Introduction to SoTL

Boyer’s (1990) “Scholarship Reconsidered” is frequently referenced as the origin of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). This treatise sought to broaden the definition of scholarship from exclusively the domain of disciplinary research to include other academic work including the Scholarship of Teaching. In so doing, Boyer emphasized “teaching, at its best, means not only transmitting knowledge, but transforming and extending it as well” (p. 24). After Boyer, Shulman declared teaching should be thought of as “community property” belonging to the community of scholars. The scholarship of teaching, thus, became defined by more than scholarly, reflective teaching which fosters student learning through assessment and gathering evidence. The scholarship of teaching also requires that it is public, critically reviewed, and produced in a form that allows others to build on it (Hutchings & Shulman, 1999).

As higher education began a transformation from institutions that provide instruction into institutions that facilitate learning, the Scholarship of Teaching’s name was extended to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). SoTL has become a powerful form of faculty development. Over several decades it introduced methods for inquiry and assessment into classrooms (physical and virtual), illustrated the value of making learning visible, and supported a more collaborative approach to teaching and learning (Hutchings, Huber, & Ciccone, 2011). “SoTL is now enjoying increased visibility and is relevant to academic life in a number of ways. Not only is there growing evidence that SoTL benefits faculty members as they engage in meaningful scholarship, this type of scholarship is also associated with student learning” (Gurung & Wilson, 2011, p.5).

  • Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
  • Gurung, R. A. R., & Wilson, J. H. (2013). Advancing Scholarly Research on Teaching and Learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2013(136), 1-6. doi:10.1002/tl.20071
  • Hutchings, P., Huber, A., & Ciccone, P., (2011). The scholarship of teaching and learning reconsidered: Institutional integration and impact. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Hutchings, P., & Shulman, L. (1999). The scholarship of teaching new elaborations, new developments. Change, 31(5), 11-15.
  • Shulman, L. S. (1993). Teaching as community property: putting an end to pedagogical solitude. Change, 25, 6-7.

How is SOTL useful to me?

The CSU Course Redesign with Technology website lists the following values:

Research Opportunities: SoTL is research; quantifiable and rigorous research. More and more departments are counting SoTL publications toward decisions about tenure and promotion, though this is not yet universal.

Effective Teaching: By its very nature, SoTL directly impacts how effective your teaching is in terms of student learning. Engaging in SoTL will help you become a more effective teacher, as you become increasingly aware of your classroom practices and make strides toward systemic change. You will learn to focus your attention on continual assessments of your teaching practices.

Tenure & Promotion: Teaching effectively is one thing, but proving your effectiveness is quite another. SoTL makes it easier to demonstrate your practices in the classroom, and highlights your active interest in improving your teaching. Outcomes from SoTL research make natural components of teaching portfolios, which are often used in tenure & promotion decisions.

Renewal: Looking for new ways to examine or enhance student learning can help re-inspire you as a teacher. For further inspiration, read: Teaching With Fire by S. Intrator and M. Scriber, 2003.