Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL)

Practical guidance and resources to support the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

What is the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL)?

At its core, SoTL is about thinking, talking, reading, and writing about our teaching practices. There is a broad range of descriptions used in the literature, but one clear definition is: “There may be three ways of being scholarly {in teaching and learning}: (1) reflecting critically on practice; (2) using ideas from the literature; (3) contributing to the literature” (Baume & Popovic, 2016, pg. 6).

In reality, many people practice SoTL uniquely and reflective of their discipline. For some people, this might look like using data-driven observation techniques to enhance their use of active learning in the classroom (e.g., how often did I ask my students questions during my lecture?). For others, this might be researching how to work with students as partners in their curriculum development and sharing their findings at a national higher education conference.

Key Activities of SoTL

People who practice SoTL might …

  • Discuss their teaching experiences with other scholars and educators.
  • Apply reflective and reflexive techniques to improve upon current practices.
  • Have good foundations in how people learn; knowledge of educational psychology, sociology and philosophies.
  • Keep up to date with peer-reviewed research about teaching within their discipline.
  • Collect evaluative data to learn more about their students' and instructors’ experiences during/after teaching.
  • Attend and present at local and national higher education conferences.
  • Publish original research on learning and teaching.

Getting Started with SoTL

Getting started with SoTL is about engaging in the activities described above. For a more structured look at how to begin, we recommend a six-step, staged approach to scholarship outlined in Glassick et al. (1997).

Step 1. Goals: Develop clear and achievable goals or a set of research questions for your SoTL project

Step 2. Be prepared: Read and investigate the foundational knowledge and expertise relevant to your goal/question.

Step 3. The right approach: Select the appropriate research design, methodologies, and methods that fit your question. Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research are all valid approaches to studying learning.

Step 4. Significant results: Use well-established data analysis techniques to produce trustworthy, valid, and meaningful results. If you are new to educational research, seek help from those in your networks.

Step 5. Effective presentation: Share your SoTL work; Use the language(s) of education and your discipline area. 

Step 6. Reflective critique: Embrace reflective techniques to build iterative change and improvement cycles in your teaching practices; apply a critical lens to your scholarship.

We would add a final step:

Step 7. Get support: Many people have embarked on SoTL work before you. You can rely upon our expertise at the university, namely in the Institute for Academic Development, to help structure and support your SoTL project. Join us in the SoTL Network and keep up to date with our upcoming events for this year.

Where can I share and publish my SoTL work?

Sharing your work with your peers and colleagues is essential in SoTL. Look for opportunities to share your work locally (department-level) and nationally. You can start an L&T blog, connect with others on social media, or share your findings with the University of Edinburgh SoTL Network.

Each academic discipline will have conferences and meetings that are best suited to sharing and collaborating with people in your field. Attending SoTL conferences can be an excellent way to enhance your knowledge of pedagogies and scholarly teaching. For SoTL-specific meetings, we recommend:

There is an extensive and diverse range of publishing outlets for education research across the disciplines. One resource to browse is the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) journal list. Each discipline will have popular learning and teaching journals suited to the topics and culture within their area (e.g., Journal of Engineering Education, Journal of Geoscience Education, etc.), so speaking with a librarian is a good place to start.  

Here is a short list of SoTL journals:

Can I get funding to support my SoTL work?

Yes! The University of Edinburgh encourages learning innovation, enhancement and scholarship through the Principal's Teaching Award Scheme.

Recommended SoTL Resources

Video

Introductory SoTL video from Emory College - YouTube video

Social media

We recommend following @UofGSoTL and/or @LTHEchat on Twitter

Readings

Meijerman, I., Wijsman, L., & Kirschner, F. (2021). Utrecht Roadmap for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

Cleaver, E, Lintern, M, and McLinden M (2014) Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: Disciplinary Approaches to Educational Enquiry. London: Sage.

Fanghanel, J., Pritchard, J., Potter, J., & Wisker, G. (2016). Defining and supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): a sector-wide study (Literature review).

References

Baume, D., & Popovic, C. (Eds.). (2016). Advancing practice in academic development. London: Routledge.

Glassick, C. E., Huber, M. T., & Maeroff, G. I. (1997) Scholarship assessed: Evaluation of the professoriate. John Wiley & Sons.