This guide’s opening definition of SoTL (see box below)—and most definitions elsewhere—make clear that an essential part of a SoTL project is going public.
Lee S. Shulman’s “Taking Learning Seriously” (1999) presented the following reminder of the hallmark of any form of “scholarship”:
“An act of intelligence or of artistic creation becomes scholarship when it possesses at least three attributes: it becomes public; it becomes an object of critical review and evaluation by members of one’s community; and members of one’s community begin to use, build upon, and develop those acts of mind and creation.” (p. 15)
Shulman argues that a true scholarship of teaching and learning would be the most effective way to take learning seriously as a priority of academia. His definition of scholarship emphasizes the aspects of scholarly work that are done in a community of scholars. The scholarship of teaching, in Shulman’s view, presents teaching as “community property” in ways similar to those in which research is viewed as community property.
There are several reasons why going public is essential. First, as Shulman explains, a cornerstone of any scholarship is peer review. This evaluation by peers in relevant fields ensures a level of appropriate rigor and quality, especially valued by promotion and tenure committees and by peers working in the same area. Beyond this level of quality control is the notion of contributing to larger conversations, such those about how to improve teaching and learning in general, how students learn within the disciplines, how to work most effectively with specific populations and institutions, et al. This active participation in the field both expands and deepens the body of knowledge about teaching and learning in higher education. It also lays the foundation for future research, sustaining the life of the field. Finally, public sharing of the work gives colleagues near and far more information and strategies to take back to their own classrooms.
The most common venues for going public in SoTL are publications (journals, books) and presentations (conference presentations, panels, and posters [For those in disciplines unfamiliar with poster presentations, click here to see my brief essay introducing some possibilities.]). To view the common SoTL publications and conferences in North America, click here.
The video below explores the many reasons why going public is valued in SoTL.
For guidance on this stage of a SoTL project, see
“Going Public: Joining the Larger Conversation.”