Survey of research approaches utilised in the scholarship of teaching and learning publications


  • Aysha Divan University of Leeds
  • Lynn O. Ludwig University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
  • Kelly E. Matthews University of Queensland
  • Phillip M. Motley Elon University
  • Ana M. Tomljenovic-Berube McMaster University



scholarship of teaching and learning, systematic literature review, qualitative research, quantitative research, mixed methods, research approaches


The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) has been described as the fastest growing academic development movement in higher education. As this field of inquiry matures, there is a need to understand how SoTL research is conducted. The purpose of our study was to inform this debate by investigating research approaches used in SoTL publications. We analysed 223 empirical research studies published from 2012 to 2014 in three explicitly focused SoTL journals. We classified the studies as either qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods using an analytical framework devised from existing literature on research methods. We found that the use of the three research designs was fairly evenly distributed across the papers examined: qualitative (37.2%), quantitative (29.6%), and mixed methods (33.2%). However, there was an over-reliance on data collection from a single source in 83.9% of papers analysed, and this source was primarily students. There was some, but limited, evidence of the use of triangulation through the use of multiple data collection instruments (e.g. survey, assessment tasks, grade databases). Similarly, only one-third of publications classified as mixed methods integrated the analysis and interpretation of the qualitative and quantitative data equally within the study. We conclude that current SoTL research is characterised by methodological pluralism but could be advanced through inclusion of more diverse approaches, such as close reading, and adoption of strategies known to enhance the quality of research, for example, triangulation and visual representation.


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Author Biographies

Aysha Divan, University of Leeds

Aysha Divan is an Associate Professor in Biological Science and Director of Student Education at the University of Leeds, UK.

Lynn O. Ludwig, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Lynn O. Ludwig is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in Wisconsin, USA.

Kelly E. Matthews, University of Queensland

Kelly E. Matthews is a Senior Lecturer in Higher Education at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

Phillip M. Motley, Elon University

Phillip M. Motley is an Associate Professor of Communications at Elon University in North Carolina, USA.

Ana M. Tomljenovic-Berube, McMaster University

Ana M. Tomljenovic-Berube is a Sessional Instructor at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.


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How to Cite

Divan, Aysha, Lynn O. Ludwig, Kelly E. Matthews, Phillip M. Motley, and Ana M. Tomljenovic-Berube. 2017. “Survey of Research Approaches Utilised in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Publications”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 5 (2):16-29.