What is the Scholarship of Teaching?

Many people ask: what is the Scholarship of Teaching (also known as the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, or SoTL). The term is usually linked to the work of Ernest L. Boyer, who in the 1980s and 1990s spent time exploring what scholarship meant across US undergraduate colleges and universities. He agreed there was an essential link to research but suggested scholarship had to mean more than engaging in and publishing research, stating it also relates to “stepping back from one’s investigation, looking for connections, building bridges between theory and practice, and communicating one’s knowledge effectively to students.” He suggests scholarship requires engagement in “four separate, yet overlapping, functions” which are “the scholarship of discovery; the scholarship of integration; the scholarship of application; and the scholarship of teaching” (Boyer, 1990, p. 16).

There are a range of ways scholarship may be engaged in, including:

  • engagement and reflection on educational theories, revisiting your philosophy of teaching, applying for promotion, applying for an Advance HE fellowship, and teaching award applications
  • participating in reflective dialogue about teaching through self and peer evaluations
  • integrating research into teaching through
    • experiential teaching
    • action research
    • transformative teaching
  • communicating knowledge and understanding about how you teach and why you teach the way you do:
    • with colleagues – through communities of practice, team meetings, participation on committees, publications, professional development activities, informal and formal conversations
    • with students – through participation on committees, discussions in class, via students as partners activities etc.

There are a range of other ways you can engage in scholarship. Participating in your College’s Learning and Teaching Academy is a great start.

The Scholarship of Teaching and TEQSA

In 2018 TEQSA published guidance notes on: what scholarship encompasses, relevant standards in the HES Framework, how quality may be at risk and what TEQSA looks for in relation to scholarship. The guidance notes reference Boyer, and looking across these two documents there are common elements relating to what scholarship entails. These include: evaluating and sharing practice, and engaging in continuous improvement of teaching practice.

The TEQSA guidance notes state:

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act 2011 (TEQSA Act) and the HES Framework require TEQSA to consider a provider’s engagement with scholarship at several levels. These include:

  • scholarship directly associated with informing teaching and learning, including disciplinary scholarship
  • scholarship contributing to the design and delivery of particular courses of study
  • scholarship associated with research and research training, if applicable to the provider
  • institutional encouragement and support for scholarship across all courses of study
  • requirements related to categorisation of the provider and authority for self-accrediting courses of study. (TEQSA, 2018 p. 5)

The guidance notes indicate that TEQSA recognises scholarship may look different across different providers but emphasises a need to ensure there is evidence that scholarship is occurring. In 2020, TEQSA announced a review of these guidance notes, and while the results have not yet been released, it is clear the scholarship of teaching and learning remains important.

TEQSA Quality Assurance Webinar Series: Scholarship (51 minutes)

History of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (12 minutes)

Key Characteristics of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (13 minutes)

Defining and supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): A sector wide study

Australian Government. (2018). Guidance note: Scholarship. Online: TEQSA Retrieved from https://www.teqsa.gov.au/latest-news/publications/guidance-note-scholarship

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


Written by Dr Ann Luzeckyj
Academic Developer – CILT

Posted in
Teaching Notes

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