Choose Your Own SoTL Adventure

This week in CEP 811, we were asked to step out and “Choose your own (SoTL) Adventure.”  The acronym SoTL stands for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.  The Office of Faculty and Organizational Development at Michigan State University defines the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning as promoting “…teaching as a scholarly endeavor and a worthy subject for research, producing a public body of knowledge open to critique and evaluation.  Its intent is not only to improve teaching but to create a community of “scholarly teachers” who add to the body of knowledge about teaching and learning as well as benefiting from the SoTL research of others.”  Overall, SoTL is a growing movement of using research methods to improve your own teaching skills in the classroom.  It supports the idea that teachers must be lifelong learners.  Eileen Bender and Donald Gray state in their book The Scholarship of Teaching, “The scholarship of teaching means that we invest in our teaching the intellectual powers we practice in our research” (Bender and Gray, 1999).  It is very important as teachers to research new methods and remain sharp in the classroom.

In our own SoTL Adventure, our objectives are to pick five scholarly resources that relate directly to our teaching practices and interests, write an annotation for each source, and utilize the Michigan State University Library system to search online databases and contact a librarian for recommendations.  I chose to focus primarily on Differentiated Instruction.  With class sizes increasing and the growing diversity of learning styles and abilities, I wanted to research this topic and share what I learned.

Components of Differentiated Instruction – Components of Differentiated Instruction. (n.d.). Sussex Technical School District – District Home. Retrieved August 18, 2013, from

This resource focuses on the “What,” “How,” “Show What You Know,” and “Where,” components of Differentiated Instruction.  The “What” component refers to preassessing students’ knowledge and skill levels.  The “How” component refers to increasing the ways in which you ask students to learn.  The “Show What You Know” component refers to students reflecting, in many ways, on what they have learned in the classroom.  Lastly, the “Where” component refers to the classroom climate and physical setting in which students are learning.

Design, P. W. (n.d.). Edunators – Helping Teachers Overcome Obstacles and Focus on Learning – Three Easy Ways To Differentiate Instruction. Edunators – Helping Teachers Overcome Obstacles and Focus on Learning – Home. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from

This resource states that there are essentially three ways in which teachers can easily differentiate instruction.  First, differentiate how students learn necessary course material.  This focuses more on the teacher and how he or she delivers the information to the students.  Second, differentiate how students demonstrate understanding of course material.  This focuses more on the student and how he or she demonstrates mastery and understanding of the objectives.  Third, differentiate what students learn.  This focuses on adhering to the skills and interests of the students on the teacher’s part.  Overall, although these three ways may seem simple, they help lay out a foundation for differentiating instruction in the classroom.

Differentiated Instruction | Classroom Challenges | Focus on Effectiveness. (n.d.). Northwest Educational Technology Consortium. Retrieved August 18, 2013, from

This resource provides a basic definition of Differentiated Instruction, but more importantly, in my opinion, it provides resources for organization in the classroom, practicing patterns in Math using interactive web tools, using web based tools to chart the news, using technology to document learning, and reflecting on and categorizing traits of successful learners.  All of these resources implement Differentiated Instruction.

Rubenstein, G. (n.d.). What Works for Differentiating Instruction in Elementary Schools | Edutopia. Edutopia | K-12 Education & Learning Innovations with Proven Strategies that Work. Retrieved August 18, 2013, from

This resource suggests ideas for what you can do in your classroom and school in five minutes, five days, five weeks, five months, and five years to Differentiate Instruction.  Some suggestions (in order) are: read students’ files, arrange desks into collaborative clusters or stations, share planning duties with a fellow teacher, get to know the diverse cultures and experiences in your classroom, and cheerlead and coach.

SDE: Using Differentiated Instruction to Implement the Common  Core State Standards. (n.d.). Connecticut State Department of Education. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from

This resource is all about using Differentiated Instruction to implement the Common Core State Standards.  It is set up in two modules examining strategies in which to differentiate within the classroom taking into consideration the many changes to WHAT we are teaching in the state of Michigan and other states adopting these standards.

Interaction with the MSU Library:

  • What questions did you ask the librarian?

I asked the librarian how to find free scholarly articles, how to know if a source is unreliable, the best ways to find information about differentiated instruction, and how to best use the internet to access the MSU Library.

  • How did you contact the librarian?

I contacted the librarian by first emailing and asking the above questions.  My second time corresponding, I used the instant message feature on their website.  This feature was very quick, for I was given answers immediately.

  • How did you narrow your search to find resources that were meaningful to you?

I narrowed my search to find resources meaningful to me by using key words in my inquiries.  Also, once on sources, I quickly skimmed its readings looking for information relevant to differentiated instruction and the topics I was looking for.

  • How do you see yourself using these resources in the future?

In the future, I will likely only use the MSU Library resource for its instant messaging.  Because responses are so quick, I can get the information I need immediately and continue working.  When I was attending MSU as an undergraduate student, I used the library frequently and it was a great resource for me throughout my studies.


Bender, E and Gray, D. (1999). The Scholarship of Teaching. Research & Creative Activity, XXII(1).

Michigan State University. (2013). MSU libraries. Retrieved August 18, 2013, from

Michigan State University. (2013). MSU libraries: ask a librarian. Retrieved August 18, 2013, from


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