be considered.
3. Project has the potential to make a significant contribution to understanding teaching and learning at the college level in a discipline or across disciplines.
4. Proposal includes a brief but relevant literature review – theory, past research.
5. Project uses appropriate methodology (broadly defined) for reflecting on/studying the teaching-learning issue or problem posed.
6. Project is ethically appropriate in terms of the use of human subjects, if applicable, and information is provided to that effect.
7. Proposal contains adequate information about one or more conference presentation outlets.

August 2004 Distribute Call for Grant Proposals
January 18, 2005 Proposals Due
February 2005 to March 2005 Review Proposals and announce recipients
March 2005 to August 2006 Collaborative Projects conducted, papers or posters presented at a conference and funds disbursed

The cluster encourages awardees to submit papers or essays based on their funded projects to MountainRise, the Western Carolina online SoTL journal at

Cluster Members

Buffalo State College
Dominican University
Illinois State University
Purdue University- Calumet
Richard Stockton College
South Dakota State University
Southeast Missouri State
Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville
St. Olaf College
Western Carolina University

Direct questions to Kathleen McKinney at or Scott Johnson at