Constructive friction? Charting the relation between educational research and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning




educational research, SoTL, attributes, differences


While educational research and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) are overlapping fields, over time there has appeared considerable friction between the two. There are claims that educational research has been tainted by SoTL’s emergence and that those engaged in SoTL lack adequate training. They maintain that those engaged in SoTL would benefit from a better understanding of educational research theories and methods. Some engaged in SoTL perceive educational research as too distanced from practice. What underpins these perceived differences between the two fields? How might this friction be explained? The study described in this article explored empirical, interview-based viewpoints from new and experienced educational researchers and SoTL scholars, respectively. Participants were purposefully drawn from attendees at two European conferences specializing in educational research and SoTL. The data was examined using thematic analysis and focused mainly on the perceived differences between these communities. The central themes that emerged where differences occurred are community membership and governance, scope and purpose of inquiry, and intended recipients of inquiry results. Some differences include what and who determines the value of the contribution to the field and why it is valuable. This article provides an empirically based understanding of the relative attributes of both communities. We hope that it leads to future discussions about further developing fruitful and constructive interrelationships.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Maria Larsson, Lund University

Maria Larsson is Senior Lecturer and academic developer, Division for Higher Education Development, Lund University (SWE). Her research interests include how university teachers express their pedagogical competence and how the notion of SoTL can be introduced to university teachers as a means of developing practice.

Katarina Mårtensson , Lund University

Katarina Mårtensson is Senior Lecturer and Academic Developer, Division for Higher Education Development, Lund University (SWE). Engaged in issues around embedding SoTL institutionally, informal learning in collegial academic environments, and leadership, she has served as president of ISSOTL and vice president, Europe, on the ISSOTL board.

Linda Price, University of Bedfordshire

Linda Price is Professor and the Director of Academic and Organisational Development in the University of Bedfordshire (UK) and Visiting Professor at Lund University (SWE) and the Open University (UK). She has advised governments on the future of higher education and spoken at a wide range of international conferences.

Torgny Roxå, Lund University

Torgny Roxå is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University, Faculty of Engineering (SWE). His research focuses on strategic change in teaching cultures in higher education organizations, especially significant networks and microcultures, and he developed the first pedagogical academy, the Lund Excellent Teaching Practitioner.


Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3(2), 77-101.

Boshier, R. (2009). Why is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning such a hard sell? Higher Education Research & Development, 28(1), 1 - 15. doi:

Clegg, S. (2012). Conceptualising higher education research and/or academic development as ‘fields’: a critical analysis. Higher Education Research & Development, 31(5), 667 - 678. doi:

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2011). Surveys, longitudinal, cross-sectional and trend studies. Research Methods in Education, 7th edition. Abingdon: Routledge, 261-4.

Entwistle, N., (2019), Contributions of educational psychology to understanding student learning:

What has been discovered - what more could be done? The Psychology of Education Review, 43(1), 9-19.

Entwistle, N. J. (1994). Generative concepts and pedagogical fertility: communicating research findings on student learning, EARLI News, 9 –15.

Fanghanel, J., Pritchard, J., Potter, J., and Wisker, G. (2016). Defining and Supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): A Sector-Wide Study. Higher Education Academy, UK.

Geertsema, J. (2016). Academic development, SoTL and educational research. International Journal for Academic Development, 21, 122–134.

Grant, K.A. (2018). Eeducational research and SoTL. Converging in the Commons. In Chick. N.L. (ed.) SoTL in Action. Illuminating critical moments of practice. Stylus, Sterling, Virginia.

Huber, M.T., & Hutchings, P. (2005). Building the teaching commons. Change, 38(3), 24–31.

Kanuka, H. (2011). Keeping the Scholarship in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 5(1), 1 - 12.

MacFarlane, B. (2011). Prizes, pedagogic research and teaching professors: lowering the status of teaching and learning through bifurcation. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(1), 127 - 130. doi: 10.1080/13562517.2011.530756

Marton, F. (1981). Phenomenography: describing conceptions of the world around us. Instructional Science, 10, 177–200.

Marton, F., & Booth, S. (1997). Learning and Awareness. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Miller-Young, J., & Yeo, M. (2015). Conceptualizing and Communicating SoTL: A Framework for the Field. Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 3(2), 37–53.

Perkins, D. N. (2003). King Arthur’s table: How collaborative conversations create smart organisations. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.

Price, L., Casanova, D., & Orwell, S. (2017). Modeling an institutional approach to developing Technology Enabled Learning: Closing the gap between research and practice. Presented at the 11th annual International Technology, Education and Development Conference, Valencia, Spain.

Price, L., (2019), Response to Professor Entwistle's paper entitled “Contributions of educational psychology to understanding student learning: What has been discovered - what more could be done?” The Psychology of Education Review, 43(1), 28-33.

Shulman, L. S. (2011). Feature Essays:The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A Personal Account and Reflection. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 5(1), 1 - 7.

Smith, C.A. (1998). Personal understanding and target understanding: Their relationships through individual variations and curricular influences. Unpublished doctoral thesis. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.

Streveler, R.A., Borrego, M., & Smith, K.A. (2007). Moving from the "scholarship of teaching and learning" to "educational research": An example from engineering. To improve the Academy, 25, 139–149.

Tight, M. (2017). Tracking the scholarship of teaching and learning. Policy Reviews in Higher Education, Published online 06 Nov 2017. doi:

Trigwell, K., Prosser, M., & Taylor, P. (1994). Qualitative Differences in approaches to teaching in first year university science. Higher Education, 27, 75–84.




How to Cite

Larsson, Maria, Katarina Mårtensson, Linda Price, and Torgny Roxå. 2020. “Constructive Friction? Charting the Relation Between Educational Research and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 8 (1):61-75.