What is SoTL?
The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) uses discovery, reflection, and evidence-based methods to research effective teaching and student learning in higher education. SoTL goes beyond teaching based on evidence to produce evidence for specific teaching and learning practices. These findings are peer reviewed and publicly disseminated in an ongoing cycle of systematic inquiry into classroom practices.
Different research methods and arguments can be used to demonstrate student learning, though they vary in the strength of evidence they can provide. Deductive arguments and experimental methods generally provide stronger evidence of learning than inductive arguments and case studies; combining methods can capitalize on the advantages of each. Any of these can be effective SoTL methods.
What is DBER?
The goal of Discipline-Based Educational Research (DBER) is to test theories and construct models of teaching and learning, specifically in science and engineering disciplines. DBER scholars combine discipline expertise with knowledge of the science of teaching and learning. Together, they form a collection of related research fields in science and engineering including physics education research (PER), chemistry education research (CER), and engineering education research (EER), among others. DBER scholars use common methods and draw on common theories, but are each influenced by the practices and history of their parent discipline.
The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine published a report in 2012 that defines DBER, synthesizes the DBER literature, and calls for the increased use of DBER findings and recognition of DBER as a valuable field of scholarly study. You can download a free PDF of the report at the National Academies Press website.
How are SoTL and DBER different?
Discipline-based educational research (DBER) is typically more generalizable to other courses or instructional contexts than SoTL research. Rather than classroom-level studies that are characteristic of SoTL, DBER studies address broader goals such as understanding how people learn certain concepts in a discipline and how this knowledge can be translated into classroom practice.
SoTL and DBER are not completely independent of one another. The lines between the two approaches to teaching and learning research are blurred. One helpful way to think about the relationship is to think of a SoTL-DBER continuum, which is described by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT).
At the Faculty Center, we can provide support for projects on the SoTL end of the spectrum.