A systematic review mapping twenty five years of Irish SoTL research (1990-2015)

O'Sullivan, Sara, Gibney, Amanda, Guerin, Suzanne, Staunton, Michael and Kaitzake, Manolis (2015) A systematic review mapping twenty five years of Irish SoTL research (1990-2015).


This six-month 'snapshot' project, commissioned by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (http://www.teachingandlearning.ie), outlines the extent and characteristics of research on teaching and learning in the Irish higher education field. The project is the first systematic study of research focused on teaching and learning at a national level and brings together a considerable corpus of Irish SoTL research. It takes a wide lens, or 'big tent' approach (Huber and Hutchings 2005), including research made public via publication in peer-reviewed and other journals, working papers and presentations at conferences and other fora. The systematic review protocol and the findings will be presented.  Systematic reviews are becoming common in higher education research (Bearman et al 2012). However outside of the medical and nursing fields (e.g. Cant and Cooper 2010), to date they have not been used to map other SoTL domains. A critical assessment of using this method to map SoTL research will be presented.A wide range of electronic academic databases, proprietary journal packages, institutional repositories and one search engine (Google Scholar) were searched. Hand searches were also used to locate studies not included in electronic databases and/or where the keywords used by the authors did not match the ones used in the search. In total 6, 851  records  were screened by two of the project steering group for inclusion/ exclusion. Two additional methods were used to complement the systematic review: 1. A search of the programmes of seventy national and international educational and disciplinary conferences, meetings and symposia where Irish academics present teaching and learning research (2013-2014). 2. A search of one hundred Irish higher education teaching and learning experts' publications and presentations. All material located in these searches was also screened. The analysis draws on Tight's (2012) framework for higher education research. For each study located, themes or issues, methods or methodologies, engagement with theory and level of analysis were identified. This systematic review establishes in a scholarly way the current state of research in the Irish higher education teaching and learning field, tracing aspects of its development, investigating its strengths and limitations, and offering suggestions as to future directions required. We conclude by arguing that any national level vision of future pedagogies and learning paradigms in Irish higher education should be evidence based. In a time of major change in Irish higher education, the findings will provide an important resource for teachers, policy makers, the National Forum and others seeking to enhance and develop teaching and learning Irish higher education.

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