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Scholarship of Teaching & Learning

Instructors conduct a research study to answer questions about student learning in their course/program and share the findings via conferences or publications.


Commonly referred to by its acronym, SoTL, the scholarship of teaching and learning aims to improve student learning by discovering better ways to teach. Using rigorous qualitative and quantitative methods, instructors ask questions about teaching approaches and activities and collect evidence about their effectiveness. By sharing findings via conferences and publications, they contribute to the learning and teaching knowledge base, allowing other instructors and scholars to benefit from them.

Definitions of SoTL and its scope vary, extending from research projects on individual classrooms to cross-campus collaborations. There is also some overlap between SoTL and other forms of disciplinary scholarship on learning and teaching such as Disciplinary Based Education Research (DBER) and Scholarship of Educational Development (SoED). At its heart, SoTL provides instructors with the opportunity to reflect on their teaching and their students’ learning in a deep, sustained way. They become more familiar with the literature on teaching in their discipline and methods for assessing learning and gathering evidence of efficacy. Conducting SoTL research can enhance instructors’ teaching skills, strengthen their sense of satisfaction with teaching, and contribute to departmental efforts related to assessment and accreditation.

At the Searle Center, we support instructors at all career stages who would like to engage in SoTL by conducting research on learning and teaching in their own classrooms, programs, or departments. We work with instructors to develop research questions, select research methods, collect and analyze data, and write publishable manuscripts and conference abstracts. We are particularly interested in working with instructors who would like to address research questions related to equity and inclusion.


Our programs offer the Northwestern community a variety of ways to develop teaching skills, enhance student learning, and find community. The following programs will spark your curiosity about SoTL.

SOTL at Northwestern

A program to introduce Northwestern faculty to SOTL and support them in designing and conducting a SOTL study.

Visit the program page

Learning & Teaching Guides

Guides created by or in collaboration with the Searle Center to help educators engage and advance Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

Check back for forthcoming guides.

In Our Library

A curated list of recommended books related to SoTL available at the Menges Library, located in the Searle Center.

Further Resources

Our current recommendations for both foundational and leading-edge content related to SoTL.

Articles on what SOTL is and how to begin.

Podcasts about SOTL

Professional Societies for SOTL

Published SOTL Papers by Northwestern Instructors and Searle Center Staff

  • Kolikant, Yifat Ben-David, Denise Drane, and Susanna Calkins. “‘Clickers’ as Catalysts for Transformation of Teachers.” College Teaching 58, no. 4 (2010): 127–35.
  • Chou, Karen., Moaveni, Saaed., & Drane, Denise. “Virtual steel connection sculpture: Learning assessment.” Journal of STEM Education: Innovations and Research 17, no. 3 (2016): 5-13.
  • Cook, Rifka., & Calkins, Susanna. “More than recall and opinion: Using clickers to promote complex thinking.” Journal of Excellence in College Teaching 24, no. 2 (2013): 51-76.
  • Mordacq, John., Drane, Denise., Swarat, Su., & Lo, Stanley. “Development of course-based undergraduate research experiences using a design-based approach.” Journal of College Science Teaching, 46, no. 4, (2017): 64-75.

Awards & Grants

Northwestern University recognizes educators and researchers doing innovative work. The following list includes opportunities which we believe dovetail with work related to SoTL.

Calendar of Events

Below are all of our upcoming events related to scholarship of teaching and learning


James Lang's Policy to Pedagogy: Evaluating Artificial Intelligence for Teachers and Learners

2:00 PMRebecca Crown Center, 633 Clark Street
James Lang's Policy to Pedagogy: Evaluating Artificial Intelligence for Teachers and Learners Building upon arguments fi...

Winter Retreat

10:00 AM627 Dartmouth Place, 627 Dartmouth Place
Come in from the cold with other graduate students and postdocs for a day of toasty conversations to spark your curiosit...

2024 Spring RAP Learning Lab: Alternative Grading for Course Design

All day
Interested in developing or redesigning an assignment or course using contract grading, ungrading, specs grading, or a c...

2024 Spring Reimagining Assessment Practicum (RAP)

All day
The Reimagining Assessment Practicum is a three-week online series of sessions designed for participants to learn more a...

Campus Partners

We are proud to collaborate with and work alongside the following Northwestern University offices and organizations on SoTL.

Contact Us

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