Theme: The Teacher
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Strong collegial networks and a desire for change are important for teachers who develop towards a scholarship of teaching and learning
Authors: Sonesson
Institutions: Lund University

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) can be described as a research-oriented, scholarly approach to the what, how and why of one’s teaching and supervision, with students’ learning at heart1,2.  Apart from producing learning, and learners, SoTL entails building knowledge and developing practices for teaching. SoTL has also been described as a driver for change towards a “culture of continuous improvement of teaching and student learning”3 within the academy. Promoting SoTL can thus be viewed as a sustainable strategy to deal with the many challenges that face higher education.

Many universities and faculties wish to promote the development of SoTL, and efforts include teaching awards, teaching academies, teacher training initiatives, conferences and publications on teaching and learning.

In order to be able to promote SoTL it is important to understand why and under what circumstances teachers develop a scholarly approach to their teaching and their students’ learning.

Summary of Results

The interviewees’ primary motivation for engaging in teaching and developing a scholarly approach to teaching and learning was a concern for:

  • Their professional and/or academic field
    • Quality and improvement of healthcare
    • Quality, sustainability and growth of own academic field
  • Teaching and supervision at departments and clinics
    • Developing skills, understanding and values in teaching and supervision
    • Contributing to a professionalization of teaching and supervision
  • To develop as a teacher, supervisor or educational leader
    • Commitment to scholarly teaching
    • Teaching as integral to professional competence

Students were seen as future colleagues and important agents for development. 

SoTL was described as a shared enterprise, where colleagues and extended networks were indispensible.

The teachers all described circumstances were they were given responsibility, had fairly large freedom of action, and had some power. Their commitment to development extended well outside their own teaching. Good leadership and strong collegiality was seen as helpful, while poor or absent leadership, uncoordinated study programmes, or simply no one caring, was viewed as obstructive, causing the teachers to step back and lower their ambitions for development.

Courses in medical education and the Centre for Teaching and Learning had been important in providing theory and a shared vocabulary, and by giving opportunities to exchange experiences and create networks.

Concern for and understanding of learning was also seen as a cornerstone in the respective medical or health professions. Some claimed similarities between inquiry in education and in medicine/health

Looking back, awards and career advantages had not been important for the teachers when developing towards SoTL. All seven interviewees had occupied academic positions for quite some time, which were earned through professional and/or research qualifications – not through teaching. All were critical to how only research seemed to matter at the faculty. However, proof of SoTL had now become more important, for two respondents in particular, in pursuing new goals and academic opportunities.

For quotes, see more details

Summary of Work

The aim of this study is to better understand circumstances where teachers in a research-intensive faculty of medicine and health sciences develop towards SoTL.

Teachers were included in our study if they:

  • had published peer-reviewed articles on teaching and learning were the object of study had been their own taught subject and students,


  • had been admitted to the faculty’s teaching academy (were inclusion criteria are derived from SoTL)


  • had an extensive experience of teaching and were known by colleagues to be excellent teachers

Out of the 74 teachers who had published peer-review articles on teaching and learning (29 unique single or first authors), and 13 members of the teaching academy (of which 10 had also published on their teaching in peer-reviewed journals), seven were chosen. We strived for a broad representation of the different health professions. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, each lasting between 1 and 1,5 hours. The opening question in the interviews was for the teachers to describe circumstances and events that had been important in their development as teachers.


Our results suggest that research-intensive institutions and faculties who wish to promote scholarly teaching and educational development should:

  • seriously reconsider the relative weight it gives to teaching qualifications for promotion and tenure
  • increase demands on the qualifications of educational leaders but also promote their status more
  • create opportunities for teachers to meet and create networks across professions and disciplines
  • avoid small, simplistic teaching awards and instead focus on fewer, more substantial ones that requires similar efforts and qualities as awards for research
  1. Andresen, L. W. (2000). A Useable, Trans-Disciplinary Conception of Scholarship. Higher Education Research & Development, 19, 137-153.
  2. Trigwell, K. & Shale, S. (2004). Student Learning and the Scholarship of University Teaching. Studies in Higher Education, 29, 523-536.
  3. Mårtensson, K., Roxå, T. & Olsson, T. (2011). Developing a quality culture through the scholarship of teaching and learning. Higher Education Research and Development, 30, 51-62.

