A Scholarly Approach to Teaching

SoTL Definition
                   SoTL Definition by Nancy Chick

The scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) is a synthesis of teaching, learning, and research in post-secondary education that brings a scholarly lens—the curiosity, the inquiry, the rigour, the disciplinary perspectives, and the attention to larger conversations—to what happens when learning happens (or doesn’t).

SoTL involves

  • asking meaningful questions about student learning, and about the teaching activities designed to facilitate student learning,
  • answering those questions by making relevant student learning visible to gather evidence of thinking and learning, and then systematically analyzing this evidence, and
  • sharing the results of that analysis publicly to invite peer review, and to contribute to broader bodies of knowledge on student learning , and
  • aiming to improve student learning by strengthening the practice of teaching (one’s own and others’).

We say that SoTL brings a scholarly approach because it begins with intellectual curiosity, is conducted deliberately and systematically, is grounded in an analysis of relevant evidence, and results in findings shared with peers to be reviewed and to expand a knowledge base.

The videos* below distinguish between SoTL and scholarly teaching and then outline some of the key characteristics of SoTL. Peter Felten also chimes in on the differences between SoTL and scholarly teaching in the first ten minutes of this Research in Action podcast.

“Scholarship of Teaching and Learning vs. Scholarly Teaching”
“Key Characteristics of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning”









* These video interviews were conducted at the 2013 conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning by Elon University’s Center for Engaged Learning.


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