A consensus has formed within growing circles in academia that there is scholarly research to be done on teaching and learning, that the systematic creation of rigorous knowledge about teaching and learning is a crucial prerequisite to responding to major challenges facing academia, that this knowledge must be shared publicly and should build cumulatively over time, and that the explorations of this area should be conducted by academics from all disciplines, not just those with appointments in schools of education.
asking questions about student learning and the teaching activities designed to promote student learning in an effort, at least in part, to improve one's own teaching practice,
answering those questions by systematically analyzing evidence of student learning, and
sharing the results of that analysis publicly in order to invite review and to contribute to the body of knowledge on student learning in a variety of contexts.
This essay provides some history of the term "scholarship of teaching and learning" and explores key elements of this approach to teaching.
Teaching as a Form of Scholarship
In an effort to define the scholarship performed by professors in academia as more than just "teaching versus research," Ernest L. Boyer, in his influential book Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (Carnegie Foundation, 1990), concluded that "the work of the professoriate might be thought of as having four separate, yet overlapping, functions. These are: the scholarship of discovery; the scholarship of integration; the scholarship of application; and the scholarship of teaching." This conceptualization of scholarship elevates the traditional role of teaching from "a routine function, tacked on" to an essential component of a professor's scholarly life. Furthermore, Boyer argued that the academy should recognize and reward all four components of scholarship, including the scholarship of teaching.
Building on Boyer's work, Charles E. Glassick, Mary Taylor Huber, and Gene I. Maeroff, in their book Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate (Carnegie Foundation, 1997), identified six standards against which all scholarly work, including the scholarship of teaching, should be evaluated. Scholarly work should have
These goals were chosen to be familiar to faculty members in the context of evaluating the scholarship of discovery (what is traditionally called "research") yet applicable to evaluating the other three types of scholarly work. Thus, by one definition, the scholarship of teaching is teaching that is done in ways that meet these six goals.
Teaching as Community Property
Shortly thereafter, Lee S. Shulman wrote an article titled "Taking Learning Seriously" (Change, 31:4, July/August 1999) in which he presented the following alternate definition of scholarship.
An act of intelligence or of artistic creation becomes scholarship when it possesses at least three attributes: it becomes public; it becomes an object of critical review and evaluation by members of one's community; and members of one's community begin to use, build upon, and develop those acts of mind and creation.
Shulman argued that in order to take learning seriously as a priority of academia, a scholarship of teaching should be emphasized that meets these three qualities. Shulman's definition of scholarship emphasized the aspects of scholarly work that are done in a community of scholars—an emphasis not present in the definition presented by Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff. The scholarship of teaching, in Shulman's view, presents teaching as "community property" in ways similar to those in which research is viewed as community property.
A Focus on Student Learning
In a following article, "The Scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments" (Change, 31:5, September/October 1999), Shulman and his co-author Pat Hutchings explained why the idea of a "scholarship of teaching" transformed into a "scholarship of teaching and learning." They wrote that the scholarship of teaching "requires a kind of 'going meta,' in which faculty frame and systemically investigate questions related to student learning—the conditions under which it occurs, what it looks like, how to deepen it, and so forth—and do so with an eye not only to improving their own classroom but to advancing practice beyond it." Thus, SoTL is not only done publicly to invite critical review and exchange of ideas but also with an emphasis on inquiry into student learning.
In the introduction to Opening Lines: Approaches to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (Carnegie Foundation, 2000), Hutchings presented the following taxonomy of questions in an effort to categorize ways in which faculty members can accomplish this inquiry into student learning.
"What works?" – These are questions that seek "evidence about the relative effectiveness of different [teaching] approaches."
"What is?" – These are questions that seek to describe, but not evaluate the effectiveness of, different teaching approaches. These are also questions that seek to describe how students learn.
"Visions of the possible" – These are questions related to goals for teaching and learning that have yet to be met or are new to the faculty member asking the questions.
