The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Canada – Sprouting for Spring

SoTL Canada continues to grow… we now have 99 members, the sub-groups have a pre-conference submission and a panel session submission in to STLHE and are working on other ventures (see the working groups summaries on this site). In addition, we’ve had a proposal accepted by Jossey-Bass for a special issue of New Directions in Teaching and Learning (see below).

We will be holding the Annual General Meeting at STLHE again – please join us if you’d like to be part of the SIG!

New Directions for Teaching and Learning: Special Issue Proposal

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Canada: Institutional Impact

Importance of Issue  

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is a growing area in which post-secondary educators from any discipline investigate their teaching and their students’ learning. The scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), as McKinney (2006) notes, “involves systematic study of teaching and/or learning and the public sharing and review of such work through presentations, performance, or publications” (p. 3 ). This work informs scholarly teaching practice and for some who make it public beyond their classrooms, it also builds pedagogical knowledge in and across the disciplines.

In the Canadian context, Poole, Taylor, and Thompson (2007) discussed how using scholarship of teaching and learning at various levels: institutional, disciplinary, and national, could improve post-secondary educational quality, but little work has been done to assess to what extent their recommendations have been implemented. Work by Wutherick and Yu (2013) mapping SoTL activities in Canada makes it is clear that much SoTL is happening across the country, and in many institutions this work is supported by grants, staff, and collaborative research groups. However, there is so far little evidence of the impact of SoTL on teaching and learning quality at the institutional level as well as at the level of individual professors and their students. As Christensen Hughes and Mighty (2010) have noted, “Researchers have discovered much about teaching and learning in higher education, but … dissemination and uptake of this information have been limited. As such, the impact of educational research on faculty-teaching practice and the student-learning experience has been negligible” (p. 4). More recently, Poole and Simmons (2013) have identified the continuing need for assessing SoTL’s impact on institutional quality.

The purpose of this special issue is to provide examples and evidence of the ways in which post-secondary institutions in Canada have developed and sustained programs around the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning that impact the institutional pedagogical climate.  Proposed chapters will outline practices, include evidence of impact, and discuss continuing challenges with this work. The chapters will thus conceptualize the work of SoTL and provide enough detail so that others may develop effective models of practice.

Organization of Issue


The first chapter, by Simmons, will provide an overview of the Canadian post-secondary context, including the political structure for higher education (necessary for understanding the particular challenges in securing resources for SoTL both internal to the institution and from external sources), the types of post-secondary institutions, and a brief overview of SoTL history in Canada, including national and provincial organizations.


The second chapter, by Wutherick and Yu, will provide a national overview based on their electronic survey administered to the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) membership in the summer, 2012, and adapted from 2004 CASTL Survey (Hutchings and Huber, 2005). Their purpose was to capture the general landscape of the professional life of SoTL scholars at the individual, institutional and disciplinary contexts (The Carnegie Foundation, 2013). Data include 140 responses with representation across all provinces, institution types, disciplines, gender, age/years of service.

Institutional Case Studies

Subsequent chapters will present a series of case studies from different post-secondary institutions across Canada that outline the design and impact of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) initiatives, including how evidence of impact is being collected and findings to date.  

  • Amundsen, Emmioglu, Hotton, Hum and Xin (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia) describe the intentional design of a SoTL initiative that draws on several theoretical models to accomplish two broad goals: to enhance individual faculty knowledge and practice as related to teaching and student learning, and to engage faculty in teaching as a socially situated practice. The process of assessing these goals will be shared as will initial findings.
  • Hoekstra and Toy (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Edmonton (NAIT), Alberta) present a conceptualization of SoTL within a Polytechnic Institution ranging from informal experimentation and improvement of teaching to formal SoTL research. Efforts to enhance formal and informal SoTL activities at NAIT between 2007 and 2013 will highlight individual SoTL projects’ impact on education quality.  The chapter concludes with recommendations for creating increased uptake and engagement with SoTL initiatives in polytechnics.
  • Miller-Young, Zimmer, Carey, Manarin, and Yeo outline results from a preliminary study of the impact of Mount Royal University’s (Calgary, Alberta) SoTL Scholars program, by surveying the last five years of scholars regarding their SoTL activity and the impact of participating in the Scholars program on their subsequent career activities.  
  • Wutherick and Greer present an institutional analysis of the state of SoTL at the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) using Trigwell’s tiers of SoTL as one lens. 
  • Poole, Verwoord, and Beery (University of British Columbia) use Williams et al’s (2013) multi-level model describing how SoTL can become embedded institutionally and thus increase its impact. The model features networks and communities of practice, describing how these entities can operate at three levels (micro, meso and macro). This chapter expands upon the analysis of social networks as they are manifest in SoTL work. The expanded model will better inform the practice of those with a mandate to increase SoTL’s impact.
  • Watson, Kenny, and Desmarais highlight the University of Guelph’s (Ontario) commitment to SoTL as demonstrated by many SoTL initiatives across campus. Their chapter outlines future directions related to SoTL at the University of Guelph, and develops a framework to describe both the extent and breadth of SoTL engagement across campus. 
  • Simmons, Hall, and Timmermans present a longitudinal case study of how the University of Waterloo, Ontario, built and continues to sustain an institutional context of valuing SoTL through the activities of its Teaching-Based Research Group. The impact of various initiatives is considered by examining the levels (micro-meso-macro-mega) at which SoTL scholars make their results public.
  • Marquis and Ahmad outline research that informed the development of a new SoTL institute at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. This research looked at teaching and learning-related research institutes worldwide (via a website scan and surveys of members) to determine features and perceived impacts. Their chapter reports on the integration of this work into the new institute and the impact it has had on SoTL development across campus.
  • Renaissance College’s (RC; University of New Brunswick) mandate includes experimenting with innovative pedagogy and helping to innovate teaching and learning at the larger university. While some progress was made this task is far from being completed. In this contribution, Mengel reflects on this initiative, its success and shortcomings, and necessary steps to increase RC’s contribution to the SoTL at UNB.


The final chapter will discuss what can be learned from the case studies as a group, drawing parallels and exploring distinctions, and ultimately mapping recommendations for synthesized models.  


Christensen Hughes, J., & Mighty, J. (2010). Taking stock: Research on teaching and learning in higher education. Toronto, ON: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Huber, M., & Hutchings, P. (2005). The advancement of learning: Building the teaching commons. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McKinney, K. (2006). What is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and what can SoTL do for you and your department/school? Handouts for deans, chairs, directors, and other administrators. Illinois, IN: University of Illinois. Online at

Poole, G., & Simmons, N. (2013). The contributions of the scholarship of teaching and learning to quality enhancement in Canada. In G. Gordon, & R. Land (Eds.), Quality enhancement in higher education: International perspectives. London: Routledge.

Poole, G., Taylor, L., & Thompson, J. (2007). Using the scholarship of teaching and learning at disciplinary, national and institutional levels to strategically improve the quality of post-secondary education. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(2).

The Carnegie Foundation (2013). The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from

Wutherick, B., & Yu, S. (2013). The Canadian teaching commons: Exploring the state of SoTL in Canadian higher education. Presented at the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning annual conference, Raleigh, October 3-5.

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1 Response to The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Canada – Sprouting for Spring

  1. Pingback: What are the most effective measures for assessing the impact of an emergent university-wide Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Network? | SOTL Canada

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