SoTL–What is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning?

This semester I am enrolled in the second semester of Iowa State’s Preparing Future Faculty Program. This program supplements graduate education with training and mentoring opportunities focused on teaching and learning. It prepares graduate students for future careers as faculty members at institutions of higher education. I’ll post more on PFF itself later, but today I would like to talk about something we recently learned about–SoTL.

What is SoTL?10919000_10204909223988660_48762338856790272_n

SoTL, or the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, extends the realms of research into teaching. SoTL is more than being a good teacher. SoTL integrates the scientific method of research into teaching and learning.

The sharing of scientific research results with other scientists and with the general public is a key aspect of scientific research.  SoTL is distinctive from “just being a really good professor” (still very admirable) in that, with SoTL, there is a dissemination component as well. You are testing new teaching practices, trying new pedagogies, etc., but you don’t keep what you discover to yourself. You share your results with others, so that they may benefit from your discoveries as well. To quote a paper by Marcketti et al (2015)–

SoTL contributes to the body of knowledge about effective teaching, and fulfills the requirements of all scholarship-it is reviewed and made public to be built upon by fellow scholars (Marcketti et al, 2015)

Iowa State University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching created this 4-minute  introduction to SoTL. Check it out!

Why SoTL?

The Scholarship of Teaching AND Learning benefits both faculty AND students.

pexels-photo-207691.jpegStudents benefit from classroom environments that are more active and engaging as professors keep up with the latest research in teaching methods, as well as experiment with improving those methods in their own classrooms. The days of the endless lecture, learn-by-osmosis style of teaching, are fast coming to an end!

Professors benefit from engaging in SoTL by improving their teaching and by creating more engaging and effective learning environments for their students. Students seek out professors who have better student outcomes and whose classrooms are known to be fun and exciting. But even more, professors benefit from SoTL by gaining variety in their teaching and research endeavors. They can experiment with pedagogies and change course designs and activities, endeavoring to improve the effectiveness of their course. Many professors teach the same course or series of courses year after year, which can understandably become tiresome with time. By engaging in SoTL, professors can approach those repeated courses from a new, research lens, striving to improve and change the course for the better.


Importantly, professors also benefit from SoTL by increasing their publication potential. The reality of research intensive institutions, like large state or land grand universities, is that a faculty member is evaluated largely based on their rate of publication. While disciplinary research (books or journal papers published in ones actual research field, like chemistry, engineering, English, etc.) is still generally preferred over SoTL, many school are beginning to include SoTL publications in the tenure review process. Which is great, because SoTL has so many benefits for students, professors, AND institutions! And it’s easier for professors to engage in (often not requiring large research grants to fund)).

It’s even possible for graduate students to engage in SoTL during their graduate education. I hope to have the opportunity to conduct SoTL research alongside my dissertation research!




Iowa State CELT [isucelt] (2015, October 8). Scholarship of Teaching and Learning [Video File] Retrieved from

Marcketi, Sara; VanDerZanden, Ann Marie; and Leptein, Jennifer R. (2015) “SoTL Champtions: Leveraging Their Lessons Learned,” International Journal for the Scholoarship of Teaching and Learning:  Vol. 9: No. 1, Article 4.

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