The Scholarly Professor: Evidence-based Practice and Student Learning

classroomexperimentThis academic year we set our focus on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: an approach that uses discovery, reflection, and evidence-based methods to research effective teaching and student learning. The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is an outgrowth of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and its conviction that teaching in higher education can and should be scholarly work. We’ll have much more to say about SoTL … its origins, its methods, its benefits, and how to get started in your classroom … but this month we’d simply like to introduce you to the approach.

Vanderbilt University has a useful guide to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. We take our introduction from their website:

The scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL, pronounced “sō-tul” in the US) is a synthesis of teaching, learning, and research in higher education that aims to bring a scholarly lens—the curiosity, the inquiry, the rigor, the disciplinary variety—to what happens in the classroom (brick-and-mortar, virtual, co-curricular, et al.).

SoTL involves:

  • asking meaningful questions about student learning and about the teaching activities designed to facilitate student learning,
  • answering those questions by first making relevant student learning visible as evidence of thinking and learning (or mis-learning), and then systematically analyzing this evidence, and
  • sharing the results of that analysis publicly to invite review and to contribute to the body of knowledge on student learning in a variety of contexts, and
  • aiming to improve student learning by strengthening the practice of teaching (one’s own and others’).

We say that SoTL brings a scholarly approach because it begins with intellectual curiosity, is conducted deliberately and systematically, is grounded in an analysis of some evidence, and results in findings shared with peers to be reviewed and to expand a knowledge base.

The Vanderbilt site has two videos that further define SoTL.

Will SoTL work in a community college setting? This is just one of the questions we’ll consider this academic year. In the mean time, check out this 2007 Change Magazine article titled The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at the Two-Year College: Promise and Peril.




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