Scholarship of teaching and learning

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The scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL or SoTL) is often defined as systematic inquiry into student learning which advances the practice of teaching in higher education by making inquiry findings public.[1] Building on this definition, Peter Felten identified 5 principles for good practice in SOTL: (1) inquiry focused on student learning, (2) grounded in context, (3) methodologically sound, (4) conducted in partnership with students, (5) appropriately public.[2]

SOTL necessarily builds on many past traditions in higher education, including classroom and program assessment, action research,[3][4][5] the reflective practice movement, peer review of teaching, traditional educational research, and faculty development efforts to enhance teaching and learning. As such, SOTL encompasses aspects of professional development or faculty development, such as how teachers can not only improve their expertise in their fields, but also develop their pedagogical expertise, i.e., how to better teach novice students in the field or enable their learning. It also encompasses the study and implementation of more modern teaching methods, such as active learning, cooperative learning, problem based learning, and others. SOTL scholars come from various backgrounds, such as those in educational psychology and other education related fields, as well as specialists in various disciplines who are interested in improving teaching and learning in their respective fields. Some scholars are educational researchers or consultants affiliated with teaching and learning centers at universities.

Inquiry methods in SOTL include reflection and analysis, interviews and focus groups, questionnaires and surveys, content analysis of text, secondary analysis of existing data, quasi-experiments (comparison of two sections of the same course), observational research, and case studies, among others. As with all scholarly study, evidence depends not only upon the methods chosen but the relevant disciplinary standards. Dissemination for impact among scholarly teachers may be local within the academic department, college or university, or may be in published, peer-reviewed form. A few journals exclusively publish SOTL outputs, and numerous disciplinary publications disseminate such inquiry outputs (e.g., J. Chem. Educ., J. Natural Resour. Life Sci. Educ., Research in the Teaching of English, College English, J. Economic Education), as well as a number of core SoTL journals and newsletters.[6]

Related frameworks[edit]

Related to SoTL are Discipline-Based Educational Research (DBER) and Decoding the Disciplines. DBER differs from the more general SoTL concept in that it is closely linked to specific subject areas, such as physics or mathematics. This is often reflected in very subject-specific questions, and actors in this research area also often have a subject background rather than a pedagogical one.[7]

Closely related to SoTL is also the Decoding the Disciplines approach, which aims more at making the tacit knowledge of experts explicit and helping students master mental actions.[8]

Signature pedagogies[edit]

Signature pedagogies are ways of learning in specific disciplines.[9][10] Examples of signature pedagogies include medical residents making rounds in hospitals or pre-service teachers doing a classroom-based practicum as part of their teacher training. The notion of signature pedagogies has expanded in recent years, as scholars have examined their use in e-learning,[11][12] for example. Some scholars contend that SoTL itself is a signature pedagogy of higher education.[13]

4M Framework[edit]

It has been suggested that the role of SoTL is evolving, but there remains a need to demonstrate the impact of efforts to promote the impact of SoTL within higher education.[14] The 4M framework is used in SoTL to understand complex problems relating to teaching and learning.[15] The framework grew out of systems theory and has been adapted for used in educational settings. The framework includes four levels through which complex problems can be studied: micro (individual), meso (departmental), macro (institutional), and mega.[16] Changes at the meso-level and beyond can have the most impact over time.[17] The framework has been proposed as a means to engage in strategic planning and institutional reporting of SoTL activities.[18]

Professional societies[edit]

The International Society for Exploring Teaching and Learning (ISETL) has as its purpose "to encourage the study of instruction and principles of learning in order to implement practical, effective methods of teaching and learning; promote the application, development, and evaluation of such methods; and foster the scholarship of teaching and learning among practicing post-secondary educators."[19] They hold a yearly conference in varying locations. Their 50th annual conference was to be held in Charlotte, NC in 2019.

