When adopting new, innovative teaching practices, you may eventually wonder about the effects of what you have done.
- What has the impact been of the changes you have made?
- Have there been effects on student satisfaction? Student engagement? Student learning?
- Do the new learning activities serve all students equally well, or do they benefit some students more than others?
When you attempt to explore these questions through careful inquiry, you are engaging in what is often called the scholarship of teaching and learning or SoTL (which rhymes with yodel).
What is SoTL?
The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning or SoTL is a systematic investigation of a teaching/learning issue that is shared for review, dissemination and possibly some action that changes what is done in the classroom. Along with traditional educational research and the learning sciences, SoTL helps to provide the evidentiary basis for classroom teaching practice in higher education. It’s valuable because findings from these studies frequently have strong external validity, which is to say that they can be extended to other, similar classrooms and settings.
SoTL is a systematic investigation of a teaching/learning issue that is shared for review, dissemination and possibly some action that changes what is done in the classroom.
However, educational research is a specialized sub-field within social science research, built on a body of theory and existing research, with its own techniques, tools, and practices. In order to engage productively in SoTL, most instructors, even those with considerable research experience in their own fields, will require some guidance to conduct a valid and reliable study that yields information useful for advancing instructional practice.
These pages attempt to provide that guidance by describing some of the main building blocks of a successful, informative inquiry into questions surrounding innovative teaching practices. The guidance we give here is not comprehensive — some topics, like data analysis, or the development and testing of measurement tools, are beyond its scope — and it is necessarily general in nature.
For more specific questions about actual research projects, please refer to our educational research and evaluation services.