As one of his five principles of good practice in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), Peter Felten suggests that SoTL should be “conducted in partnership with students” (p. 123). Engaging students as partners or co-inquirers has numerous benefits. Students can help faculty/staff anticipate how their peers might respond to interview, survey, or focus group questions. They can provide contextual cues about learning environments beyond the classroom. They also can “serve as validity ‘checkers’ of our initial data summaries or interpretation, especially in qualitative work” (McKinney, 2007, p. 44).

Beyond these benefits, Randy Bass asserts that such partnerships are essential to studying engaged learning (see video below): “If you are really taking learning, and the study of learning, seriously as a transactional activity between teaching and learning… it’s not a productive inquiry if you do not have all the voices in that dialogue active. It’s a different kind of research if students are silent, if students are merely research subjects, then that’s a different kind of research. But I think to be the scholarship of teaching and learning it has to be transactional, and to be transactional, it has to include students as final partners in that inquiry.”

Examples of student-faculty partnerships in SoTL and other studies of engaged learning include:

  • Designing or re-designing an assignment – or an entire course – and studying the outcomes of that redesign
  • Analyzing classroom practices
  • Examining student experiences in learning environments
  • Studying learning outcomes of a class project, assignment, or unit
  • Conducting a decoding the disciplines inquiry to identify bottlenecks to student learning

In the video below, students and faculty share best practices for integrating student voices in SoTL:

To learn more about why students and faculty get involved in student voices/students-as-partners projects, examples of these projects, and challenges to anticipate, please see our student voices video series and our more extensive resource page on students as partners.

References and Additional Resources

  • Cook-Sather, Alison, Bovill, Catherine, & Felten, Peter. (2014). Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: A guide for faculty. 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.
  • Werder, Carmen, & Otis, Megan M. (Eds.). (2010). Engaging student voices: In the study of teaching and learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.