Defining and supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)

  • Masika, Rachel (CoI)
  • Wisker, Gina (PI)
  • McConnell, Catherine (CoI)
  • Canning, John (CoI)
  • Fanghanel, Joelle (CoI)
  • Potter, Jacqueline (CoI)
  • Jane , Pritchard (PI)

Project Details


This project was carried out in the context of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) Staff Transitions stream of work, with a view to investigating the extent to which activities undertaken under the banner of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) might inform a sector-wide reflection on ways of identifying and recognising excellence in teaching.

SoTL is a model that is used in the higher education (HE) sector (particularly in North America, Australasia, UK, South Africa and some European and south-east Asian countries) to reflect on, and transform, teaching and learning practices. It focuses on teaching and learning strategies underpinning the curriculum, and promotes research-informed teaching. Increasingly, it also seeks to involve students by providing opportunities to learn in research-mode and to develop undergraduate research. SoTL is a research-led form of professional development, and has the potential to inform policy and practice at institutional level, for example, in career development and in the promotion and recognition of teaching excellence. In today’s increasingly diverse higher education environment, with access to state subsidy now being available to private providers and non-HE institutions, it is important to provide tools flexible enough to address institutional and disciplinary diversity, changing career pathways, and varied promotion frameworks in universities.

In order to arrive at an understanding of how SoTL is understood across the sector, and to make recommendations for its use in promotion and recognition, the study aimed to:

> investigate the way SoTL is defined and supported in the UK HE sector
> identify the key challenges in developing and supporting SoTL for promotion and recognition
> provide resources that enable articulation to the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) (and their function across the different levels of academic/professional careers)
> provide examples as a resource for institutions
> identify strategies to engage students in SoTL and the main challenges this presents
> make recommendations to inform the next iteration of the UKPSF and the sector in the context of the forthcoming Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).
University of Brighton research team: Professor Gina Wisker, Dr Rachel Masika, Catherine McConnell, Dr John Canning. Partners: Professor Joelle Fanghanel, University of West London; Dr Jacqueline Potter, University of Keele; Dr Jane Pritchard, University of Bristol

Key findings

The research involved a survey, a literature review, interviews, and the building of case studies. Our researchers undertook the interviews, analysed the data, and wrote up the case studies. They included:

> interviews with Learning and Teaching (LT) centre leads and some Human Resources (HR) leads to determine how the scholarship of teaching and learning is supported, enabled, recognised and rewarded. We found some universities and other Higher Education Providers (HEP) did not use the term, while others embedded Ernest Boyer’s values and tenets in their strategies or mission statements. The range of support and development processes included accredited courses, a variety of processes such as Continuing Professional Development (CPD) schemes, workshops, mentoring, along with research-led and informed learning and teaching. Recognition included embedding SoTL in promotion policies and practices, teaching excellence awards and fellowships.

> interviews and focus groups with students to determine their understanding of the systems values and processes, and their engagement with them.Our findings allowed us to improve understanding in the following areas:

> definition and practice of SoTL
> new forms of SoTL
> embedding SoTL strategically for recognition
> benefits for students.

Our research enabled us to make recommendations for:

> institutions seeking to recognise SoTL
> policymakers at a national level
> academics engaged in SoTL.

Fanghanel, J, Pritchard, J, Potts, J, Wisker, G (2015) Defining and supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): A sector wide study. The Higher Education Academy report and accompanying literature review.
Effective start/end date1/01/1530/09/15


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