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On Being a Scholarly Teacher and Contributing to The Scholarly Teacher

Todd Zakrajsek, Director, ITLC-Lilly Conferences

Key Statement: If you reflect on your teaching, engage in reading scholarship, and produce work based on that reflection and reading, you are not only a scholarly teacher, but have also engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning

Keywords: Scholarship, Reflection, Integration, Application, Discovery, Scholarly Teacher, Improving Teaching

Scholarly Teachers Engage in the

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

A decade ago, I launched The Scholarly Teacher. In that time there have been 177 articles, 32 infographics, and a series of videos. Contributions have come from faculty at all academic ranks, from tenure track and contingent faculty, and from throughout the country. It has been extremely rewarding to read work contributed to the field of teaching and learning by so many of my higher education colleagues. That was the intent when The Scholarly Teacher was launched, and I am happy to say that it has met that goal.

In 2014, I stated as part of the blog’s opening that, as educators, it’s imperative for us to follow an evidence-based approach to teaching and learning. I stand by that nearly a decade later. Richlin (2001) has long held the position that scholarly teachers consult the literature, identify relevant findings, and then apply that new information. But consulting the literature and stopping there isn’t enough. As scholarly teachers, we have to commit to the entire process, to reflect on others’ pedagogical experiences and published works so that we can implement that information and advance our teaching expertise in an effort to enhance student learning (Allen & Field, 2005). If we do not learn from the work of others, how can we hope to advance our field of higher education?

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

The model of scholarly teaching can be thought of as something akin to the popular PDSA cycle (i.e., Plan, Do, Study, Act), originally put forth by Edward Deming (1986). For our purposes, we would need to adjust to a REIA cycle (i.e., Reflection, Evidence, Implement, Assess). For the REIA scholarly teacher cycle, one would begin with critically reflective teaching (see Figure 1). From those reflections the scholarly teacher engages in evidence-based teaching by consulting the literature to determine the existing evidence with respect to effective teaching and learning. The reflections and evidence must be put into some form of framework or theory to guide the work and then take some effort to determine if the assessed results show benefits to the learner. Regardless, with information on level of success, one would return to critical reflection to determine the next move. When this cycle happens, one truly is a scholarly teacher (Potter & Kustra, 2011).

Figure 1. REAI Model of Scholarly Teaching

Scholarship of Application, Scholarship of Integration, and Scholarship of Discovery

To assist you on following the path of a scholarly teacher by reading The Scholarly Teacher, we have for many years tagged articles by theme (e.g., engaging students, self-care, grading, diversity, classroom management). Beginning this academic year, we will also categorize submissions based on Boyer’s (1990) different areas of scholarship. Boyer noted that, to that date, the only scholarly activity that had “counted” was based on the discovery of something within one’s field (scholarship of discovery). Boyer pointed out that scholarship was, in fact, happening all throughout higher education. He suggested that higher education should also consider published work that integrated disparate findings from different studies to advance a new way of conceptualizing some aspect of the field (scholarship of integration). Boyer also proposed that finding utility for a discovery is a form of scholarly activity worthy of note (scholarship of application). Finally, Boyer suggested that scholarly activity designed specifically to advance teaching and learning should be recognized (scholarship of teaching and learning).

Given that all work published on The Scholarly Teacher is the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), we will use that concept as the overarching theme. We are excited to begin designating posts via Boyer’s expanded types of scholarships:

  • Discovery: in and of itself designed to help us to better understand some aspect of teaching and learning

  • Integration: help the reader to shift perspective by describing how different pieces of information pertaining to teaching and learning fit together in a new way

  • Application: describe an effective way to put some aspect of current scholarly work into use to advance teaching and learning

This new designation is set up to help you, the reader, better understand the type of article you are reading before you even begin to read, and begin to recognize the various types of scholarship that you and your colleagues are doing every day. There is no inherent hierarchy within these three categories. All have their contributions, and each informs the field of teaching and learning in different ways.

We want to continue to emphasize that if you produce scholarly work and publish that work in The Scholarly Teacher, you are not only a scholarly teacher, but have also engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning. The components that are important aspects of being a scholarly teacher—critical reflection, evidence-based teaching, and being guided by a theory– are also benchmarks of engaging in the scholarship of teaching and learning (Potter & Kustra, 2011). The output of that scholarship (discovery, integration, or application) is what is unique. Teaching and learning benefits both scholarly teachers and those engaging in the scholarship of teaching and learning. It is not a reach to say that one could not exist without the other.

An individual may absolutely be an effective teacher without engaging in either scholarly teaching or the scholarship of teaching and learning. This could happen in any discipline, as a matter of fact. It’s possible to be effective, but then simply stay put (metaphorically) and fail to grow as an educator. (I should think it would make anyone nervous if they found out their dentist, physician, pilot, or teacher worked in their field for years without ever reading scholarly work in their discipline or in some way contributing to the field.) Individuals will become more effective and more invested in their practice with systematic review of scholarly work and publishing new findings when appropriate.

Happy New Year

Best wishes for a productive, effective, and fulfilling 2023 – 2024 academic year. Keep watching this space as we develop our updated look and organization system! I look forward to reading what you have to contribute.

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe one area of teaching and learning that you find to be particularly interesting. Why do you find this area so compelling? Reflect on something within that area. What new ideas emerged from that reflection might have an immediate impact on how you teach?

  2. Explain how a person could be an effective teacher without being a scholarly teacher (i.e., reading any scholarly work in the area of the scholarship of teaching and learning). In what ways might that same person become an even better teacher by reading SoTL work (e.g., diversity of perspective, considering aspects not thought of previously)?

  3. If you were to write an article for The Scholarly Teacher, what topic comes immediately to mind? Would it be in the category of discovery, integration, or application? Explain. What would you need to do to gather the information necessary to complete the article? Note: if you do this and find success, please consider submitting your work to The Scholarly Teacher.


Allen, M., & Field, P. (2005). Scholarly teaching and scholarship of teaching: Noting

the difference. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 2(1).

Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Jossey-


Deming, W. E. (2019). Out of the crisis. New Paradigm for Managing People,

Systems and Processes, Rev, 2. MIT Press.

Potter, M.K., & Kustra, E.D.H. (2011). The relationship between scholarly teaching

and SoTL: Models, distinctions, and clarifications. International Journal for the

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 5(1), Article 23.

Richlin, L. (2001). Scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching. New

Directions for Teaching and Learning, 86, 57-67.

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