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Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in STEM
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in STEM

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5 Literature review for a SoTL inquiry

To develop as a reflective practitioner, it is important to gain the ability to critically evaluate your own SoTL practice in relation to resources in the literature. A SoTL inquiry therefore requires substantive engagement with related theoretical and empirical literature to situate the SoTL inquiry in the literature, to build on the extant work and to ensure that SoTL practice is based on the best available evidence.

A literature review is the process of gathering and evaluating available evidence in an area of interest, and in bridging the gap between current knowledge and future practice (McKinney, 2015).

Understanding previous research is, therefore, central to your SoTL inquiry. The literature review helps you, as a SoTL practitioner, to:

  • develop knowledge of your proposed SoTL inquiry

  • see what has already been investigated in your area of interest and avoid trying to reinvent the wheel

  • synthesise the strengths, weaknesses and findings of inquiries in your area of interest

  • ensure that you have an up-to-date picture of the current state of knowledge in the topic in which you are interested

  • identify unique ‘gaps’ in knowledge into which you can position your SoTL inquiry

  • demonstrate the context of your inquiry and how you will build on the work of previous researchers and SoTL practitioners

  • justify the rationale and significance of your SoTL inquiry

  • discover conceptual traditions, theories and theoretical frameworks that may guide or influence your inquiry

  • shape, refine and redefine research questions of the proposed SoTL inquiry

  • familiarise yourself with research methods appropriate for your inquiry and learn to apply them

  • shape the research design of your SoTL inquiry.

Once you have completed your inquiry, the literature review will help to interpret the outcomes and demonstrate how your inquiry contributes to the area in which you have been working on. Comparing the outcomes to similar work in the area will demonstrate how you have moved the teaching in the discipline and your SoTL practice forward. Also, comparing the outcomes with the gaps you identified in the early stages of your literature review will allow you to evaluate how well you have addressed those gaps.