Yesterday, I had the pleasure of participating in the three-hour graduate student Winter Teaching Workshop, offered here at the University of Guelph. This year’s focus was on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). SoTL has certainly received increased attention in higher education, and is said to combine the experience of teaching, the scholarship of research, and the dissemination of this knowledge to the broader benefit of the academic community. In preparing for the workshop, I had the pleasure of revisiting The Scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments (Hutchings and Shulman, 1999). Although now considered somewhat dated, Hutchings’ and Shulman’s elaborations about SoTL still clearly resonate with me – with a somewhat elegant simplicity. They describe SoTL scholars as those,
who are eager to engage in sustained inquiry into their teaching practice and their students’ learning and who are well positioned to do so in ways that contribute to practice beyond their own classrooms. (p. 12)
They further state that although SoTL is a mechanism to advance the profession of teaching, it is clearly not synonymous with excellent teaching. The process of SoTL 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 advance practice beyond it. (p. 13)
They further ask us to imagine institutional research that asks complex and difficult questions such as:
What are our students really learning?
What do they understand deeply?
What kinds of human beings are they becoming – intellectually, morally, in terms of civic responsibility?
How does our teaching affect that learning, and how might it do so more effectively? (p.15)
They conclude by stating that,
[SoTL] creates new meanings through integrating across other inquiries, negotiating understanding between theory and practice. (p.15)
Indeed, Hutchings and Shulman provide a strong foundation for helping to define what has become an evolving and essential practice for exploring the intricacies of teaching and learning in higher education – as well as for furthering our collective commitment to sharing that knowledge for the broader benefit of academe.
Hutchings, P. and Shulman, L.S. 1999. The scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 31:5, 10-15.