Grand Challenges for SoTL
Education provides a foundation for the transformation and advancement of individuals and societies. Thus, it’s imperative that we as a society commit to studying how to maximize learning and to share what is learned in order to provide excellent and equitable educational experiences around the world.
Those engaged in Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) strive to enhance postsecondary teaching and learning by investigating educational practices and contexts, including the work of SoTL itself. Evidence from SoTL scholars’ work guides the establishment and maintenance of supportive educational environments, and helps address grand challenges of teaching and learning. A strength of SoTL is that its practitioners ask many different types of questions, drawing from many scholarly traditions, to build toward a more comprehensive understanding of how teaching and learning happen in a range of contexts.
Grand challenges are complex, global problems that have no simple solution across all contexts and that require inputs from diverse areas of expertise to provide solutions for given contexts at specific points in time. They are worth investigating because, although specific to a local environment, solutions can be adapted for other contexts. In 2008, engineering led the identification of grand challenges for their field. Since then, a variety of other fields have also identified their grand challenges (e.g. assessment, social work, public administration).
Like grand challenges in these other realms, teaching and learning are inherently complex. Within this overarching complexity are even greater challenges that emerge from the diversity of learners and teachers, the influence of many dynamic contextual factors, and the gaps in the existing research that addresses these challenges. Evolving pedagogical tools and approaches offer possible opportunities to enhance teaching and life-long learning, but awareness, access, and implementation are not uniform across institutions and global settings.
Members of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL) worked since 2018 with iterative input and feedback from people around the world to identify five Grand Challenges for SoTL, now being shared in 2023. Although these challenges are interdependent, they are described individually in this site to better support research efforts. Additionally, while aspects of the challenges have been studied for years, the inherent complexity and ever-changing contexts for teaching and learning will require ongoing investigations of all kinds.
Ultimately, these Grand Challenges for SoTL will provide a framework to support far-reaching collaborations, and they will communicate the value of and guide actions undertaken by ISSOTL, by SoTL scholars, and for the purpose of public outreach.
Many thanks to Logo designers, Amber Thomas and Hyojung Lee from Illinois State University. As a dual metaphor, this logo symbolizes both an open book and a door. The book signifies the ongoing scholarly research activities of SoTL, emphasizing a commitment to continuous academic exploration. The door reflects the spirit of SoTL, always open to exploring and experimenting with new possibilities.
Scharff, Lauren, Holly Capocchiano, Nancy Chick, Michelle Eady, Jen Friberg, Diana Gregory, Kara Loy, and Trent Maurer. “Grand Challenges for SoTL.” International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, November 2023. https://issotl.com/grand-challenges-for-sotl/