A Publication from AUHS School of Pharmacy Sheds New Lights on the Field of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

By June 17, 2020Articles

By: Mohammed A. Islam, PhD
Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, School of Pharmacy

The publication  “Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate” in 1990 by Earnest Boyer served as a sentinel publication in promoting teaching as a scholarly activity and catalyzed the eventual birth of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL).1 A decade later, SoTL was clarified as a systematically designed, literature-based study of faculty teaching activity which is disseminated through peer-reviewed publication.2 Subsequently, SoTL emerged in the literature as inquiry-based research that overlaps with traditional discipline-specific research.3, 4

Despite a growing body of literature, there is a lack of clarity as to what constitutes SoTL.3, 5-7 The confusion between “scholarly” and “scholarship” and other terminology describing SoTL contributes to the vagueness of its identity. For example, “scholarly teaching” and other teaching-related activities have been described as SoTL,5, 6, but they remain two discrete constructs. Scholarly teaching is grounded in critical reflection, while SoTL is a systematic or methodological inquiry to obtain credible results which are peer-reviewed, critiqued, and shared with broader community.4 The results of several studies have identified a lack of awareness of  the definition of SoTL and associated practices among faculty with varying experience and disciplines.6-8 In addition, there are cross-institutional differences in the understanding of the definition of SoTL. Research intensive universities view SoTL as published work; whereas, other types of institutions may put less emphasis on publication.

The paper by Islam et al., “Faculty assessment of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning among US pharmacy programs”, published recently in the journal Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1877129720301519) sheds new lights on the continued ambiguity surrounding SoTL definition and value. A survey instrument was developed to determine faculty awareness and attitude towards SoTL and its role in the faculty promotion and tenure process in US colleges/schools of pharmacy. A total of 643 faculty members from 139 colleges/schools of pharmacy responded to the survey. The responses on what constitutes SoTL from a notable majority of pharmacy faculty framed SoTL as a study of a broad spectrum of academic practices that include teaching and learning activities such as course-level instructions and assessment, current teaching and learning principles, and practices, curriculum development process and lead to peer-reviewed dissemination. The study made a clear distinction between SoTL and “scholarly teaching”. In addition, they further broadened the scope of SoTL practices. For example, designing a new course, experiential education, interprofessional education, student leadership, co-curricular activities, faculty development, integration of technology in the classroom, were also considered as common areas of SoTL by pharmacy faculty only if the works resulted in peer-reviewed publication.

The results of this study show that most of the responding pharmacy faculty recognize and value SoTL and support the incorporation of SoTL research into the promotion and tenure processes in pharmacy academia. Future studies involving qualitative analysis of promotion and tenure documents of colleges and school of pharmacy will likely provide valuable information on the status of SoTL in faculty promotion and tenure. In addition, future works are also warranted on how the pharmacy schools or colleges embrace initiatives surrounding SoTL such as faculty development, cross-institutional collaboration, institutional funding, and inclusion of SoTL in strategic initiatives and promotion and tenure criteria.


  1. Boyer E. Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ:Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 1990.
  2. Shulman L. The scholarship of teaching. Change. 1999;31(5):11.
  3. McKinney. Attitudinal and structural factors contributing to challenges in the work of the scholarship of teaching and learning. In: J.M. Braxton, JM, ed. Analyzing Faculty Work and Rewards: Using Boyer’s Four Domains of Scholarship. San Francisco; Jossey Bass. 2006.
  4. Potter M, Kustra E. The Relationship between Scholarly Teaching and SoTL: Models, Distinctions, and Clarifications. International Journal for the scholarship of teaching and learning. 2011;5(1):Article 23.
  5. Boshier R. Why is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning such a hard sell? Higher Education Research and Development. 2009;28(1):1-15.
  6. Secret M, Leisey M, Lanning S, Polich S, Schaub J. Faculty perceptions of the scholarship of teaching and learning: Definition, activity level and merit considerations at one university. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 2011;11(3):1-20.
  7. Gurung R, Ansburg PI, Alexander PA, Lawrence NK, Johnson DE. State of the scholarship of teaching and learning in psychology. Teaching of Psychology. 2008;35:249-261.
  8. Buch K. Faculty perceptions of SoTL at a research institution: A preliminary study. Teaching of Psychology. 2008;35(4):297-300.

About American University of Health Sciences

AUHS is a Christian based, minority-serving university, which educates students for careers in the healthcare professions. AUHS emphasizes the values of faith in God, love of humankind, and belief that all people have a right to healthcare and deserve a good quality of life based on the wellness of body, mind, and spirit. The university celebrates diversity and reaches out to groups currently underrepresented in healthcare and research. AUHS provides the undergraduate and graduate curriculum, hands-on practical training and supportive environment required to create competent and compassionate healthcare professionals.

American University of Health Sciences is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), 985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100, Alameda, CA 94501, 510.748.9001.

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