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Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is an academic field dedicated to the study of teaching and learning, particularly in postsecondary settings.

SoTL can involve classroom-based research, pedagogical reflection, and institution-wide assessment. It finds its roots in a variety of fields (such as education, psychology, and composition studies). Much of the content in the SoTL section is drawn from the good work of Stonehill College and its Center for Teaching and Learning (Great thanks to Stacy Grooters for copyright permission and to John Lanci from Stonehill College for creating much of this content).

Where to start

In her book, Enhancing Scholarly Work on Teaching and Learning (Jossey Bass, 2006), Weimer provides excellent summaries of the advantages and challenges of seven different categories of SOTL, which she presents under two main umbrellas: Wisdom of Practice and Research Scholarship. Weimer has done much to promote critical thinking about this relatively new discipline and has confronted head-on a number of challenges it presents, particularly concerning academic rigor and assessment.

Weimer's suggested approaches

Wisdom of Practice

Personal Accounts of Change. Faculty reports their experiences associated with implementing new instructional techniques, methods, or approaches.

Recommended Practice Report. This is advice-giving literature concerning what to do about an aspect of one's teaching. The advice is based on experience, research, or a combination of the two.

Recommended Content Report. How to teach particular aspects of content or one's subject. The emphasis here is less on pedagogy than on what concepts, skills, or perspectives to deliver, what sequence to deliver it.

Personal Narratives. This is a very diverse category that doesn't offer advice or focus on specific aspects of instruction. It is generally reflective, critical analysis in which the author looks inward, reflecting on insights and ideas that have had an impact on his or her personal growth as a professional. Some examples of such narratives are statements of teaching philosophy, advocating for a position on broad policy issues, or any other work that expresses a personal point of view.

Research scholarship

  1. Quantitative Investigations. This is traditional educational and social science research, relying on experimental designs that involve "treatment and control groups, with some manipulations of variables across or between them."
  2. Qualitative Studies. Weimer identifies this as the newest form of SOTL, with methodologies that differ according to discipline. All forms study human behavior from the ground up, sharing "a commitment to study phenomena in naturalistic settings and to analyze results interpretively."
  3. Descriptive Research. Faculty collects and analyze survey data using either quantitative or qualitative methods, sometimes combining the two.

SoTL methods

Among the methods that have been adopted and adapted by SOTL researchers:

  • Case study: An in-depth description and analysis that might employ a variety of quantitative and qualitative approaches in the study of a single case.
  • Classroom ethnography: Applies ethnographic, sociolinguistic and/or discourse analytic research methods to study the behavior, interactions, and "culture" of a classroom; "emphasizes the socio-cultural nature of teaching and learning processes, incorporates participants' perspectives on their own behavior, and offers a holistic analysis sensitive to levels of context in which interactions and classrooms are situated." 
  • Discourse analysis/textual analysis: Investigates language use as a reflection of social practices and systems; for example, student texts could be used as evidence of learning or as examples of the cultural narratives constructed within a particular classroom context.
  • Experimental design: The researcher deliberately changes one or more "process" variables in order to observe or measure the effect of that change on one or more "response" variables; the goal is to rule out other possible variables in order to identify the actual variable that causes the effect.
  • Grounded theory research: A qualitative approach from the social sciences which works inductively to derive meaning from data; seeks to develop theories that are "grounded" in data.
  • Longitudinal research study: An observational method that consists of gathering data at different points in time either from the same group of people or from a sample group from a particular community.
  • Participatory action research: A method by which researchers and those they study enter into a partnership to identify the best way to study a problem and make sure that the results of the research make a difference to those who were studied.
  • Quasi-experimental design: Less strictly controlled than a traditional experimental method; makes a comparison between two groups in which one variable is different.
  • Self-study or auto-ethnography: In-depth reflections on one's practices as an educator.
  • Survey research: Any method that involves asking questions of respondents; it can range from short paper-and-pencil questionnaires to in-depth one-on-one interviews.

This list is far from comprehensive. Please send additional methods to

SoTL and Human Subjects Review Board at Metropolitan State

Human Subjects Review Board information can be found under Academic and Student Affairs

Journals and conferences

A list of recommended SoTL journals and conferences can be found in our Teaching and Learning Resources section.

SoTL resources, fellowships and grants other guides to SoTL

The following SoTL guides have been developed by professional organizations and teaching centers at other institutions: