What is SoTL? - The 'take home' message

What is SoTL? - The 'take home' message

The scholarship of teaching was proposed by Boyer (1990) to be one type of scholarship, alongside other types such as the scholarship of discovery, which is most similar to what may generally be regarded as traditional discipline-specific research.

Since then, there has been much debate in the literature about what SoTL actually is in more detail, how academics might practically engage in it, and how it might be assessed.  However, one definition of SoTL was proposed by Martin et al. (1999) as involving:    

  • Knowledge of the literature on teaching and learning;
  • Consideration of own teaching and learning of the students;
  • Dissemination of good practice.

For the purposes of this web resource, we propose a definition of SoTL that, we believe, encompasses the main aspects of the different conceptions, and so helps to clarify the goals for those of us aiming to be engaged in SoTL.  According to our working definition, the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL):

  • is focused on improving and supporting student learning through teaching practices;
  • includes reflection on our own teaching and the resultant learning of our students (this may include collecting evaluations from students to inform reflection, or some other way of assessing student learning/engagement with material, etc.), and the implementation of subsequent interventions and improvements that better support student learning;
  • requires considerable familiarity with the publically disseminated knowledge both about the discipline-specific area that is being taught, and about learning and teaching, and the latter should inform actual teaching practice (i.e. it requires the scholar to engage with the literature); and,
  • involves dissemination of teaching practices for public/peer scrutiny.

Regarding how SoTL might be assessed, Glassick et al. (1997) proposed that the criteria for assessment should be the same for SoTL as for other types of scholarship, e.g. the scholarship of discovery, namely:

  • Clear goals
  • Adequate preparation
  • Appropriate methods
  • Significant results
  • Effective communication
  • Reflective critique

The ultimate purpose of SoTL is to enhance the learning environment for our students, and thus better support student learning.

A much fuller definition and history of SoTL is discussed here, but please note that this is optional reading, for those who are interested in finding out more about SoTL.

Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Available here.

Glassick, C.E., Huber, M.T., and Maeroff, G.I. (1997a). Scholarship assessed: A special report on faculty evaluation.  Presentation to Fifth AAHE Conference on Faculty Roles and Rewards, San Diego, California, January 18, 1997.  

Martin, E., Benjamin, J., Prosser, M. & Trigwell, K. (1999). Scholarship of teaching: a study of the approaches of academic staff. In: C. Rust (Ed.) Improving Student Learning: Improving Student Learning Outcomes, Proceedings of the 1998 6th International Symposium, pp. 326–331 Oxford: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, Oxford Brookes University.