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SoTL-izing Your Lessons: What, Why and How?




The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, more commonly known as SoTL owes its origins to Boyer’s (1990) seminal work — Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. His work is based on the premise that there are four types of scholarship: discovery, application, integration and teaching. In recent years, there have been growing demands for educators to be creative and innovative in their teaching, learning, and assessment. They are expected to engage in scholarly teaching and be courageous in sharing their findings with others. In line with these ideas, it is encouraging that educators in UPM have been actively engaged in efforts to improve student learning and development in and out of the classrooms. More recently, their efforts are visible through a repertoire of instructional methods to promote learning through digital-based instructional technologies, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, game-based learning, artificial intelligence and many others. Much of the aforesaid efforts were captured concretely through CADe’s yearly Putra InnoCreative Carnival in Teaching and Learning (PicTL) organized in the past four years. To celebrate the vibrant teaching-learning endeavors in campus, CADe published an e-book entitled Scholarship of Teaching and Learning@UPM — showcasing in-class and out-of-class evidences that reflect the hallmark of SoTL (

In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the sudden shift from onsite learning to online learning — which has made the importance for The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning much more pronounced. The shift to online learning has provided opportunities for educators to advance remote learning and they have become adept at redesigning instructions for synchronous and asynchronous learning. As the world transitions steadily from the pandemic to the endemic stage, educators will have the opportunity to experiment with the hybrid and flexible (HyFlex) learning model as more physical classrooms in UPM are now equipped with video conferencing technologies. The HyFlex learning mode provides flexibility to students to either attend lessons physically or remotely synchronously. Students also have the option of attending asynchronously. Regardless of the path chosen, students will achieve the same learning outcomes. Undoubtedly, many educators in UPM have indeed been engaging in SoTL passionately and surely, they will continue to do so with the same vigor as we slowly emerge from the pandemic.


What is SoTL?


Various SoTL definitions are underpinned by the fundamental principles of SoTL that bind educational practices with scholarly research. McKinney (2007) defines SoTL as a “systematic study of teaching and/or learning and the public sharing and review of such work through presentations, publications or performances (p. 10)”. We define SoTL in the context of UPM as reflecting on one’s own learning, teaching and assessment practices either for onsite or online learning to augment student learning outcomes. The aforementioned practices' findings are then shared with the scholarly community for review and feedback.


Why Engage in SoTL?


There are three main reasons why you should be engaged in SoTL (Figure 1). It is a way for you to improve yourself personally and professionally. In other words, you will be able to attain self-fulfillment when you have a personal interest in your quest to be the best teacher (Kelly-Kleese, 2003). You can also assess students’ learning and experiment with appropriate innovations for your learning environment, curriculum or areas of discipline (Saylor & Harper, 2003). SoTL also paves the way for you to improve your teaching, programs or disciplines (Saylor & Harper, 2003).


Figure 1: Reasons for SoTL practices


How to SoTL-ize your lesson?


SoTL-izing your lessons entails great efforts and practice. Swart et al. (2016) captured the essence of SoTL when he used the unicycle spokes as a metaphor to reflect the SoTL journey (Figure 2). It starts with you being aware of SoTL (Spoke 1: Awareness). For example, you become aware of SoTL by reading about it. You then begin to reflect critically on your own teaching for improvement (Spoke 2: Reflect). Next, you discern the gaps in your teaching — making judgements about the effectiveness of your instructional methods based on various sources, such as your teaching assessment results (Spoke 3: Discern). Based on the feedback received, you begin to develop relevant action plans to ensure your teaching approaches meet the expectations of the 21st-century learning environment. For instance, you start planning for HyFlex lessons to provide alternative student participation that works best for them (Spoke 6: Plan). With the action plan, you are ready to execute the plan in your classroom (Spoke 5: Apply). The next stage entails evaluating the learning outcomes (Spoke 6: Evaluation) and sharing the pieces of evidence of your inquiries (Spoke 7: Share). Lastly, you can crystalize what SoTL is all about after completing the seven stages.


Figure 2: Eight Spokes of SoTL Unicycle

Swart et al. (2016)

Concluding remarks


By and large, as SoTL practitioners ourselves, we can attest that SoTL entails hard work, persistence and dedication. However, we can also vouch that the efforts are gratifying. We hope what we have shared here is enough to nudge you to join us on this exciting SoTL journey.



  • Bishop-Clarke, B. & Dietz-Uhler, B. (2012). Engaging in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Sterling: Stylus Publishing.
  • Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
  • Kelly-Kleese, C. (2003). Community college scholarship. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching. 14(2/3), 69-84
  • McKinney, K. (2007). Enhancing learning through the scholarship of teaching and learning: The challenges and joys of juggling. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Swart, A.J., Luwes, N., Olwagen, L., Greyling, C. & Korff. C. (2016): Scholarship of teaching and learning: ‘what the hell’ are we getting ourselves into? European Journal of Engineering Education. DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2016.1214689

Prepared by:

Dr. Wong Su Luan is a Professor at the Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). As a passionate SoTL advocate, she writes about SoTL and often conducts courses to inspire academics to experience the joy of SoTL-izing their lessons. As a staunch SoTL practitioner, she continues to learn and teach via systematic reflection to improve her classroom practices.



  Dr. Mas Nida Md. Khambari is a Senior Lecturer in Instructional Technologies, Learning Design and Innovation at the Department of Foundations of Education, Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia.  She is a fellow at the Centre for Academic Development (CADe) and was a Member of the Innovative Teaching and Learning Taskforce that developed the Putra InnoCreative Playbook for Putra Academic Transformation Plan.  Her research interest and specialization include instructional design, innovation and emerging technologies in teaching and learning, gamification, alternative assessment and the scholarship of teaching and learning.  She is currently the Executive Committee of the prestigious Asia-Pacific Society for Computers in Education (APSCE) and is actively involved in the Special Interest Group: Practice-driven Research, Teacher Professional Development and Policy of ICT in Education under the APSCE flagship conference – the International Conference on Computers in Education, since 2014.  Mas Nida has actively participated and won several medals at innovative teaching and learning competitions at both the university and national level. She was awarded the Putra InnoCreative Award for Best Innocreative Educator (Face-to-Face Immersive Learning Experience) in 2019 and the Vice Chancellor Fellowship Award in Teaching and Learning in 2020. 

Tarikh Input: 26/07/2022 | Kemaskini: 03/08/2022 | azryadeny


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