“Research shows that students learn more and are more likely to succeed when research-proven pedagogical techniques are used and learning environments are inclusive” (Boyer Commission, 2022, p. 25).
This finding is so robust, many colleges and universities are including an emphasis on evidence-based teaching in their strategic plans. In the IU 2030 plan, one of the objectives under the first goal states “Enhance evidence-based pedagogy and inclusive teaching practices to improve student outcomes in academic courses.” If this terminology is new to you, it may leave you wondering what this means for your workload and your courses.
Evidence based pedagogy simply means that the approaches we take to our teaching are based in the teaching and learning literature. This literature includes empirical work out of education, cognitive psychology, and related learning sciences, as well as the assessment, scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), and discipline based educational research (DBER) literature. In the later two instances, disciplinary experts examine teaching and learning within their disciplinary context.
The application of this literature base to our teaching is known as scholarly teaching. Potter and Kustra (2011) provide us with a formal definition of scholarly teaching: “teaching grounded in critical reflection using systematically and strategically gathered evidence, related and explained by well-reasoned theory and philosophical understanding, with the goal of maximizing learning through effective teaching” (p. 3). Any teaching activity meeting all three conditions is considered scholarly teaching.
In practice, scholarly teachers begin by identifying a challenge in one of their courses (i.e. students are not completing the reading prior to coming to class). Then they consult the literature on the challenge and choose an approach to address their challenge (e.g., implement a flipped classroom model). After implementing the approach, they determine whether or not the modification was successful (e.g., are more students completing the reading prior to class), continuing this cycle until an effective solution to their challenge is found.
Locating potential evidence-based practices and determining their appropriateness for your teaching context does not have to be burdensome or time intensive. Consultants in the teaching center utilize evidence-based approaches in our work with instructors. You can dig into evidence-based practices through teaching focused conferences and journals, SoTL journals (such as the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning published through FACET), and teaching and learning or SoTL series from academic presses such as Elon University’s Open Access Book Series or the Teaching and Learning in Higher Education series at West Virginia University. Talk with colleagues to better understand the approaches they have tried and visit the IU SoTL database to connect with new colleagues interested in discussing teaching and learning.
The scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) program is focused on not only raising awareness and implementation of the evidence, but supporting instructors interested in systematically examining their own teaching and student learning. As part of that focus, we are offering an upcoming SoTL Keynote talk by Claudia Cornejo Happel titled Navigating Evidence-Based Teaching: From Research to Application and workshop titled Who Tells Your Story? Reflection and Agency in Documenting Teaching Effectiveness. Both events are being held on October 6, 2023 with registration details available at the previous links. For more information, contact Shannon Sipes.