What is SoTL?

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What is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning?

The scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) is a effort to systematically increase our understanding of how students at the college level learn and what teaching strategies are most effective at promoting this learning. At the core of this endeavor are two assumptions:

• that the challenges faced in college classrooms can more easily surmounted if they are subjected to the same kinds of systematic and collective inquiry that has proven so effective in the realm of research.
• that, since a great deal of the learning that occurs in colleges and university is shaped by the nature of knowledge in specific academic disciplines, professionals from across the curriculum, not only by those in schools of education, should be actively involved in this endeavor.

Operating within these assumptions scholars of teaching and learning seek to produce knowledge that is, in the words of Lee Shulman, is “public, susceptible to critical review and evaluation, and accessible for exchange and use by other members of one’s scholarly community.”* It is hoped that this knowledge will allow instructors to build on the work of others to create new and more effective strategies for increasing student learning.

Academics working in this new field often make a distinction between the scholarship of teaching and learning, which is research that fits the requirements of Shulman’s definition, and scholarly teaching, which represents the efforts of instructors to apply insights borrowed from the scholarship of teaching and learning in their own classrooms.


“The History of SoTL,” an online component of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL) 2013 Conference (c/o Elon University’s Center for Engaged Learning)

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* Lee Shulman, “Course Anatomy: The Dissection and Analysis of Knowledge Through Teaching” in Pat Hutchings, ed.,The Course Portfolio: How Faculty Can Examine Their Teaching to Advance Practice and Improve Student Learning (Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education, 1988), 5.

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