Legitimating reflective writing in SoTL: “Dysfunctional Illusions of Rigor” revisited
In a classic 2010 article, Craig Nelson critiques his own previously held “dysfunctional illusions of rigor” that for years had constrained his teaching. He demonstrates that certain “rigorous” pedagogical practices disadvantage rather than support learners, and he argues for an expansion of what counts as legitimate pedagogical approaches. We evoke Nelson’s assertions to make a parallel argument regarding the traditional conventions of academic discourse. While formal scholarly writing may be well suited to capturing some of the outcomes of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), these genres can also be exclusive; inadequate to the task of conveying the complex, incomplete, and messy aspects of the work; and neither interesting nor accessible to those who are not required to produce or to read publications focused on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. We propose that reflective writing be legitimated as a form of writing for SoTL, and we use examples from a growing body of reflective writing about pedagogical partnership to illustrate our points. Echoing Nelson, we offer four reasons for this expansion of legitimacy: (1) the process of reflection is an essential component of learning; (2) reflective writing captures the complexity of learning; (3) reflection is an accessible form of writing for both new and experienced SoTL authors; and (4) reflective writing is accessible to a wide range of readers. We conclude by emphasizing the potential of including reflective writing among those modes of analysis valued in SoTL to expand what counts as rigor in the construction and representation of knowledge about teaching and learning.
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