Reviewing the Literature on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): An Academic Literacies Perspective

Part 2




SoTL literature reviews, academic literacies, embedded versus freestanding reviews, narrative versus systematic reviews, lived experience of undertaking literature searches and reviews


There are few sources that critically evaluate the ways of reviewing the literature on scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). We use an academic literacies perspective as a lens with which to explore the ways that literature reviews may be undertaken. While reviewing the literature is often presented as a scientific, objective process, the reality is much messier, nuanced, and iterative. It is a complex, context-dependent procedure. We provide a practical, critical guide to undertaking SoTL literature reviews.

We distinguish between embedded reviews that present a review contextualising the research that follows, as in most SoTL articles; and freestanding reviews that synthesise research on specific topics. We discuss the nature of embedded reviews, and evaluate systematic and narrative review approaches to undertaking freestanding reviews. We contend that the claims of the superiority of systematic reviews are unjustified. It is important that contextually-sensitive judgements and interpretation of texts associated with narrative reviews are seen as central to the reviewing process, and as a strength rather than a weakness.

This article complements a separate one, where we apply an academic literacies lens to reviewing the literature on searching the SoTL literature. Together, they present a narrative review of searching and reviewing the SoTL literature undertaken systematically. We call for studies investigating the lived experiences of SoTL scholars. We illustrate this argument with an auto-ethnographic account of the often-serendipitous nature of our hunt for sources in preparing this review and the way our thinking and writing evolved during the writing of the two articles.

Click here to read the corresponding ISSOTL blog post.


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Author Biographies

Mick Healey, Healey HE Consultants

Mick Healey is director of Healey HE Consultants and emeritus professor at University of Gloucestershire (UK).

Ruth L. Healey, University of Chester, UK

Ruth L. Healey is professor of teaching and learning in higher education at University of Chester (UK) and director of Healey HE Consultants.


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Computer screen featuring diagram on SoTL literature review.




How to Cite

Healey, Mick, and Ruth Healey. 2023. “Reviewing the Literature on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): An Academic Literacies Perspective : Part 2”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 11 (January).