What is SoTL?

The Scholarship for Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is a growing movement in post-secondary education that uses systemic, deliberate and methodological inquiry into student learning to improve teaching in a way that transfers beyond a single course by disseminating findings and mobilizing knowledge.

The field of SoTL aims to take teaching beyond a well-rehearsed practice into a scholarly activity, one that engages the instructor in careful planning, evaluation, and dissemination. Notably, SoTL uses a wide range of methodologies and often builds on disciplinary practices and epistemologies.

Simon Bates, Senior Advisor Teaching and Learning and Academic Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, defines SoTL as the “systematic inquiry into teaching and learning processes and their effectiveness, made public.” Its three main objectives are:

  1. To conduct scholarly examination of what takes place inside the classroom, asking questions and collecting evidence on the effectiveness of different methods of teaching;
  2. To make the results of this analysis readily available to other scholars, inviting their comment and review and contributing to knowledge on student learning; and
  3. To improve student learning by finding better, more engaging ways to teach.

How to SoTL?

Ask questions. Where aspects of a course are not working well enough? What learning outcomes are not being met sufficiently?

Look for opportunities for improvement. What technologies and pedagogies may help improve these aspects of the course? How can they be applied in the specific context?

Evaluate. Document inputs, process, and outcomes. Identify foci for evaluation and required evidence, and study whether the course has been approved.

Iterate. Most challenges take more than a single attempt at solution. Evaluate generality. Does a similar approach work for related topics and contexts?

Talk about it. Sharing lessons learned, both positive and negative, are essential to advance the field.