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Queen's University

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

What is Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)?

Pronounced “sought-ell”, SoTL is the engagement in research and theory development that is proposed, rigorously studied, critically examined, and disseminated through conferences and publications to advance the larger teaching communities knowledge and practice.  In his 1990 report, Boyer conceived of academic scholarship as involving "four separate, yet overlapping functions” of scholarship: discovery, integration, application and teaching (SoT) (page 16). "Learning", was added during the paradigm shift in higher education from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning (Barr & Tagg, 1995). The scholarship of teaching and learning is distinct from teaching excellence or expertise (Kreber, 2002), and from scholarly (or informed) teaching (Richlin, 2001).

Lee Shulman, president of the Carnegie Foundation, suggests that scholarship has at least three features (1999):

  • it becomes public,
  • it becomes an object of critical review and evaluation by members of one’s community,
  • it is used and built upon by members of one’s community who further develop the scholarship.

Why is Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Important?

SoTL provides a structured and valued means of both exploring current understandings of how students learn, and contributing to that understanding. By engaging in SoTL, instructors can strengthen and improve their teaching practice, and investigate issues of significance to other instructors.  SoTL includes:

  • innovation - the examination of innovative practices to adapt or document personal practice and to disseminate the approach for wider application; an assessment of whether and how this activity helps students to remember the components,
  • understanding - testing to support or dismiss the predictions and assess the applicability of the theories to teaching and learning practice.
  • exploration - identifying connections including relationships between your students' experiences or backgrounds and specific teaching practices or students' backgrounds. 

Conducting SoTL

Above all, it is important to recognize that the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning is not restricted to those with expertise in educational research.  Anyone involved in teaching can engage in SoTL as classroom researchers (Cross and Steadman, 1996). 

SoTL involves a series of steps or phases from the initial planning to conducting research, to sharing it "must be a formal, systematic process of inquiry that provides evidence of what works and why, and that evidence must be disseminated, critically reviewed and built upon" (Gale, in a speech reported by Charbonneau, 2005).  Conducting SoTL may involve:

  • building a better wheel, not recreating one - by reviewing the literature within your discipline and across disciplines to discover which topics have been previously studied, demonstrated and supported through SoTL,
  • gaining ethical clearance - for all research involving humans (including students) which is required for studies that will be disseminated at conferences or in publications. The Queen's General Research Ethics Board (GREB) < > has samples, forms and information about how to apply for ethics clearance,
  • collecting and/or analyzing - the research and analytical backgrounds of one's own field or other fields through questionnaires, interviews, observations or other data collection techniques,
  • connecting with colleagues examining similar SoTL questions at teaching and learning events, or apply out grants to hire a research assistant,
  • applying for grants to hire a research assistant,
  • disseminating your research through events at Queen's (e.g., Showcase of Teaching and Learning), disciplinary conferences, teaching and learning conferences (e.g., Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education), disciplinary educational and cross-disciplinary journals. The venue will depend upon your most likely audience, and the existing literature you are using.

Detailed models and guidelines for SoTL include:

  • Guidelines for the Design of a Scholarly Teaching Project
  • Weston and McAlpine’s (2001) three phases in a continuum of growth toward the scholarship of teaching and learning with suggested activities for each phase.
  • Kreber and Cranton’s three forms of reflections (content, process, premise) applied to three types of knowledge (instructional, pedagogical, curricular) with proposed activities to help faculty answer the suggested questions.
  • Theall and Centra’s activities characteristic of teaching scholarship across the three components of: (1) contributing to a shared public account of teaching; (2) demonstrating an emphasis on learning outcomes and relevant teaching practice; and (3) reflecting disciplinary and pedagogical knowledge and innovation.

Disseminating SoTL

In addition to informal methods of sharing with colleagues, there is a growing number of journals and conferences dedicated to SoTL, both cross-disciplinary and discipline-specific.

National and International


Most disciplines now have one or more journals on education and SOTL:

Many more journals, including those for specific academic fields, can be found on our evolving list and through Queen's Library.


Queen's General Research Ethics Board (GREB)

Tutorial on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning from ISSOTL with definitions, examples and research methods

Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL)


Barr, R., & Tagg, J. (1995). From teaching to learning: A new paradigm for undergraduate education. Change, 27, 12-25.

Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton, N.J.: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Charbonneau, L. (2005). Scholarship of teaching and learning comes of age, University Affairs.

Cross, P. K., & Steadman, M. H. (1996).  Classroom Research: Implementing the Scholarship of Teaching Jossey-Bass. San Francisco CA

Kreber, C. (2002). “Teaching Excellence, Teaching Expertise, and the Scholarship of Teaching.” Innovative Higher Education,  27(1), 5–23.

Kreber, C., & Cranton, P. (2000). Exploring the Scholarship of Teaching.The Journal of Higher Education71(4), 476-495.

Richlin, L. (2001). “Scholarly Teaching and the Scholarship of Teaching.” In C. Kreber (ed.), Revisiting Scholarship: Perspectives on the Scholarship of Teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 86. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Theall, M., & Centra, J. (2001).  Assessing the Scholarship of Teaching: Valid Decisions from Valid Evidence.   In C. Kreber (ed.), Revisiting Scholarship: Perspectives on the Scholarship of Teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 86. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Weston, C. B., & McAlpine, L. (2001).  Making Explicit the Development Toward the Scholarship of Teaching.  In C. Kreber (ed.), Revisiting Scholarship: Perspectives on the Scholarship of Teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 86. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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