Summary of Results

Translated quotes

On teachers’ main concerns:

  • T2: Less than a year after I had received my doctorate, I became head of [academic unit] with responsibility to develop [subject] into an academic discipline
  • T2: I’m very critical of how doctoral education is manifested at the faculty. It could be much improved. The self-image at the faculty is one that is far from reality. … Within the research school I am responsible for, I have the possibility to make a difference.
  • T2: It was important to me [as a member of the faculty board], to somehow legitimate… that at least one of us is a member of the teaching academy
  • T3: If you don’t get [pharmacology] you will never be able to anticipate the effects of the drugs, the side effects. And then I felt I had to be that bridge even if I had only little time at my disposal. But no one asked me to
  • T3: I have always been very interested in the physicians’ responsibility when it comes to questions of drugs, because I think they handle it so poorly; both in choosing the right drugs and in following up
  • T3: I have no aspirations in the [research] field of pedagogy, really. For me pedagogy has been a way to good teaching, pure and simple
  • T4: It was so very, very clear that you taught future colleagues
  • Q: Why is [SoTL] important for you? T4: Well, it is about being professional

 On SoTL as a shared enterprise

  • T1: Critical mass. We discuss that all the time in research, and that’s good, but it’s not confined to research only. Critical mass is needed everywhere, in the clinics – you can’t just be a single physician and a nurse… you need critical mass. It is the same in teaching, to be able to exchange and challenge views and get new ideas
  • T3: … having the opportunity to work with people who share your ideas, that’s what pretty much gets me going
  • T4: … somewhere we have had an ambition to work with these questions fairly purposefully… It is tremendously important to be more than just one; to help out and work in the same direction
  • T4: In our educational field, we’ve had an international network with three conferences so far on PBL. [In the beginning] it was short reports, people telling what they had done… [Now] it is much more rigorous with larger and much more serious investigations
  • T7: I’m here partly with borrowed plumes, since I have worked so much with [teacher well known for SoTL]

On responsibility, freedom, and power

  • T1: I’ve had so much space. I came to a department where it was said, ”great, go on and try, of course we can find resources”… I’ve had the privilege to work with development… I have had great support
  • T2: Less than a year after I had received my doctorate, I became head of [academic unit] with responsibility to develop [subject] into an academic discipline
  • T3: My problem, which I think is most peoples problem too, is when you are not in charge of the course your teaching and cannot set your own goals and the learning outcomes is just too general
  • T3: [On engaging in change] It is just these last year that I have come inside the firewall of the faculty… [previously] I’ve chosen not be trouble
  • T3: We received from the medical programme, ”who wants to be responsible for the electable courses on semester 11?”. And I said to myself, ”Now, this is my opportunity”
  • T4: [on getting your will in the educational board] If you have an agenda, it is of course good to be able to back it up with own results

On courses in medical education and on the centre for teaching and learning

  • T1: … it was really during [course in teaching learning] where we really did the developing
  • T3: To find a sparring partner… the meetings at the centre for teaching and learning are really good for that
  • T4: [insight from courses in teaching and learning] When viewed as a kind of research, teaching suddenly becomes exciting.
  • T4: [on teaching and learning]…an increasing awareness due to that almost everyone has taken the course on teaching and learning. It makes discussions so much easier; because you have a common ground… we have very good conditions for having a good discussion.

On similarities between teaching and health professions

  • T1: I’ve always stressed that the physicians work is, fundamentally, strongly pedagogical
  • T2:  [own discipline] includes quite a lot of social and behavioural science, some of it being pedagogy and psychology…. [These subjects] also play important roles in [health profession]
  • T4: It is about change in some way, to help other people change

On SoTL and career advantages, awards and incitements/deterrents

  • T1: Just as I had received my doctorate, a colleague said to me, ”Now ignore all teaching and make sure to only do research. Then you can become associate professor and move on. Ignore teaching, it is just a side-issue”. I got home and said to myself, ”No, not for me”. To me, teaching is the main thing…
  • T1: As long as the message is that only research is valuable, you have to be a little daft to do like we did, or an idealist or a ”world-reformer”. Policies, visions and goals are not enough. It is action that matters; you have to show that excellent teachers, who invest in their teaching, become promoted and get support.
  • T1: When they organised departments around research groups, it was like saying that teaching and learning was not important
  • T2: You wrestle a little with it, around the edges, but if |the resistance] becomes too massive you have to back off… Someone said, a colleague, the only thing progressive with these professors, when it comes to matters of teaching and learning, is their glasses
  • T2: … I think it is important, I know it is important, when I apply for [significant funding] for the continuation of the research school, to be able to show in my CV that I’m a member of the teaching academy. It’s mark of quality, of me knowing what I’m doing.
  • T3: I have asked [person responsible for particular semester], ”what happens before, what are they supposed to know and what happens next?”. The answer was ”I don’t know, nobody knows”. Then I found out for myself… But nobody tells you to do that.
  • T4: [on scholarly teaching and academic promotion] It’s been said all the time, that it should be as important as research qualification but I wonder if that has any reality to it. A little change might have happened...
  • T4: [on academic employment] I’ve basically been sitting safe … for almost ten years, so in a way I’ve had a choice [to engage in teaching]
  • T4: … higher quality on discussions on teaching and learning, higher up in the organisation, would be good.
Summary of Work
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