SOTL in Pharmacy

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is receiving increased attention in pharmacy education.  But, what is it?  How is it related to good teaching, innovation or educational research?  Here are some working definitions.

Teaching Excellence

High quality instruction is obviously an important goal.  Common characteristics of good teachers include: positive student-faculty contact, effective active learning, achievable yet high expectations, respects diverse talents and ways of learning, effective communication skills, commitment to teaching well (Hammer, 2010 ).

Scholarly Teaching (ST)

Evidence-based education is also a goal.  To that end, pharmacy educators are increasingly engaging in Scholarly Teaching.  Scholarly Teaching promotes student engagement and learning using the educational literature and systematically assesses learning outcomes (Medina, 2011).  Scholarly Teaching involves: observing a teaching-learning problem or opportunity, consulting literature, selecting and applying an educational intervention, conducting systematic observation, documenting observations, analyzing results and obtaining peer evaluation (Richlin 2001).  The purpose of ST is to affect the activity of teaching and the resulting learning (Richlin and Cox, 2001). 

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL)

The Scholarship of Teaching builds on the end product of Scholarly Teaching.  It involves identifying key issues from the scholarly teaching, analyzing results and putting them into the context of the existing knowledge base.  Once a venue for dissemination is chosen (i.e. presentation and/or publication), peer review is conducted on the manuscript or proposal (Richlin, 2001).  Therefore, SOTL results in formal, peer-reviewed products, which then become part of the knowledge base of teaching and learning (Richlin and Cox, 2001).  In short, the scholarship of teaching communicates the goals, preparation, methods, results, presentation and reflection of teaching in the literature (Medina, 2011).


Scholarly Teaching and SOTL may involve Innovation.  Innovation is a multi-stage process (e.g. generation, development, adaptation) where ideas are transformed into new policies, structures, methods, processes, products or opportunities to advance education.  Innovation involves intentional activity and structured creativity that is aimed at making education better. Innovation involves the application of an idea that is different, cutting edge or novel to the environment or organization.  Innovation  is not to be confused with invention, which is the creation of ideas. 

Educational Research

At times, work related to teaching and/or learning might be characterized as Educational Research.  Educational research is the use of experimental design to systematically study educational questions (Medina 2011).  These questions are generally developed as the next logical step in advancing the knowledge base.  Both quantitative and qualitative traditions are valuable.  In quantitative work, measurement is key and a driving factor in the design is often the incorporation of strategies to optimize generalizability of the findings.  Qualitative work is often exploratory, helping to better understand the why and how of a situation, event or phenomenon.


Hammer D, Piascik P, Medina M, et al. Recognition of teaching excellence. American journal of pharmaceutical education. 2010;74(9):164.

Medina M, Hammer D, Rose R, Scott S, Creekmore FM, Pittenger A, Soltis R, Bouldin A, Schwarz L PP. Demonstrating excellence in pharmacy teaching through scholarship. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning. 2011;3:255–259.

Richlin L. Scholarly Teaching and the Scholarship of Teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. 2001;(86):57–68.

Richlin L, Cox MD. Developing scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning through faculty learning communities. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. 2004;Spring(97):127–135.