"Theory building" questions – These are questions designed to build theoretical frameworks for SoTL similar to frameworks used in other disciplines.
A Focus on Evidence of Student Learning
The ways in which these questions are asked and in which teaching is made community property, available for critique and being built upon, vary among faculty who engage in SoTL. In the Peer Review of Teaching Project, faculty members develop course portfolios in which learning goals, teaching activities and methods, and evidence of student learning are documented and reflected upon by the faculty member teaching the course and his or her peers. Dan Berstein, former director of the project wrote in the article The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (Academe, 91:4, July/August 2005), "Sustained inquiry into student learning across semesters that is made widely available in an electronic course portfolio is a high form of scholarship in its own right."
In the same article, Randy Bass, director of the Visible Knowledge Project (VKP), described the SoTL projects initiated by the participants in VKP. Their central questions were "How did they know that their students were learning?" and "Did the students' learning promise to last?" He writes, "By asking these questions, many faculty discovered early on that what most interested—or eluded—them about their student's learning could not be answered simply by looking at regularly assigned course work." Thus VKP makes central the idea of making student learning more visible by collecting evidence of that learning in a variety of forms, some of which are not traditionally used to assess student learning.
Leaders of the Delta Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found that the term "scholarship of teaching and learning" had less meaning than the term "teaching-as-research" for the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) faculty and students with whom they work. They present teaching-as-research as having the following nine components.
Informed by the work of others
Includes an explicit question or hypothesis about teaching-learning relationships
Shaped by an explicit design or plan for addressing the question at hand
Collecting credible data as evidence
Analyzing evidence and drawing conclusions
Reflecting and taking action
Cyclical and ongoing
Results are documented and disseminated
The practitioner is principally responsible for the inquiry plan and process
Each of these projects places an emphasis on collecting and analyzing evidence of student learning. While a teacher's personal reflections and the reflections of his or her peers and students are helpful in answering questions about student learning, SoTL involves more than reflections—it involves evidence of student learning.
In this course portfolio, George Mason University history professor T. Mills Kelly addresses the question, "How does the introduction of hypermedia into a history course influence student learning in that course?" He describes his experience teaching two sections of the same Western Civilization course. In one section, he made primary source documents available on the course web site. In the other section, primary source documents were only available in print form. By surveying students on their use of primary source documents and by analyzing student essays and papers, Mills was able to draw several conclusions about the use of hypermedia in his course.
In this article, Georgetown University mathematics professor James Sandefur describes his investigations into his students' problem solving strategies. He conducted "think alouds" with his students, in which a student is asked to solve a problem and say aloud everything that they think as they do. Sandefur videotaped a number of these think alouds and learned much about the strategies (good and bad) his students often use to solve mathematics problems. He also describes how what he has learned has impacted his teaching.
As part of their work in the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching's Teaching Certificate program, graduate student and post-doc participants complete a small SoTL project. They are also asked to create an online "poster" describing their project. This link leads to a selection of these posters from those who have finished the Teaching Certificate program.
Information on the work of over 140 current and former Carnegie Scholars can be found on this page. Carnegie Scholars is a grant opportunity for faculty doing SoTL work funded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching that includes a one-year residency at the Foundation.
At the Peer Review of Teaching Project, SoTL is made public through course portfolios. This page describes two types of portfolios--benchmark course portfolios and inquiry course portfolios. See also their page on formatting and organizing a course portfolio.
The Delta Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madision includes an internship component in which graduate students and faculty collaborate on SoTL-like projects. The program's guidebook provides some guidance and prompts for designing, implementing, and reflecting on these kinds of projects.
This resource page on the peer review of teaching from the University of Wisconsin-Madison provides information on a variety of ways in which to use peer review of one's teaching to document, assess, and improve one's teaching. Many of these methods would be of use to those conducting SoTL projects.
This 92-page guide from the NSF summarizes best practices for a variety quantitative and qualitative evaluations methods for both formative and summative evaluation. Many of these methods would be appropriate methods for SoTL work.
