Exploring SoTL: Enhancing Learning and Teaching through Research

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This post was authored by Dr. Launa Gauthier, Teaching and Learning’s new SoTL Consultant.

Have you ever found yourself frustrated over classroom challenges, pondering student engagement, or questioning the effectiveness of your teaching methods? Perhaps you’ve even felt inspired to try something new but lacked clarity on whether it would have an impact on your students’ learning.  Many of us navigate these uncertainties daily, piecing together insights through trial and error, conversations with peers or observations of others. 

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) offers another approach to learning about what’s going on in our classrooms, programs, schools and even across our institutions.  SoTL is a field of research that crosses disciplines and promotes critical, yet collaborative reflection on teaching and learning. Its ultimate goal is to improve teaching practice and learning across disciplines. 

Potter and Kustra (2011) define SoTL as: 

“…the systematic study of teaching and learning, using established or validated criteria of scholarship, to understand how teaching (beliefs, behaviours, attitudes, and values) can maximize learning, and/or develop a more accurate understanding of learning, resulting in products that are publicly shared for critique and use by an appropriate community.” (p.2)

SoTL has been established in higher/post-secondary education for decades. Its start can be traced back to the groundbreaking work of Ernest Boyer (1990) in “The Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate”. Since then, numerous SoTL-related scholarly societies, conferences, journals, and other forms of scholarly communication have evolved, further enriching this field. 

Key Characteristics of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

If you’re a faculty member, you may be interested to learn more about how you can uncover new insights about student learning and make data-driven decisions to support them.  Developing a SoTL research project can help you to do just that. SoTL research involves taking your curiosity about classroom dynamics and turning it into a systematic investigation involving asking a good question, collecting and analyzing data, and sharing your work.  

Have an idea? Wondering where to start?

The Centre for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CSoTL) at Conestoga is here to support you! Reach out to us to chat about your ideas and questions about learning and teaching in your classroom, department, or school.

Contact Dr. Launa Gauthier directly at lgauthier@conestogac.on.ca for support.  

This helpful guide gives you a quick snapshot of the SoTL research process. We can help you to go through these steps including developing a feasible action plan for a SoTL project, providing support with methods for data collection and analysis methods, and exploring opportunities for sharing your discoveries within and beyond the College.  


Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

Potter, M., & Kustra, E. (2011). The Relationship between scholarly teaching and SoTL: Models, distinctions, and clarifications. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 5(1), Article 23. https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2011.050123 

Sherri  Steele

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