Introduction to SoTL

Introduction to SoTL

The following module provides an introduction to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), including a brief history, definitions and examples.

Learning Objectives

  • Define SoTL
  • Discuss the history of SoTL and its emergence
  • Provide examples of scholarship related to teaching and learning


Key Characteristics of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

 In 1990, Ernest Boyer coined the term “The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)” and the concept took hold and began to emerge as a movement throughout higher education.   SoTL seeks to use discovery, reflection, and evidence-based methods to investigate effective teaching methods and student learning outcomes. The overall goal of SoTL research is to enhance teaching practices and thereby, improve student learning outcomes by researching alternative teaching methods and learning environments. The emergence of SoTL over the past few decades has resulted in renewed interest in the development of new teaching approaches, ways to evaluate outcomes and the sharing of results with other teachers and professors. The dissemination of results has encouraged faculty to engage in conversations about teaching methods and student learning by providing them access to the practical applications of educational theories.

This type of inquiry is referred to by some as pedagogical research. In order for this type of research to be considered scholarly, it must be public, it should be critically reviewed by peers, and the results should be made available and communicated to others in the scholarly community. In other words, it must adhere to the characteristics of good scholarship. Therefore, the scholarship of teaching and learning is NOT the same thing as excellent teaching or scholarly teaching. Excellent teachers and scholarly teachers do reflect on their teaching practices, try new methods, and assess the learning in their classrooms. However, SoTL takes those practices another step farther by conducting research that produces evidence-based results that can be formally shared with colleagues. It is the study of teaching and learning. As the concept has gained momentum over the decades, the opportunities for researchers to share their findings have also increased. For example, there are both broad based educational journals, such as the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and discipline-specific educational journals such as the Journal of Chemical Education. Researchers now have many avenues through which they can share their educational research in a scholarly way.

What types of SoTL research are faculty conducting? What are examples of topics that SoTL researchers may engage in? A biology faculty may explore whether or not problem-based learning has an impact on student learning by teaching half of the courses using PBL and comparing student outcomes with those from courses without PBL.   Another faculty member may explore differences in student learning between classrooms that use journaling and those that do not. Or a faculty member may explore curriculum development by investigating different curricular approaches to a concept and comparing student learning. These are just a few of the examples of the many topics that can be explored using SoTL. The following modules will provide more detailed information regarding the value of SoTL, how to develop and conduct a research project, and how to share the results with colleagues.


Suggested Readings

Atkinson, M. P. (2001). The scholarship of teaching and learning: Reconceptualizing scholarship and transforming the academy. Social Forces, 79(4), 1217-1229.
Hatch, T. (2005). Into the Classroom: Developing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Jossey-Bass, An Imprint of Wiley. 10475 Crosspoint Blvd, Indianapolis, IN 46256.
Huber, M. T., & Morreale, S. P. (2002). Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Exploring Common Ground. AAHE Publications Orders, PO Box 1932, Merrifield, VA 22116-1932.
Hutchings, P., Huber, M. T., & Ciccone, A. (2011). The scholarship of teaching and learning reconsidered: Institutional integration and impact (Vol. 21). John Wiley & Sons.
Hutchings, P. (2002). Ethics of Inquiry: Issues in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Carnegie Publications, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 555 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025.
Hutchings, P., & Shulman, L. S. (1999). The scholarship of teaching: New elaborations, new developments. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 31(5), 10-15.
McKinney, K. (2010). Enhancing learning through the scholarship of teaching and learning: The challenges and joys of juggling (Vol. 139). John Wiley & Sons.

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