A higher education institution cannot exist without its students. The more they learn the farther they will go in their careers and the higher the reputation and prestige of their alma mater. The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) is an emerging movement of scholarly thought and action that draws on the reciprocal relationship between teaching and learning at the post-secondary level (Boyer, 1990). An important goal of SOTL is to enhance and augment learning amongst and between individual learners by investigating the many features of discipline specific expertise and best pedagogical practice (McKinney, 2006). SOTL uses discovery, reflection, and evidence-based methods to research effective teaching and student learning. These findings are peer reviewed and publicly disseminated in an ongoing cycle of systematic inquiry into classroom practices. This work benefits students and colleagues and is a source of personal renewal.


We believe that teaching is an art as well as a science and a privilege of the utmost distinction. As teachers we hold the following truths to be self-evident: (a) that all students are inherently motivated to learn, but they quickly learn to be unmotivated if they fail repeatedly; (b) that every student has the basic need to belong, to be competent and to influence what happens to her/him; motivation to learn only exists when these three conditions are met; (c) that learning is difficult, expensive and risky and therefore students must perceive the classroom as a safe environment, both physically and psychologically; in this respect high self-esteem should not be a goal, but a consequence of mastering the material.


As teachers we understand and fully acknowledge that learning is an extremely challenging task. What makes learning difficult is that it is a process of confronting and solving problems. Problems, depending upon their nature, evoke in us frustration or grief or sadness or loneliness or guilt or regret or anger or fear or anxiety or anguish or despair. These are uncomfortable feelings, often very uncomfortable, often as painful as any kind of physical pain, sometimes equaling the very worst kind of physical pain. Yet, it is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems learning has its meaning. As Benjamin Franklin said, "Those things that hurt, instruct." It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome the pain of having to solve problems.


Discipline is the basic set of tools that we require to solve problems, and these tools are basically techniques of suffering: Means by which we experience the pain of problems in such a way as to work them through and solve them successfully, learning and growing in the process. The tools of discipline are four: (a) delaying of gratification; (b) acceptance of responsibility; (c) dedication to truth, and (d) balancing. The first three are perhaps more or less obvious so we include here a very brief description of balancing.


The exercise of discipline is not only a demanding but also a complex task, requiring both flexibility and judgment. Courageous people must continually push themselves to be completely honest, yet must also possess the capacity to withhold the whole truth when appropriate. To be free people we must assume total responsibility for ourselves, but in doing so we must possess the capacity to reject responsibility that is not truly ours. To be organized and efficient, to live wisely, we must daily delay gratification and keep an eye on the future; yet to live joyously we must also possess the capacity, when it is not destructive, to live in the present and act spontaneously. In other words, discipline itself must be disciplined. This kind of meta-discipline is what we call balancing. It is the kind of discipline that gives us flexibility.


In the spirit of true academic freedom this group recognizes no higher authority than the scientific truth and only has two contact points and a liaison. The contact points (one for Informatics and one for Computer Science) have no power, just the responsibility to facilitate communication to, from and within the group and should rotate on a regular basis among the members of the group. The liaison is a courtesy extended by the Center of Innovative Teaching and Learning at IU to the group and to the extent possible it facilitates collaboration with other schools and departments within and without the university.


The group is not supposed to be involved in politics. For example we should not be involved in Promotion and Tenure cases directly nor should we want to be involved in those or in any other kind of political reform. While the reason may be obvious I still feel the need to argue the case. One reason that school reformers struggle to have an impact on student learning is that the organization of the school system makes it hard for reforms to get past the classroom door. But another reason is that, even inside the classroom itself, teachers themselves struggle to get their students to learn. For student learning to take place, teachers must first establish a special kind of personal relationship with the individual students in the class. Without this kind of relationship, students will not learn what schools want them to learn. And teachers can only establish such pedagogically effective relationships if they are allowed the discretionary space to do so. (See note below). They need this latitude to figure out a way of doing things that works best for the individual students in the class and for the special situations of time and place. But intruding on teachers in this way threatens to undermine the degree of teacher discretion that is necessary to foster effective learning. Note: the main reason for this is that teachers fit the occupational category that Michael Lipsky calls "street-level bureaucrats". These are public service workers whose clients are non-voluntary, who function under conditions of crushing demand and inadequate resources, where goals are ambiguous or conflicted and where performance in relation to goals is hard to measure. In cases like these (police officers, social workers, teachers, etc.), the bureaucracy has no choice but to allow the front-line agent substantial discretion to decide how to apply general policies to the myriad peculiarities of the cases at hand. From this perspective, then, school reform at the classroom level may not only be difficult; it may be counterproductive. And a key reason that teachers often resist reform efforts may be that they are trying to preserve a form of teaching and learning that seems to work and to fend off an alternative approach that might not (As Michael Fullan notes, it is just as helpful to schooling to block a harmful reform as it is to implement a beneficial reform.)


The fundamental thesis of Visible Learning is that there is a 'practice' of teaching. The word practice, and not science, is deliberately chosen because there is no fixed recipe for ensuring that teaching has the maximum possible effect on student learning, and no set of principles that apply to all learning for all students. But there are practices that we know are effective and many practices that we know are not. Visible Learning means an enhanced role for teachers as they become evaluators of their own teaching. Visible Learning and Teaching occurs when teachers see learning through the eyes of students and help them become their own teachers.

Last updated: August 8, 2016 by © Adrian German