This resource kit from the Visible Knowledge Project provides a series of activities designed to help one understand important questions to ask in a SoTL project and develop one's own researchable SoTL questions.
This module from the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown University is designed to help one move from a broad question about student learning more narrow ones that are amenable to research. The module features a case study in which mathematician Curtis Bennett discusses his own "narrowing" process.
"Think alouds" can be used to discover a student's problem solving strategies. In a "think aloud," a student is asked to solve a problem and says aloud everything they think as they do so. "Think alouds" offer valuable insight into a student's thought processes whether they are solving a math problem, interpreting an historical document, or translating a passage. For an example of a "think aloud" in a math class.
The PPI is an assessment tool used to determine students' levels of knowledge, experience, and confidence on tasks identified by the instructor. This page provides several examples of PPIs and how they have been used in SoTL projects.
Knowledge surveys are tools for exploring students' confidence in their ability to solve problems and answer questions in a course or curriculum. This article by Edward Nuhfer and Delores Knipp explores their use and validity as an assessment tool.
Going Public with SoTL
Publishing in Journals
To find journals that publish articles on SoTL from a variety of disciplines, see the following lists of general SoTL journals.
See also Getting SoTL Articles Published--A Few Tips, an article in which Kathleen McKinney, Cross Chair in SoTL and Professor of Sociology at Illinois State University, presents suggestions for publishing SoTL work based on her experience as an author and editor.
In the multi-campus Peer Review of Teaching Project, faculty members develop and exchange course portfolios in order to better document and understand their teaching and to treat teaching as more of a community endeavor. These portfolios describe the faculty members' efforts to align course goals with student assessment and teaching activities.
The Visible Knowledge Project (VKP) is a five-year, multi-campus initiative aimed at understanding the relationships between teaching, technology, and learning focused on the idea that technology can make knowledge (that is, student learning) more visible and can thus assist teachers in determining whether or not they are meeting their teaching goals.
RUCASTL is a group of research universities supporting SoTL through fostering SoTL publications, preparing future faculty (doctoral students planning academic careers) to conduct SoTL, and exploring ways in which the institutional reward process can include SoTL.
SoTL work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is supported in part by the Center for Teaching Excellence through a SoTL reading group and membership in the Research University Consortium for the Advancement of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (RUCASTL), among other ways.
Additionally, the Department of Sociology at IU-Bloomington provides a Preparing Future Faculty Program for their graduate students. This program requires participants to complete a three-course sequence on teaching and learning, and the third course in this sequence requires a group SoTL project.
Illinois State supports its faculty in SoTL work in a number of ways, including involvement in the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) Campus Program as a "cluster leader" and an endowed faculty chair in the scholarship of teaching and learning.
The State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo State supports SoTL work among its faculty by participation in
the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) Campus Program, recognition of SoTL work in the tenure and promotion process, and internal funding opportunities for faculty. See their 2004 SoTL report for more information.
The Delta Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madision is designed to current and future faculty members in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines succeed in their academic careers. Among many other activities, the Delta Program provides an internship program in which graduate students collaborate with faculty members to conduct teaching-as-research projects that are very similar to many forms of SoTL projects.
In this article, Randy Bass compares the use of the word "problem" in traditional scholarly research (where finding a problem to work on is a good thing) and in teaching (where problems are to be avoided). Bass suggests that finding "problems" in one's teaching is an important component of SoTL.
In this article, Daniel Bernstein, former director of the Peer Review of Teaching Project, and Randy Bass, director of the Visible Knowledge Project, compare and contrast the scholarship of teaching and learning seen in their respective projects.
In this introduction to Opening Lines, Pat Hutchings summarizes and compares the approaches to SoTL taken by the Carnegie Scholars whose articles appear in the rest of the volume. This essay includes the useful “What is?”, “What works?”, and “What’s possible?” taxonomy of SoTL questions.
