SoTL is inquiry to understand or improve student learning and the teaching practices that affect student learning. SoTL is informed by relevant research on teaching and learning, and is conducted by members of educational communities who draw from their disciplinary expertise in gathering and analyzing relevant evidence from the learners in their own specific contexts. SoTL aims to bring a scholarly lens to what happens in the learning environment; scholarship is then shared broadly to contribute to the knowledge and practice of post-secondary teaching and learning. - adapted from the SoTL Guide of the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning (University of Calgary) and the Sheridan College SoTL guide.
Video: Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University
How is SoTL different from educational research? Both fields are concerned with how students learn and how their learning can be improved. The key difference between SoTL and other research in higher education is who performs the research. In SoTL, the researcher is the instructor, and the classroom is the site of inquiry. In other educational research, the researcher is someone other than the instructor.
How is SoTL different from assessment? Both SoTL and assessment are concerned with improving student learning and determining the effectiveness of particular interventions. One primary difference is the intended audience. The audience for assessment projects tends to be internal - the institution, department, or individual instructor. The audience for SoTL is the wider scholarly audience. SoTL research is intended for dissemination to interested readers who can learn from and build upon previous SoTL research.
- adapted from N. Chick, M. MacMillan, C. Bradley (2017)
For more on the difference between SoTL and assessment, see McKinney, K. (2015). SoTL and assessment: Siblings? The SoTL Advocate.