The International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (ISSOTL) was founded in 2004 by a committee of 67 scholars from several countries and serves faculty members, staff, and students who care about teaching and learning as serious intellectual work.[20] ISSOTL has held annual conferences since 2004, attended by scholars from about a dozen nations. The conferences sites include Bloomington, Indiana USA (2004); Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (2005); Washington, DC, USA (2006); Sydney, Australia (2007); Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (2008); Bloomington, Indiana, USA (2009); Liverpool, UK (2010); Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA (2011); Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (2012); Raleigh, North Carolina, USA (2013); Quebec City, Quebec, Canada (2014).

There are also stand-alone conferences that have a long-standing commitment to SOTL. The Lilly Conferences are a series of conferences that occur multiple times a year and provide "opportunities for the presentation of the scholarship of teaching and learning."[21] Additionally, The SoTL Commons Conference is an international conference that has been held since 2007 at the Georgia Southern University Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE).[22]

Criticism and limitations of SoTL[edit]

Some writers have been critical of SoTL as lacking focus and definition with a lack of clarity on the differences between SoTL and Educational Research undertaken in tertiary education. It is also argued that SoTL has become too broad in definition and is conflated with non-evidenced based teaching interventions and innovations.[23] Macfarlane claims SoTL damages the reputation of educational research, reinforcing a long-standing notion that educational research is of lower status compared to discipline-based research.[24]

List of journals focusing on SOTL topics[edit]

