What is SoTL?



The Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) at the University of Toronto is dedicated to the advancement of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL) at our institution. CTSI serves as a hub to enable and support this form of scholarship via a number of activities described on this site.

Ernest Boyer’s (1990) work described four categories of scholarship:

  • scholarship of discovery – the pursuit and investigation of new knowledge and subsequent contributions to the field;
  • scholarship of integration – the connection of knowledge and discovery into broader contexts and the building of connections across disciplines;
  • scholarship of application – the application of knowledge involving engagement and broader notions of service; and,
  • scholarship of teaching – the transmission, transformation and extension of knowledge.

SoTL beyond the classroom setting
Research on one’s teaching is the most common focus of SoTL work. However, there are a number of closely connected areas of research that can impact student learning in the classroom and other learning settings. Included here are the areas of institutional and curricular research that also focus on ensuring a deep, formal and systematic way to gather evidence on whether students are learning. SoTL research may also, for example explore whether educational programs are effective (e.g., service learning), and/or the ways in which innovative curriculum are being developed and implemented in various disciplines. SoTL research encompasses all of these areas and can engage researchers in methodological and theoretical pluralism and open the possibilities to pose questions in diverse educational settings (Hubball & Clarke, 2010).


SoTL Framework Graphic

There are many entry points for conducting inquiry into one’s teaching and in accordance with the diagram the three identified dimensions are not hierarchical. An instructor may for example, focus on certain aspects at different points in time and then shift to an inquiry that may include more or less formalized lines of investigation.

At U of T we encourage all instructors to adopt a reflective approach to their teaching, one that encourages them to, for example think about their actions, their questions, the impact on student learning, and/or how to improve their students’ learning over time.

Scholarly teaching is asking good questions about one’s teaching, collecting data, analyzing that and improving one’s efforts to enhance student learning, over time. This line of inquiry may be part of your own personal growth as a teacher and you may choose not share this with others.  Scholarly teaching also means being connected to the broader higher education pedagogical literature, reviewing and making changes to teaching based on course evaluation data, or attending teaching-related professional development workshops.

SoTL subsumes both these aspects (reflective and scholarly teaching) — the addition is the added commitment to going public with these findings and disseminating one’s work via various channels. Within this dimension there is a continuum of how one engages in public sharing. The diagram illustrates the formal/informal continuum and the publication and presentation categories that you might consider when conducting SoTL research.