What Do SoTL Practitioners Need to Know about Learning?

Keywords: science of teaching and learning, scholarship of teaching and learning, cognitive psychology, educational research, translational research


What does someone embarking on a scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) project need to know about how students learn? And how can the SoTL novice reconcile their goals to improve teaching and learning with the vastness of the literature on the science of learning? In this article, we consider the complexity of this literature and its intersection with SoTL. We also review several popular books and websites that might be used by the SoTL novice as entry points for grounding their SoTL studies, informing the questions they ask and narrowing the literature they read. In these brief reviews, we offer practical tips and advice on how to use these resources effectively so that one does not have to become an expert in the science of learning to perform outstanding SoTL research.

Author Biographies

Hillary H. Steiner, Kennesaw State University

Hillary H. Steiner serves as Associate Director for SoTL in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and Associate Professor of Psychological Science at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia (USA).

Christopher M. Hakala, Springfield College

Christopher M. Hakala is currently the Director for the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship, as well as Professor of Psychology at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts (USA). 


Agarwal, Pooja. “Retrieval Practice.” Accessed January 4, 2021. www.retrievalpractice.org.

Ambrose, Susan A., Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman. 2010. How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. John Wiley & Sons.

Bass, Randall. 2020. “What’s the Problem Now?” To Improve the Academy 38, no. 1. http://doi.org/10.3998/tia.17063888.0039.102.

Benassi, Victor A., Catherine E. Overson, and Christopher M. Hakala. 2014. Applying Science of Learning in Education: Infusing Psychological Science into the Curriculum. Society for the Teaching of Psychology. Retrieved from http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/asle2014/index.php.

Brown, Peter C., Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel. 2014. Make It Stick. Harvard University Press.

Cappello, Alicia, and Janice Miller-Young. 2020. “Who Are We Citing and How? A SoTL Citation Analysis.” Teaching & Learning Inquiry 8, no. 2: 3–16. http://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.8.2.2.

Cruz, Laura, Kathryn Cunningham, Brian Smentkowski, and Hillary Steiner. 2019. “The SoTL Scaffold: Supporting Evidence‐Based Teaching Practice in Educational Development.” To Improve the Academy 38, no. 1: 50–66. https://doi.org/10.1002/tia2.20090.

Daniel, David B. 2012. “Promising Principles: Translating the Science of Learning to Educational Practice.” Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition 1, no. 4: 251–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jarmac.2012.10.004.

Daniel, David B., and Stephen L. Chew. 2013. “The Tribalism of Teaching and Learning.” Teaching of Psychology 40, no. 4 (2013): 363–67. https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628313501034.

Darby, Flower, and James M. Lang. 2019. Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes. John Wiley & Sons.

Eyler, Joshua R. 2018. How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories behind Effective College Teaching. West Virginia University Press.

Felten, Peter. 2013. “Principles of Good Practice in SoTL.” Teaching and Learning Inquiry 1, no. 1): 121–25. https://doi.org/10.2979/teachlearninqu.1.1.121.

Gayle, Barbara Mae, Nancy Randall, Lin Langley, and Raymond Preiss. 2013. “Faculty Learning Processes: A Model for Moving from Scholarly Teaching to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.” Teaching and Learning Inquiry 1, no. 1: 81–93. https://doi.org/0.20343/teachlearninqu.1.1.81.

Gurung, Regan A.R., and Beth M. Schwartz. 2009. Optimizing Teaching and Learning: Practicing Pedagogical Research. John Wiley & Sons.

Lang, James M. 2016. Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning. John Wiley & Sons.

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 & Learning Inquiry 8, no. 1: 61–75. http://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.8.1.5.

Roxå, Torgny. 2018. “Making Use of Educational Research in Higher Education–Academic Teachers Engaged in Translational Research.” Teaching & Learning Inquiry 6, no. 2: 67–80. https://doi.org/0.20343/teachlearninqu.6.2.6.

Scharff, Lauren, and John Draeger. “Improve with Metacognition.” Accessed January 4, 2021. www.improvewithmetacognition.com.

Simmons, Nicola. “Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Annotated Literature Database.” Accessed January 4, 2021. www.sotlannotations.com.

Sprague, Jo, Douglas Stuart, and David Bodary. 2012. The Speaker’s Handbook. Harcourt College Publishers.

Sumeracki, Megan, Cindy Nebel, Carolina Kuepper-Tetzel, and Althea N. Kaminske. “The Learning Scientists.” Accessed January 4, 2021. www.learningscientists.org.

Tremonte, Colleen M. 2011. “Window Shopping: Fashioning a Scholarship of Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning.” International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning 5, no. 1. https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2011.050126.

How to Cite
Steiner, Hillary H., and Christopher M. Hakala. 2021. “What Do SoTL Practitioners Need to Know about Learning? ”. Teaching & Learning Inquiry 9 (1), 79-85. https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.9.1.7.