What is SoTL?
In his seminal work entitled: ‘Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate’, Boyer (1990) reimagines what scholarship is, and in doing so introduces a concept he calls scholarship of teaching or Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL):
“We believe the time has come to move beyond the tired old ‘teaching versus research’ debate and give […] ‘scholarship’ a broader […] meaning, one that brings legitimacy to the full scope of academic work. Surely, scholarship means engaging in original research. But the work of the scholar also means stepping back from one’s investigation, looking for connections, building bridges between theory and practice, and communicating one’s knowledge effectively to students. Specifically, we conclude that the work of the professoriate might be thought of as having four separate, yet overlapping, functions. These are: the scholarship of discovery; the scholarship of integration; the scholarship of application; and the scholarship of teaching [and learning]” (p.68.).
There are many different approaches to defining what SoTL is, and its role in enhancing learning and teaching in Higher Education; Fanghanel et al., (2016) provide a comprehensive overview of approaches and debates in a report commissioned by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) entitled: ‘Defining and supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A sector-wide study’.
The golden thread coursing through different approaches to SoTL is the core aim of enhancing students learning.
SoTL at NTU
At NTU, and within the Trent Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT), we think of SoTL as involving a situated enquiry into pedagogic practice to ‘make learning better’ and of SoTL as being enacted at multiple and overlapping levels: individual (micro), community (meso) and institutional (macro).
For an individual, SoTL may begin with an enquiry to enhance personal understanding of one’s own pedagogic practice, but ideally should mature into a collaborative endeavour to create, and share innovative practice.
Therefore, TILT’s approach to SoTL can be characterised as:
- Micro Level: The application or integration of disciplinary knowledge and expertise into curriculum and pedagogy.
This involves reflecting on the curriculum and one’s own practice both from a subject-specific lens and a pedagogical lens, and adapting curriculum content, pedagogy and/or one’s own practice in light of new knowledge and experience.
- Meso Level: The application of scholarly knowledge and approaches in academic service.
TILT provides a space and platform by which to share practice, innovate, create and collaborate as a community of practice concerned with enhancing knowledge of and institutional arrangements for learning and teaching to ‘make learning better’.
- Macro Level: Inquiry into learning, which advances teaching and learning by making findings public, within the University community or externally to the wider community.
This involves the dissemination of SoTL findings, tools and resources for peer review and public scrutiny in service of the public good and wider sectoral development of policy and practice.
What does SoTL this mean for me in practice?
SoTL can involve a range of activities and outputs including, for example, curriculum development; innovative learning and teaching resources; publications such as journal articles, books and reports; and, events to disseminate and share innovative practice.
How can I engage with SoTL at NTU?
- Join our community of Practice & Scholarship Groups or start your own P&S group;
- Apply for funding for SPUR, Sabbatical and Seedcorn Schemes and get involved in developing a SoTL project;
- Present at our annual Festival of Learning; and,
- Begin and/or continue your HEA Fellowship journey.
Boyer, E. 1990. Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Fanghanel, J., Pritchard, J., Potter, J., & Wisker, G. (2016). Defining and supporting the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL): A sector-wide study. York: HE Academy.