In this article a number of professors of medicine argue for a scholarship of teaching and learning in the medical field and propose organizational changes to support it.
Huber, Mary Taylor, and Pat Hutchings, "Building the Teaching Commons," Change, 38 (3), 2006.
In this article, Huber and Hutchings highlight some of the points made in their book, The Advance of Learning: Building the Teaching Commons, concerning the development of a "conceptual space in which communities of educators... come together to share ideas about teaching and learning."
Hutchings, Pat, and Susan E. Clarke, "The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Contributing to Reform in Graduate Education," in Paths to the Professoriate: Strategies for Enriching the Preparation of Future Faculty, edited by Donald Wulff and Anne Austin, Jossey-Bass, 2004.
This article features a discussion of ways in which SoTL can impact graduate education, particularly for those graduate students intending to pursue academic careers.
Historian David Pace explores in this article the ways in which SoTL can and should be done in the particular discipline of history.
Shapiro, Howard, "Promotion & Tenure & the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning," Change, 38 (2), 2006.
Shapiro gives an inside look at the tenure and promotion process and how it values research and teaching. He also argues that if universities want to take teaching seriously, they need to take SoTL seriously.
This volume features essays by faculty members reflecting on the state of research into teaching and learning in their respective academic disciplines. The introduction and table of contents to this volume are available online.
This volume features essays by scholars reflecting on the ways in which their careers, particularly aspects of tenure and promotion, have been affected by their SoTL work. The forward to this volume is available online.
In this volume the authors survey the current SoTL landscape and describe ways in which faculty and institutions can and do use SoTL to improve the quality of higher education. An essay by the authors on the same topic is available online.
This volume collects essays on several aspects of SoTL, including its relations to research and to "scholarly teaching" as well as assessment of SoTL and SoTL's role in faculty and graduate student development. Vanderbilt faculty, staff, and students can access this volume online here through FindIt@VU.
Technically, this is an issue of a journal, not a book, but it collects essays on different aspects of and approaches to SoTL
from several authors. Vanderbilt faculty, staff, and students can access this volume online here.
The Center for Teaching provides a wide range of confidential consultation services to individuals for developmental and formative purposes. If you are interested in pursuing a SoTL project at Vanderbilt and would like to discuss your ideas with a CFT consultant, please contact the CFT at 2-7290 or via email.
The Teaching Certificate program has been designed to help graduate students, professional students, and post-doctoral fellows develop and refine their teaching skills through three cycles of teaching activities, each consisting of inquiry, experimentation, and reflection phases.
The third cycle involves the design and implementation of a SoTL project. During this cycle, participants participate in a SoTL Working Group designed to provide participants with mentoring and feedback on their projects from CFT consultants and from peers engaging in similar projects.
VaNTH is a National Science Foundation-funded engineering research center consisting of Vanderbilt and three other institutions. Its mission is to "transform bioengineering education to produce adaptive experts by developing, implementing and assessing educational processes, materials and technologies that are readily accessible and widely disseminated."
Locally, VaNTH has provided resources for biomedical engineering and education faculty to collaborate on rigorous SoTL projects aimed at developing and assessing biomedical engineering teaching modules, teaching practices, and educational technologies.
The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) is a National Science Foundation-funded network of universities intended to "promote the development of a national faculty in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse student audiences as part of their professional careers."
One of the three "pillars" of CIRTL's work is "Teaching-as-Research," another way of describing SoTL. In the spring of 2006, Vanderbilt joined the CIRTL Network, and has begun exploring ways of collaborating with the network institutions to fulfill CIRTL's mission locally by building on and interconnecting Vanderbilt's current strengths in STEM education and professional development.
The Visible Knowledge Project (VKP), a recently-completed five-year, multi-campus initiative, explored the relationships between teaching, technology, and learning, focusing on the idea that technology can make knowledge (i.e., student learning) more visible and can thus assist teachers in determining whether or not they are meeting their teaching goals.