Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence (CAFE)

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

What is the scholarship of teaching & learning (SoTL) and why do it?

SoTL can be defined as “systematic reflection on teaching and learning made public” (McKinney, 2013, p.1). The benefits of conducting SoTL studies include:

  • Improved teaching and learning
  • Revitalize senior faculty members
  • Help with program assessment and review, provide data to enhance institutional priorities and for accreditation
  • Facilitate new partnerships among faculty, staff, and students in and across disciplines
  • Provide opportunities for involvement in national/international higher education initiatives
  • Offer additional opportunities for research productivity and outcomes for faculty
  • Strengthen budget requests for additional operational or personnel funds

Conducting SoTL adds to faculty and student learning, as it stimulates discussions among faculty members who are at different stages in their career and disciplines.

McKinney, K. (2013). The scholarship of teaching and learning in and across the disciplines. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

How do we conduct SoTL?

The fundamental process of SoTL is the same as any other research except that you as the teacher primarily examine your own teaching and your own students' learning. Here's a summary of the SoTL process:

  • Ask a question about learning in your particular context
  • Design as robust a study as necessary and possible to answer the question
  • Perform the study and data analysis (qualitative and/or quantitative)
  • Draw conclusions that may lead to further researchable questions

Note: If you plan to publish your work, be sure to obtain IRB approval prior to gathering data!

Although SoTL projects build on and use the findings of pure education or education psychology research, the difference between SoTL and such research is two-fold. First, the SoTL researcher is a disciplinary expert rather than an expert in "education." Second, SoTL research takes place in the unique and relatively uncontrolled world of a specific classroom, instead of in a controlled experimental setting.

Faculty members cannot do the same kind of research in the classroom that they do in the lab, the archives, or the field. However, as disciplinary professionals, professors can identify the important learning questions in the disciplines.

For example, professors can ask why it is so difficult for students to grasp a particular concept or why students can't seem to remember certain kinds of information from one quarter to the next. Further, faculty can propose and test solutions to learning problems, and decide if one or more solutions are effective. Finally, the entire process can be presented to peers in both research and teaching, and treated as a topic for discussion.

Where can SoTL be published?

Here is a list of well-known SoTL journals that are inclusive of all discplines:

There are many disciplinary specific journals, a list of which is provided by Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Kennesaw State University.

Are there SoTL Conferences?


  • CSU Symposium on University Teaching (statewide, usually held in the spring)
  • Lilly Conferences on College & University Teaching (international)
  • The Teaching Professor Conference (national, usually held in June)

Other Resources