Developing a syntax for SOTL

Main Article Content

Michael Samuel


This article presents an overview of conceptions of a scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL) as reflected by one specific conference held in South Africa. The data draws inductively on the abstracts and reflective analysis of the presentations made which interpreted the relationships between teaching and research excellence in higher education (HE). A team of critical reviewers of these inputs summarised the interrelated conceptions of SOTL: firstly, as a micro-level description of “best practices” (pedagogical action); and secondly, as a meso-level alignment between individual/ disciplinary/ departmental pedagogical practices and the HE institutional environment (institutional action). The latter agenda spanned staff capacity-building initiatives, collaborative curriculum planning, institutional quality assurance regimes and the use of institutional data analytical approaches to planning. Many presentations also argued that the micro- and meso-levels need to be more aligned strategically to matters of social justice and reconstruction of the HE system at a macro-level (social action). This transformative agenda requires individuals, disciplines and institutions to become more comfortable with boundary-crossings across disciplines, more shared work in collaborative curriculum planning, and increased awareness of the co-optive econometric and epistemic Eurocentric discourses surrounding the HE system. A syntax for SOTL, especially in developing world contexts, should consciously aim at interpreting the tensions and intersections between micro-, meso- and macro-levels of influence. This should not mean capitulating to (externally-driven) agendas, but engaging in a form of “epistemic disobedience”, which consciously challenges the sources of SOTL choices in relation to their appropriateness for specific situated contexts of the marginalised South. A sensitive and relevant SOTL for the South agenda is robust (conscious of its choices), responsive (cognisant of the likely consequences of options) and resilient (conscious of long-term sustainability and uncertainty).


How to cite this article:

SAMUEL, Michael. Developing a syntax for SOTL. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the South, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 1, p. 19-38, sep. 2017. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 12 sep. 2017.