What is SoTL?
Teaching is serious intellectual work. Teaching is what most college and university faculty give most of their professional and personal attention, time, and energy to during an academic career. Teaching is not secondary to traditional scholarship, but an intimate companion of such scholarship, as well as itself being the worthy object of scholarship. Good teaching mean good student learning outcomes. How can such outcomes occur? Why? When? With such foundational questions, the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) is continually born. An evidence-based approach to teaching and learning opens the doors to teaching, both literally and figuratively. Conversations and inquiries emerge. The serious intellectual work of teaching becomes both personal and public. Student learning deepens and the profession of teaching advances.
Most faculty care deeply about their teaching and their students' learning; many today are trying new classroom approaches in the hopes of strengthening the learning of students from increasingly diverse backgrounds and levels of preparation. But much of this work is lost to the larger academic community because it is private, undocumented, and untested. To build useful, shared understandings about teaching, growing numbers of faculty are now bringing their knowledge, skills, and commitments as scholars to their classroom work. The scholarship of teaching and learning invites faculty to examine their own classroom practice, document what works, and share lessons learned in ways that others can build on. Carnegie Academy for SoTL
In 1990 in Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate Ernest Boyer said the professoriate must "...break out of the tired old teaching versus research debate and define, in more creative ways, what it means to be a scholar." Lee Shulman, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, adds that "viewing teaching as scholarly work is essential. Teachers have to so often carry out their work in isolation from their colleagues. The result is that those who engage in innovative acts of teaching do not have many opportunities to build upon the work of others... we seek to render teaching public, subject to critical evaluation, and usable by others in the field" as the work of the The Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
The work of the professor becomes consequential only as it is understood by others. . . When defined as scholarship. . . teaching both educates and entices future scholars. Indeed, as Aristotle said, 'Teaching is the highest form of understanding.'" _ Boyer
In 1997, Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff in Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate say that "In 1990, The Carnegie Foundation published the report "Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate," offering a new paradigm for recognizing the full range of scholarly activity by college and university faculty. Since then, campuses across the country have been reexamining traditional ideas about scholarship against the new, more inclusive vision we proposed -- one that goes beyond research or, as we prefer to call it, the scholarship of discovery, to encourage scholarship in teaching, integration and application as well." Teaching and teachers benefit from this new awareness that teaching, not only disciplinary study, is a worthy subject for research in constructing a public body of knowledge that is steadily reviewed and developed.
More than simply a new term for traditional tasks, the scholarship of teaching describes a new concept of academic work. In the scholarly classroom,guided by reflective practitioners, students are encouraged to become speaking subjects, and teaching becomes the object of ceaseless and generativeinquiry. _ Bender & Gray, The Scholarship of Teaching
What is the difference between scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching & learning? Barbara Cambridge puts it this way:
Effective teaching is the goal of most college professors. Whether they teach often or infrequently, faculty members want their students to learn and want to figure out how to help them do so. Faculty who wish to explore the challenges in fostering student learning seek feedback from students through classroom assessment; guidance from local peers through reciprocal visits, joint course development activities, or faculty development workshops; and insight from disciplinary colleagues through reading literature about pedagogy in their field. They become informed teachers who benefit from the scholarship of others, and might be called "scholarly teachers".
However, as Pat Hutchings, Carnegie senior scholar, and Lee Shulman, point out in their article "The Scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments," the scholarship of teaching is something else. They write that the scholarship of teaching is characterized by "being public, open to critique and evaluation, and in a form that others can build on. . . . It requires a kind of 'going meta,' in which faculty frame and systematically investigate questions related to student learning - the conditions under which it occurs, what it looks like, how to deepen it, and so forth - and do so with an eye not only to improving their own classroom but to advancing practice beyond it." In other words, faculty set out to do the scholarship of teaching and learning not only to improve the teaching and learning in their own classroom but also to improve teaching and learning beyond their local setting by adding knowledge to - and even beyond - their disciplinary field.
We need to think of our teaching with the same intellectual energy and level of inquiry with which we think about what we do in our laboratories or when we sitdown to write a poem. _ Nancy Cantor
In the Advancement of Learning: Building the Teaching Commons, Mary Taylor Huber and Pat Hutchings say that
Though employed in different ways and to different degrees, the scholarship of teaching and learning entails basic but important principles... It means viewing the work of the classroom as a site for inquiry, asking and answering questions about students' learning in ways that can improve one's own classroom and also advance the larger profession of teaching.
SoTL is grounded in the academic disciplines while also having the potential to be trans-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary across all approaches and methods of teaching. For the goal of SoTL is to create collegial, critical, evidence-based communities of faculty and students where student learning goals and outcomes are central. In other words, through inquiry, research, reflection, assessment, dissemination, critique and construction of a living body of knowledge, understanding and wisdom about teaching and learning, SoTL can be the most effective way for the continuous, significant and enjoyable improvement of student learning in higher education today, as well as for the transformation of academic cultures into open cultures for teaching and learning.
Shulman has also said that teaching will not be fully realized and recognized in higher education until its status changes from "private to community property," to becoming public. When teaching is experienced as solitary or as isolating, teachers rely on individual trial and error efforts to improve the learning experiences of their students. But what those teachers learn about teaching and learning has often been kept private or lost to others, disappearing "like dry ice" (Shulman). Thus, SoTL is a kind of reclamation project for preserving teaching experiments and knowledge before evaporation takes its toll. SoTL is an opportunity to open the real and virtual doors to and for learning.
Einstein said "never lose a holy curiosity." SoTL is a deep curiosity about how, when, where and why people learn and how best to teach to create optimal learning opportunities. SoTL is an aspiration, a vision and the complex work of researching student learning in the disciplines and it can re-imagine and re-conceive teaching. "Teaching will be advanced when it is seen as intellectual work inviting careful deliberation among those who constitute the professional community and who take responsibility, as professionals in all fields must do, for improving the quality of the enterprise (Advancement of Learning).
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