The Morphology of the SoTL Article: New Possibilities for the Stories that SoTL Scholars Tell About Teaching and Learning
Keywords:redemption, problematizing, evolution of SoTL, SoTL and the humanities, narrative theory
The folklorist Vladímir Propp identified a curious phenomenon in his study of 100 Russian fairy tales: despite their tremendous surface variety, they followed a single narrative structure or morphology. This article argues that the same phenomenon applies to SoTL articles: despite the tremendous variety of content and methods that SoTL articles evince, they have come to tell the same kind of story. They tell, over and over, a story of redemption. I identify two problems with the story of redemption, the first having to do with ethos (the character that an author projects to their readers), and the second having to do with plausibility. I propose an array of narrative possibilities to enable SoTL authors to tell other kinds of stories — possibilities based on problematizing rather than easily solving. I argue that these possibilities better realize how some of the foundational thinkers in SoTL wanted the field to evolve. While benefiting all SoTL practitioners, such an expansion of narrative possibilities will make the field a more welcoming place to humanities scholars in particular, many of whom share a skepticism about the possibility of linear progress and perpetual self-improvement.
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