Early definitions of SOTL positioned it as a continuum that encompassed a wide range of classroom-based, data-gathering activities, including those that were meant solely for a faculty member's personal use in assessing a course or instructional technique.

However, for the purpose of determining what is subject to IRB review, we are making a distinction between such classroom assessment activities and SOTL research.

Activities whose sole purpose is instructional or related to routine course or program development or assessment are not considered research and so are not subject to IRB guidelines and do not need to be submitted for review.*

Examples of activities that would not be considered research according to federal guidelines are:

  • non-obtrusive observation of participants in public settings;
  • data-gathering from class members solely for classroom purposes;
  • activities related to training students in research methods; and
  • needs assessment or evaluation data intended to remain within the Stonehill community.

There are two exceptions:

  1. When these activities are conducted with the intent of using that data external to the Stonehill community (in presentations or publications), then it is considered research and must be submitted for review to the IRB.
  2. Furthermore, when data gathered from students is sensitive or personal and thus likely to cause stress to study participants, then it is also subject to IRB review.

If you have a question as to whether your data-gathering activity would be considered research by the IRB - and thus subject to review - you are welcome to contact any member of the board (see above).

 *This applies when these are activities conducted with students in the investigator's own class. When instructional research involves students outside of the course one is teaching, the investigator should seek IRB guidance.