  • The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
  • College Teaching[25]
  • International Journal for Academic Development[26]
  • International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (IJ-SOTL)[27]
  • International Journal for Students as Partners (IJSaP)[28]
  • International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (IJTLHE)[29]
  • Journal of Effective Teaching in Higher Education (Formerly Journal of Effective Teaching)[30]
  • Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning [31]
  • Journal on Excellence in College Teaching[32]
  • Teaching & Learning Inquiry (TLI)[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hutchings, P., & Shulman, L. S. (1999). The Scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 31(5), 10–15. doi:10.1080/00091389909604218
  2. ^ Felten, Peter (2013). "Principles of Good Practice in SoTL". Teaching and Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal. 1 (1): 121–125. doi:10.20343/teachlearninqu.1.1.121.
  3. ^ Sappington, N., Baker, P. J., Gardner, D., & Pacha, J. (2010). A signature pedagogy for leadership education: Preparing principals through participatory action research. Planning and Changing, 41(3/4), 249–273.
  4. ^ Zambo, D. (2010). Action research as signature pedagogy in an education doctorate program: The reality and hope. Innovative Higher Education, 36(4), 261–271.
  5. ^ Jacobsen, D. M., Eaton, S. E., Brown, B., Simmons, M., & McDermott, M. (2018). Action research for graduate program improvements: A response to curriculum mapping and review. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 48(1), 82–98. Retrieved from
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 September 2006. Retrieved 14 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Kortemeyer, G.(2020): Physics Education Research: a replicable model for Discipline-Based Educational Research at European universities? ETH Learning and Teaching Journal, 2(1), 137–146
  8. ^ Pace, D. (2017): The Decoding the Disciplines Paradigm - Seven Steps to Increased Student Learning. Bloomington: Indiana University Press
  9. ^ Shulman, L. (2005). The signature pedagogies of the professions of law, medicine, engineering, and the clergy: Potential lessons for the education of teachers. Proceedings of the Math Science Partnerships (MSP) Workshop: "Teacher Education for Effective Teaching and Learning" Hosted by the National Research Council’s Center for Education. Retrieved from
  10. ^ Shulman, L. (2005). Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus, 134(3), 52–59.
  11. ^ Eaton, S. E., Brown, B., Schroeder, M., Lock, J., & Jacobsen, M. (2017). Signature pedagogies for e-learning in higher education and beyond. Retrieved from
  12. ^ Brown, B., Eaton, S. E., & Schroeder, M. (2017). Signature pedagogies in online classes. In A. P. Preciado Babb, L. Yeworiew, & S. Sabbaghan (Eds.), Selected Proceedings of the IDEAS Conference 2017: Leading Educational Change Conference (pp. 66–74). Calgary, Canada: Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. Retrieved from
  13. ^ Felten, P., & Chick, N. (2018). Is SoTL a signature pedagogy of educational development? To Improve the Academy, 37(1), 4–16. Retrieved from doi:10.1002/tia2.20077 doi:10.1002/tia2.20077
  14. ^ Ellis, D. E. (2018). Changing the lens: The role of reframing in educational development. To Improve the Academy, 37(1), 142-150. doi:10.1002/tia2.20067
  15. ^ Poole, G., & Simmons, N. (2013). Contributions of the scholarship of teaching and learning to quality enhancement in Canada. In R. Land & G. Gordon (Eds.), Enhancing quality in higher education international perspectives (pp. 278-298). London: London : Routledge.
  16. ^ Eaton, S. E. (2020). Understanding Academic Integrity from a Teaching and Learning Perspective: Engaging with the 4M Framework. Retrieved from Calgary:
  17. ^ Roxå, T., & Mårtensson, K. (2012). How effects from teacher-training of academic teachers propagate into the meso level and beyond. In E. Simon & G. Pleschová (Eds.), Teacher development in higher education : Existing programs, program impact, and future trends (pp. 213-233): Routledge.
  18. ^ Miller-Young, J. (2016). Using the Micro-Meso-Macro-Mega (4M) framework for annual reporting and strategic planning.  Retrieved from
  19. ^ "Organization-International Society for Exploring Teaching and Learning". Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  20. ^ "ISSOTL". The International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  21. ^ "Lilly Conference". Lilly Conferences:Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  22. ^ "SoTL Commons Conference". Georgia Southern University. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  23. ^ Canning, John; Masika, Rachel (2022-06-03). "The scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL): the thorn in the flesh of educational research". Studies in Higher Education. 47 (6): 1084–1096. doi:10.1080/03075079.2020.1836485. ISSN 0307-5079. S2CID 224970184.
  24. ^ Macfarlane, Bruce (2011). "Prizes, pedagogic research and teaching professors: lowering the status of teaching and learning through bifurcation". Teaching in Higher Education. 16 (1): 127–130. doi:10.1080/13562517.2011.530756. ISSN 1356-2517. S2CID 54903114.
  25. ^ "College Teaching". College Teaching homepage. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  26. ^ "International Journal for Academic Development". Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  27. ^ "International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning". IJ-SOTL homepage. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  28. ^ "International Journal for Students as Partners". IJSaP homepage. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  29. ^ "International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education". IJTLHE homepage. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  30. ^ "Journal of Effective Teaching in Higher Education". JETHE homepage. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  31. ^ "Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning". Retrieved 2022-04-05.
  32. ^ "Journal on Excellence in College Teaching". JECT homepage. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  33. ^ "Teaching & Learning Inquiry". TLI homepage. Retrieved 22 May 2019.


  • Bass, R. 1999. "The scholarship of teaching: What is the problem?" Creative Thinking about Learning and Teaching 1(1). online – online
  • Boyer, E. L. (1990), Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. (PDF), Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
  • Huber, M.T., and P. Hutchings. 2005. "Surveying the scholarship of teaching and learning", Chap. 1, The Advancement of Learning: Building the Teaching Commons, (ISBN 0-7879-8115-X)
  • Hutchings, P. 2000. "Approaching the scholarship of teaching and learning" (Introduction to Opening Lines: Approaches to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning; ISBN 0-931050-68-5) online
  • Kreber, C. 2002. "Teaching excellence, teaching expertise, and the scholarship of teaching" Innovative Higher Educ. 27:5–23.
  • McKinney, K. 2004. "The scholarship of teaching and learning: Past lessons, current challenges, and future visions." To Improve the Academy 22:3–19.
  • Shulman, L.S. 1999. "Taking learning seriously" Change July/August 1999:11–17.

External links[edit]