Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) - What is it?

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) - What is it?


In this section, we offer both a brief definition of SoTL (SoTL in brief), as well as a much more detailed and scholarly discussion of the history and different conceptions of SoTL (starting with conceptions of scholarship and SoTL, and progressing through the subsequent sections).

The aims of this section are:

  • to inform the reader of the different conceptions of scholarship in general and the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) in particular, and to highlight any interesting points and controversies;
  • to encourage the readers’ own consideration of what scholarship, and in particular SoTL, might be; and,
  • to provide a working definition of SOTL for the purposes of this web resource. 

Thus, this section includes a brief review of the work of leading academics regarding scholarship and SoTL, as well as links to relevant articles etc., to allow readers to become familiar with several different currently-merited conceptions, and so provoke thought on the matter.  The sections titled In Depth are optional extras for those who are interested in more of the intricacies in the debate about SoTL.

Note – although SoTL is our preferred term here, some authors have referred to is simply as the scholarship of teaching (hence, SoT), thus when considering a particular author’s work, we shall refer to the concept with the same terminology as used by each author.

To set the context for the following discussion of the different ideas regarding scholarship and SoTL, Trigwell and Shale (2004) make the following point regarding why we should be interested in this at all:

'Although differing conceptions of scholarship of teaching have emerged in the literature, values that are widely shared underlie the various models that have been proposed. We share with others three core aims for the pursuit of scholarship of teaching: that it should be a means through which the status of teaching may be raised; that it should be a means through which teachers may come to teach more knowledgeably; and that it should provide a means through which the quality of teaching may be assessed. For us, however, these are second-order aims. We have an interest in them because we are interested in students' experiences of university learning. Ultimately, it is that experience that a good conception of scholarship of teaching must, in our view, serve to enhance.' (Trigwell and Shale, 2004, page 524)


Questions for reflection:

  1. What are your initial thoughts on what scholarship might be, and how this might relate to teaching? 
  2. Is it the same as SoTL? 
  3. What do you think our aims should be in the pursuit of SoTL? 
  4. Can you think of any other aims in addition to those mentioned by Trigwell and Shale (2004)? 
  5. How would you revise the aims that they have mentioned? 
  6. Which of these aims do you think should take precedence?