SoTL: Scholarship of
Teaching and Learning
Getting Started and Formulating the Research Question
Dr. Staci Trekles, firstname.lastname@example.org
What is SoTL?
• The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is a means to figure out why
certain teaching strategies work or don’t work, and how students learn in your
• SoTL can help you (and your students) reflect, refine, and innovate your teaching in
a systematic, reflective way
• Often multidisciplinary and can include classes and colleagues from across
• Engaging in SoTL is a scholarly activity that results in publishable articles or
• Reflective process, similar to research in any disciplinary field
• Goals typically relate to improving student learning and experiences
• Five primary steps (Bishop-Clark & Dietz-Uhler, 2012):
1. Generate the research question and do literature review
2. Design the study
3. Collect data
4. Analyze data
5. Present and publish
• Work from your question and identify the types of evidence that you will have to work with
in the time that you have, such as:
• Student work samples and assessments
• Student evaluations
• The structure/design of your course
• Do a literature review and see what’s out there on the topic already
• The more types of evidence, the better! “Triangulating” the data is a good idea
• Analyze the data in terms of similarities and differences in what you see, and how it
corresponds to the question
What SOTL Isn’t
• Not typically a randomized experimental study
• Not always controlled
• May not have large sample sizes, pretests, or post-tests
• Results are not (necessarily) generalizable
• Definitely not limited to certain disciplines or certain forms of evidence in
order to show your results
• Definitely NOT inferior to other forms of research
Start with a “Problem”
• What major themes are you facing in your course/teaching/program?
• What are your biggest challenges in your courses? How have you attempted
to solve them?
• What has gone well or not-so-well that you’d like to understand better for the
• Are there new developments in your discipline that students need to be
better prepared for?
Getting More Specific About Your Problem
• Consider your students or groups of students - what are they like? Can they
help you in the research?
• Will there be comparison groups?
• What types of data will you have available?
• How will you analyze the data?
• What kind of time do you have to engage in this project?
Formulating the Research Question
• The more specific you can get, the
• Keywords for finding literature should
be available in the research questions
• Is there still some room for new
scholarship in this area? Or will your
research be the same as previous
Genres of SoTL Questions
• What worked – reports from
classes on what went well; before-
• What is – reflections on a period of
time in teaching; includes
summaries of experimentation,
integration of learning theory and
• What it looks like – descriptions
and comparisons of courses in a
larger context; across disciplines or
within a program
• What is possible – formulating new
theories and conceptual
frameworks based on practice
(Hutchings, 2000; Nelson, 2003)
• Is the current attendance policy resulting in higher levels of achievement on
• Does the use of clickers (or Think-Pair-Share, or some other strategy)
improve performance on exams regarding quadratic equations?
• How can deeper critical thinking be achieved through the use of feedback on
• Will students increase their confidence in public speaking after watching and
critiquing videos of themselves giving speeches?
• How does the incorporation of reflective essay assignments in beginning
biology influence student learning in upper-level biology coursework?
• Let’s generate some questions based on the things that interest you about
• Are there any potential collaborations in the room?
• Consider conferences with practitioner focus in your field, or in the education or
social science disciplines (i.e., EDUCAUSE, SITE, AACE, Quality Matters,
MERLOT, Teaching Professor, Lilly International Conferences)
• Conferences and journals with a education focus in your discipline (i.e., Computer
Science Education, Teaching of Psychology, Nurse Education Today, Journal of Research in
• Many publications specialize in SOTL research:
• Vanderbilt SOTL “getting started” guide: https://my.vanderbilt.edu/sotl/doing-
• Guidebook to SOTL – thinking of a problem and the questions:
• Annual SoTL Conferences: http://www.washington.edu/teaching/sotl-annual-conferences/
• Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning at Univ. of Central Florida:
• Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University videos:
• Bishop-Clark, C, & Dietz-Uhler, B (2012). Engaging in the scholarship of teaching and
learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
• Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professorate. San Francisco,
• Hutchings, P. (2000). Opening lines: Approaches to the scholarship of teaching and learning.
Menlo Park, CA: Carnegie.
• Nelson, C. (2003). Doing it: Examples of several of the different genres of the
scholarship of teaching and learning. Journal of Excellence in College Teaching, 14(2), 85-