This is the first article of a two-part series on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). This article provides an introductory discussion of SoTL: what it is, what the science shows, and its centrality to higher education in the 21st century. In the second article (due to be published June, 2015), coauthors Jen Friberg and Colleen Visconti discuss the application of SoTL to problem-based learning as it pertains to improving the critical-thinking skills of students.

In 1990, audiologist Ernest Boyer described four distinct areas of scholarship in higher education. Three represented traditional scholarly inquiry: scholarship of discovery (traditional disciplinary research), scholarship of integration (research that connects bodies of knowledge), and scholarship of application (the application of research to address a need or problem). Boyer named his fourth area “the scholarship of teaching.” Now recognized as the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), this area of inquiry focuses on improving teaching and learning through systematic and reflective study and analysis (Boyer, 1990, p. 24).

Boyer believed that SoTL represents a vital area of scholarship, one that is complementary to more traditional research endeavors, yet worthy of scholarly recognition on its own merits. Since Boyer’s initial description of SoTL, a movement has emerged to improve teaching and learning through SoTL to advance our academic practices.

Importance of SoTL

Faculty engage in SoTL to generate/study innovations in teaching, apply and study innovative pedagogies, and better understand the complexities of teaching and learning (Miller-Young, 2015). When practices of students and/or teachers in the communication sciences and disorders (CSD) are investigated through SoTL, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK; Shulman, 2004) is created. PCK represents the integration of discipline-specific content knowledge with general pedagogical knowledge (Ginsberg, Friberg, & Visconti, 2012) and serves as “best practices” for teaching and learning. In this way, continued development of discipline-specific PCK is important for increasing our understanding of the unique needs for optimal teaching and learning in speech-language pathology and audiology.

In addition, SoTL research can support purposes beyond improving classroom-level teaching and learning. McKinney (2004) advocates the use of SoTL to:

  • support program assessment, program review, or accreditation;
  • facilitate research partnerships among faculty, staff, and students;
  • provide opportunities for involvement in higher-education initiatives;
  • provide data to enhance institutional and/or disciplinary priorities;
  • strengthen graduate-student training and the development of future faculty.

CSD’s Dual Evidence Base

In speech-language pathology and audiology, a high value is placed on evidence-based clinical practice; evidence-based education warrants a similar degree of emphasis.

Evidence-Based Practice (EBP)

CSD practitioners are trained to go beyond simply being “good” or “well-intentioned” speech-language pathologists or audiologists. Rather, clinicians are encouraged to be “scholarly” in their clinical approach. In doing so, clinicians act as consumers of research who engage in EBP to make informed clinical decisions (ASHA, n.d.). Research scholars create the science that forms the basis for EBP. Communication and informational exchanges between scholarly clinicians and research scholars encourage expansion and transmission of knowledge and serve as a strong foundation for our professions.

Evidence-Based Education (EBE)

The prior descriptions of good clinicians, scholarly clinicians, and research scholars are adapted from McKinney’s (2004) work, which juxtaposes practitioner and researcher roles in teaching and learning. Parallels exist between the clinical practice described above and the academic setting; there are certainly good teachers, scholarly teachers, and scholars of teaching and learning at most colleges and universities. Course instructors make pedagogical choices every day in the classroom, but few know the bases for these choices or that their choices are probably made in a systematic way. This is where SoTL research comes in—by providing outcomes derived from the growing body of data-based SoTL research. Course instructors who use SoTL research to inform instructional decisions are considered scholarly teachers who embrace EBE (Ginsberg et al., 2012). Beyond that, those who engage in SoTL research help to build the evidence base for high-quality EBE practice that can be viewed as the academic equivalent of the clinical gold standard of EBP.


Support for faculty engagement in SoTL comes from a position paper adopted in 2014 by the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CAPCSD). This paper identified SoTL as a meritorious form of scholarship for the purposes of tenure and promotion (CAPCSD, 2014). Also, an increasing number of venues for sharing and accessing SoTL work are available to students, teachers, clinicians, and researchers. For example, in the last several years, five CSD research journals have published SoTL work and have done so at increasing rates (Friberg, Ginsberg, Visconti, & McGill, 2014). Another venue is ASHA’s Special Interest Group 10 (Issues in Higher Education), which supports and encourages SoTL through its interactive online community as well as in its publication, Perspectives on Issues in Higher Education.

Growth in opportunities, such as these, to engage in and disseminate SoTL research speaks to its acceptance. Continued support for CSD scholars in the form of advocacy and acceptance for SoTL is needed to grow the PCK in speech-language pathology and audiology, encourage scholarly teaching, and maximize opportunities for high quality, evidence-based educational experiences for CSD students.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Introduction to evidence-based practice: What it is and what it isn’t. Retrieved from

Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders. (2014). Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders position paper on the scholarship of teaching and learning in communication sciences and disorders. Retrieved

Friberg, J. C., Ginsberg, S. M., Visconti, C. F., & McGill, C. A. (2014). SoTL research in CSD journals: Implications for scholarly teachers & SoTL researchers. Poster presented at the annual convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Orlando, FL.

Ginsberg, S. M., Friberg, J. C., & Visconti, C. F. (2012). Scholarship of teaching and learning in speech-language pathology and audiology: Evidence-based education. San Diego, CA: Plural.

McKinney, K. (2004). The scholarship of teaching and learning: Past lessons, current challenges, and future visions. In C. M. Wehlburg & S. Chadwick-Blossey (Eds.), To improve the academy (Vol. 22, pp. 3–19). Boston, MA: Anker.

Miller-Young, J. (2015, February 11). How to tell the story of SoTL. Retrieved from

Shulman, L. S. (2004). Teaching as community property. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.