Identifying Evidence

In the article “The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning” (2005), Dan Bernstein and Randy Bass describe the questions that frequently interest faculty engaging in SoTL:  “How did they know that their students were learning?” and “Did the students’ learning promise to last?” They explain, “By asking these questions, many faculty discovered early on that what most interested—or eluded—them about their students’ learning could not be answered simply by looking at regularly assigned course work” (p. 39).  SoTL thus foregrounds making learning more visible by collecting evidence of that learning in a variety of forms, some of which are not traditionally used to assess student learning. These questions encourage observing student learning before the finality of essays and exams—moments we rarely see in what Bass notes as the “intermediate processes” in which students are practicing their learning, complete with its preconceptions and missteps that often interfere with learning.

While a teacher’s reflections, the reflections of his or her peers, the self-reports of students, and theory are helpful in answering questions about student learning, SoTL requires and prioritizes direct evidence of student learning.  Just as the ways in which these questions are asked and answered vary, the possible evidence of student learning also comes in a variety of forms, such as

  • textual, oral, and visual work,
  • quantitative and qualitative data,
  • formative and summative assessments,
  • from current students or past ones, and
  • data you collect, as well as institutional research data.

For guidance on this stage of a SoTL project, see
Gathering Evidence: Making Student Learning Visible.”

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