2015 Report: From the President’s desk

Lapp FeatureImage2015 has been a banner year for STLHE. Our sold-out annual conference in Vancouver was a success by all measures; our individual memberships are at an all-time high (particularly amongst student- and College-sector colleagues); our flagship publication CJSoTL has expanded to three issues a year; our finances are on a renewed solid footing; our contracts with 3M Canada have been renewed and strengthened (more on this soon!); our international partnerships with ICED, ISSoTL, and POD have been reinforced through new agreements; and in support of all these things, we have set our house in order with a new, bilingual administrative unit in Ottawa, a new set of streamlined By-Laws, and an updated set of Policies and Procedures!

That’s a lot for one year, and it makes one pause and reflect on what makes all this possible. One answer comes from a new word I learned the other day while browsing the latest edition of CJSoTL: the word “conation”—as in our “conative” abilities. The EDs will smile at this, but I had never come across that word before! I had heard of “cognition” and “affect” but not this useful term “conation” for what (as it turns out) is the lynchpin in the entire process of learning, the keystone of the arch linking cognition and affect to behaviour: conation “is the personal, intentional, planful, deliberate, goal-oriented, or striving component of motivation, the proactive (as opposed to reactive or habitual) aspect of behavior (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven & Tice, 1998; Emmons, 1986)” (edpsychinteracitve.org).

This concept is relevant to our work at STLHE in at least two ways. First, of course, our primary challenge as educators is precisely how best to develop the conative abilities of learners, whether this be motivating our colleagues to shift their practices based on the results of SoTL, or a focus on “learning how to learn” in our students. As the old adage says, “You can lead a horse to water…,” and often our work comes down to a question of how to position “water” in such a way as to induce unquenchable thirst!

But “conation” also describes what holds STLHE together and gives it an energy unique among the world’s teaching-and-learning networks. Every member of our diverse Society of EDs, students, award-winning teachers, PSE instructors destined for awards, administrators, and SoTL researchers—all would seem to have highly developed conative abilities. In equal, but different ways, we are all deeply motivated to learn and to transform the learning experiences of others—motivated enough to devote time, money, and remarkable effort to come together in a multitude of ways to share best practices on the perennial challenge of developing conation. Perhaps we should be called the SCHE: the Society for Conation in Higher Education! What else would explain the achievements in 2015 listed above, which is (after all) only the tip of the iceberg? It is the constant, proactive, and inspiring volition of our Board members, our Awards Coordinators, our Editors and Reviewers, our Selection Committees, our Local Conference Committees, our Special Interest Groups, and all the individual staff and teachers who care enough to voluntarily form a Society for Teaching and Learning. Let me just take this opportunity to express my wonder and gratitude at the generosity of our membership, both individual and institutional. Conation is obviously alive and well!

Indeed, as we look forward into 2016, I see conation at work in the upcoming EDC Conference this February in Windsor; I see it in the emergent role of STLHE at the upcoming CICan Conference in Quebec City in May (where I will join a panel featuring our Chair of College Advocacy, Tim Loblaw, and our Chair of Bilingual Advocacy, Christine Gaucher), and I see it at the heart of our continued celebration of our 30th anniversary of the 3M National Teaching Fellowship this coming June in the home town of 3M Canada, London, Ontario. There the President of 3M Canada himself will be helping us celebrate the storied past of our unique partnership and map our way forward into the next 30 years.

So here’s to another great year in which we find new ways to put the considerable conative abilities of STLHE to work!

Robert Lapp
President, STLHE