Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

SoTL Scholar Spotlight: Spyridon Simotas

By Kristin Sloane

Monday, January 23, 2023

The 2022-2023 academic year has been a busy one for French Assistant Professor Spyridon (Spyros) Simotas. He has been actively engaged in various CTE programs, including our 2022-2023 Ignite cohort, Fall 2022 SoTL Faculty Learning Community, and Winter Break 2022 CDI 2.X events—all while simultaneously participating in the SoTL Scholars program. He shares more about his reasons for joining this program and research project.

Q: Why did you want to join SoTL Scholars? What appealed to you about the program?

A: The SoTL Scholars program appealed to me because it was run by the CTE! Every time I participate in CTE’s workshops, I feel energized and inspired. I also learn a lot. I decided to apply, because I wanted to start a new research project more closely related to my job responsibilities (i.e. 90% teaching). I am glad I did, because as it turned out, SoTL research is very different than the typical research in my field (French).

Q: What are you looking to learn from your SoTL project?

A: It all started with an observation: the inescapable reality of Google Translate (GT) in the classroom. And, as existing research suggests, “nearly nine out of ten students (87.7%) […] report online translator use despite the fact that online translators are prohibited at the institution where the study was conducted” (O’Neill, 2019). While students seem to adopt these technologies fast, instructors remain skeptical about any possible benefit to the kinds of learning these technologies may offer. Rather than denying the reality that 21st-century students will use everyday 21st-century technology for their language needs, I suggest that we embrace the opportunity to study how students use and perceive these technologies. Ultimately, we will gain valuable insight that will help us integrate these technologies in meaningful ways in our language classrooms.

For the scope of the current research, I am curious in learning whether my students use GT, how they use it, and whether they believe that it helps them develop their vocabulary. My research questions include:

  • How do beginner French students perceive GT as a vocabulary learning tool?

  • What is the relationship, if any, between the use of GT and vocabulary acquisition in the lower-level French language courses? (Exploratory question depending on students’ response rate.)

In this descriptive mixed-methods study, students of French language (in the beginner level) will be surveyed and interviewed about their experiences with GT as part of a larger ecosystem of digital tools that they might use for their learning.

Q: What has been your experience in the program so far, i.e., how has the process been of developing your project, getting IRB approval, and preparing for data collection?

A: Apparently, I [was] the first in my cohort to have gone through the IRB approval process. I worked on it during the summer having Jessica Taggart’s unwavering attention and support. I am extremely grateful to Jessica for her expertise and patience during this process. The IRB approval took a little longer than we expected, but we are now gearing up toward the first data collection. Again, I feel lucky to have Jessica coaching me during this process.

Q: You're also participating in Ignite this year. Is the program also helping to inform your SoTL project at all?

Yes, I also participate in the Ignite program which is an equally gratifying and helpful experience. The common threads are student engagement and equity which definitely help me think about my project and my teaching more broadly.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add or any advice you have for instructors interested in the SoTL Scholars program?

A: One thing that the program made clear to me, is that I wouldn’t have been able to do this research without the training and the support that I received from Lindsay Wheeler and Jessica Taggart. It is so important for instructors who want to explore the scholarship of teaching and learning to know that this program is available and that it is led by world-class experts in the field!

For questions about the SoTL Scholars program, email For questions about the SoTL Scholar Spotlight series or if you're a SoTL Scholar who would like to be featured, email Kristin Sloane at

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