Good Teaching, Scholarly Teaching and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning – Monica Vesely



I recently had the good fortune to attend the New Faculty Developers Institute in Atlanta where I attended a session on Supporting SoTL (the scholarship of teaching and learning). As many of us are now preparing for the start of a new academic year in September, this topic area is, if not top-of-mind, at least a component of the many thoughts swirling in our brains. With this mind, I thought I would share my synopsis of this session with you.

The presenter, Thomas Pusateri from Kennesaw State University, opened the session by citing excerpts from Hutchings and Shulman that endeavoured to make the distinction between good teaching and scholarly teaching, and ultimately, the scholarship of teaching and learning (from “The Scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments,” in Change, September/October 1999. Volume 31, Number 5. Pages 10-15.)

Hutchings and Shulman proposed that “all faculty have an obligation to teach well, to engage students, and to foster important forms of student learning” and they concede that “this is not easily done” and that “such teaching is a good fully sufficient unto itself”.

The authors go on to say that “when it (the practice of good teaching) entails, as well, certain practices of classroom assessment and evidence gathering, when it is informed not only by the latest ideas in the field but by current ideas about teaching the field, when it invites peer collaboration and review, then that teaching might rightly be called scholarly, or reflective, or informed”.

They suggest that the final step of “making one’s scholarly teaching public (“community property”), open to critique and evaluation, and in a form that others can build on” transforms the scholarly teaching into the scholarship of teaching and proceed to define it as follows:

“Scholarship of teaching will entail a public account of some or all of the full act of teaching—vision, design, enactment, outcomes, and analysis-in a manner susceptible to critical review by the teacher’s professional peers and amenable to productive employment in future work by members of that same community.”

If we choose to take up the torch, how can we navigate the path from good teaching (in and of itself a laudable goal) to scholarly teaching and then, to the scholarship of teaching and learning? Below I have gathered just a few of the many resources available to help guide your way:

On-campus: University of Waterloo Resources

External Conferences and Professional Organizations


Happy travels!



What are Teaching Squares? – Monica Vesely

teaching squares imageThe beginning…

Teaching Squares is a concept created by Anne Wessely of St. Louis Community College. It started when Anne Wessely, chair of the accounting department at the Meramec campus in Kirkwood, was leading a committee looking into peer evaluation. By her recollection: “We were sitting around and we had the hedonists, the relationship builders, and the task-oriented people just as you usually do. The relationship builders were saying ‘we just meet to get together,’ and the task-oriented people were talking about peer evaluation and were thinking of a developing formal component for our evaluation system.” Out of this discussion emerged the Teaching Squares approach as a non-judgmental, evaluative process that fosters in-depth reflection about teaching in general and in context. The program builds community across disciplines and provides an opportunity for instructors to engage in discussions about teaching.

The description…

The Teaching Squares approach involves a self-reflective process about teaching gained through observation of one’s peers. It is not a peer evaluation exercise but rather a self-evaluation process which takes place in a confidential and mutually supportive environment. The aim of the Teaching Squares approach is to enhance teaching and learning through a structured process of classroom observation, reflection and discussion (leading to a plan for revitalization).

The mechanics…

A square is formed by four instructors who visit each other’s classes over the course of one term. Those being visited are encouraged to provide peer visitors with a copy of their course outline, to comment on why students are taking that particular course, and to share any material that would enhance the observation experience. The peer visitors are instructed to take notes during the classroom visit which would include such particulars as teaching methods, attitudes, classroom materials, and classroom management. The visits are preceded by an organizational meeting and followed by a debrief meeting where the participants share their experiences (the positive aspects of what they have learned and how they might improve their own teaching).

In conclusion…

By allowing instructors to be “learners” again in their colleagues’ classes, Teaching Squares opens up unique spaces for reflection and conversation about teaching. During their classroom visits, the Teaching Squares participants have the opportunity to experience a variety of contexts and challenges which leads to a greater appreciation of the quality of and commitment to good teaching already in existence on campus and, at the same time, it provides the catalyst for growth as participants gather ideas on different teaching approaches and consider how they could be used to improve one’s own teaching.



If you are interested in learning more about the Teaching Squares Program at the University of Waterloo, please contact Monica Vesely at

Teaching Orientation Days – Monica Vesely

In August, before our students hit the books and before our instructors “hit” the podium (real of otherwise), our new faculty had the opportunity to attend teaching workshops particularly tailored to their career stage and offered in a concentrated format at a timely point before the start of the fall term. For the second year in a row, two days in August (8th and 9th) were dedicated to Teaching Orientation. New faculty members were invited to attend any or all of four teaching workshops that form the core of the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE)’s new faculty offerings. Continue reading Teaching Orientation Days – Monica Vesely

Signposting and Lectures — Monica Vesely

What is signposting? It refers to all of those rhetorical phrases and devices which are used in spoken discourse primarily to help the listener understand the structure of what is being listened to. In other words, a signpost is a device used to indicate what direction you are travelling in a lecture. It lets your students know what is coming up, and positions them to accept what you are saying. Continue reading Signposting and Lectures — Monica Vesely

Rubrics and Creativity: Can they coexist? – Monica Vesely

We all recognize the potential value of a well-constructed rubric. Stevens and Levi in their book “Introduction to Rubrics” summarize these in their six key reasons for constructing and using rubrics:

  1. Rubrics provide timely feedback
  2. Rubrics prepare students to use detailed feedback Continue reading Rubrics and Creativity: Can they coexist? – Monica Vesely

Transparency in Teaching – Monica Vesely

As educators, we prepare and use many planning materials in teaching our respective courses. We sweat over learning objectives, we develop concept maps and we careful choose learning activities and assessment methods to best measure our learning objectives. We then consider the alignment of our course design components. After we have lovingly crafted our course, we launch it in the lecture hall or laboratory. And then we wait. We wait to see how our learning activities were received and how our students fared in their assessments and we wait to receive our course evaluations.

Sometimes the feedback we receive on our teaching is in line with our expectations, but more often than we would like, it is not. How could such meticulous planning result in such misunderstanding? How is it that the product of such hard work can be so poorly received?

Quite possibly, it is not the work we did but rather the work we did not do in communicating our intentions to our students. I do not suggest that we walk them through a course design workshop, but what I do suggest is that we telegraph some of our intentions. If we include a learning activity clearly suited to someone who learns well through reflective observation, we (as instructors) may wish to let the other students in the class know that we have also included activities geared at those who learn best through active experimentation (of course, we need not use this formal terminology in our explanation). This simple act of verbalizing our intentions and alerting our students to the consideration we have for all learning styles may suffice to ward off grumblings at best and non-participation at worst. Likewise, in our assessment rubrics, if we highlight that the emphasis in the grading breakdown aligns with the course learning outcomes and curriculum expectations, we can avoid many perceptions of unfairness or unreasonableness. Many such opportunities exist within our planned course material to make our teaching intentions plain to the students.

Such efforts at transparency can serve as guides to students as we shepherd them through the course material. While taken individually they involve small amounts of effort and yet, collectively they can reap significant rewards if they help to bring students on board with our pedagogic plan. After all, don’t we all appreciate knowing where we are going and why?


The Centre for Teaching Excellence welcomes contributions to its blog. If you are a faculty member, staff member, or student at the University of Waterloo (or beyond!) and would like contribute a posting about some aspect of teaching or learning, please contact Mark Morton or Trevor Holmes.