The University of Iowa

Develop a Research Question

SoTL research questions are inspired by instructors’ curiosity about pedagogical strategies or the impact of their teaching on their students’ learning.

Design the Study

With their own research interests in mind, instructors decide what kinds of evidence will be needed to address their questions. For example, if the research question is about the impact of a teaching activity on students' learning, an instructor would design a study to measure student learning outcomes related to the activity.

On the other hand, if the research question is about whether students find a specific classroom strategy to be helpful, an instructor would design a study to document students' perceptions of their experiences when the instructor implemented the strategy, perhaps using surveys or interviews with students. A key characteristic of SoTL is that instructors can leverage methodologies they already use in their discipline to ask questions, collect data, and analyze that information to learn more about teaching and learning. 

Collect Data for the Study

Data collection depends on types of data needed to address the research question. Evidence about students' learning or instructors' teaching practices may include documenting students' knowledge before and after a teaching intervention, observing levels of participation in an activity, designing and administering a survey, analyzing products, conducting interviews with the students about their experience, or other methodologies that will help them gather information.

Analyze Data

Depending on the types of evidence needed, a SoTL study may rely on a variety analyses and may include quantitative or qualitative methodologies. Examples include comparing students' performances on assignments or test items related to a teaching intervention, reviewing students’ responses to a survey question, or identifying themes in students' comments about experiences with a learning activity.

Draw Conclusions

This step involves examining how the data address the research question. Conclusions might focus on changing teaching strategies in the course being studied, revisions of research methodologies in future SoTL studies, or broader implications for use in other course settings.

Share the SoTL Study in Professional Communities

The instructor may share their study process and results with their professional communities in many different ways, such as department and campus-wide seminars, conference papers and poster presentations, white papers, and peer-reviewed journal articles.