What is SoTL?

The Scholarship of Teaching of Learning (SoTL) involves faculty (sometimes in partnership with their students) undertaking systematic inquiry about student learning – informed by prior scholarship on teaching and learning – and going public with the results. As Pat Hutchings notes (see our video on Key Characteristics of SoTL, below), SoTL involves “faculty bringing their habits and skills as scholars to their work as teachers… habits of asking questions, gathering evidence of all different kinds, drawing conclusions or raising new questions, and bringing what they learn through that to… students’ learning.”

Peter Felten (2013) offers five principles of good practice in SoTL, suggesting that SoTL is “inquiry focused on student learning… grounded in both scholarly and local context… methodologically sound… conducted in partnership with students… [and] involves ‘going public'” (pp. 122-123). Patricia Cross and Mimi Harris Steadman’s (1996) characteristics of classroom research for SoTL echo these principles and add that the inquiry is teacher-directed, valuing teachers’ abilities to conduct “useful and valid research on classroom learning”; relevant to teachers’ classroom experiences; and ongoing, since SoTL outcomes often lead to new pedagogical experiments, which merit further inquiry (pp. 2-4).

Discussing the value of SoTL work, Kathleen McKinney notes that “SoTL can serve many positive functions for individuals, courses, programs, institutions, and higher education more broadly” (2007, p. 23). SoTL can help faculty (and future faculty) become more reflective and scholarly teachers. It can demonstrate faculty commitment to teaching.  It also can extend faculty research programs. Most significantly, though, SoTL enables faculty to learn more about student learning in their classrooms and other educational contexts.

Lee Shulman describes SoTL as an outcome of the “pedagogical imperative… to inquire into the consequences of one’s work with students… an obligation that devolves on individual faculty members, on programs, on institutions, and even on disciplinary communities” (2002, p. vii). He continues:

Scholars of teaching and learning are prepared to mess with the world even more boldly than their colleagues who are satisfied to teach well and leave it at that. They mess with their students’ minds and hearts as they instruct, and then they mess again as they examine the quality of those practices and ask how they could have been even more effective. Scholars of teaching and learning are prepared to confront the ethical as well as the intellectual and pedagogical challenges of their work. They are not prepared to be drive-by educators. They insist on stopping at the scene to see what more they can do. (2002, p. viii)

 

References and Additional Resources

  • Chick, Nancy. (n.d.). A scholarly approach to teaching. In Scholarship of teaching and learning: A guide from the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved from https://my.vanderbilt.edu/sotl/understanding-sotl/a-scholarly-approach-to-teaching/.
  • Cross, K. Patricia, & Steadman, Mimi Harris. (1996). Classroom research: Implementing the scholarship of teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Felten, Peter. (2013). Principles of good practice in SoTL. Teachng & Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, 1(1), 121-125.
  • McKinney, Kathleen. (2007). Enhancing learning through the scholarship of teaching and learning: The challenges and joys of juggling. San Francisco, CA: Anker Publishing.
  • Shulman, Lee. (2002). Forward. In Pat Hutchings (Ed.), Ethics of inquiry: Issues in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (pp. v-viii). Menlo Park, CA: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.