Evidence-Based Teaching

Bolster your teaching techniques with the science of teaching and learning

Students learn best when instructors use evidence-based teaching, the same way patients benefit when doctors use evidence-based practice. If you want to apply the same rigorous techniques you use from your research to your teaching, then this page is for you.

What is Evidence-Based (“Scholarly”) Teaching?

Potter and Kustra (2011) defined scholarly teaching as “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).

Sound familiar? Scholarly Teaching invokes many of the same processes as scholarly behavior in general, such as theory-building and evidence gathering. These essential elements of systematic observation and reasoned knowing are central to our academic identity.

Why is it important?

A scientist-educator is a faculty member who appreciates the importance of teaching, evaluates their own teaching systematically, and shares what they’ve learned about their teaching with others (Bernstein et al., 2010). Throughout this cycle, scientist-educators identify student challenges, survey the literature about how to address them, use evidence-based interventions, and observe how changes to their teaching influence student learning.

There are increasingly urgent calls to improve our teaching and students’ learning. For example, Richlin and Cox (2001) declared:

“it is essential that faculty hold themselves to the same high standards in their observations of teaching and learning as they have traditionally done in their disciplines.” (p. 6)

Almost fifteen years later, Pace argued that

“A consensus has formed within growing circles in academia that there is scholarly research to be done on teaching and learning, that the systematic creation of rigorous knowledge about teaching and learning is a crucial prerequisite to responding to major challenges facing academia…and that the explorations of this area should be conducted by academics from all disciplines, not just those with appointments in schools of education.” (2004, p. 1174).

This is a conversation happening nationally, internationally, and across disciplines. Below are just a few examples:

  • Engineering: “Perhaps the engineering community’s most pressing “grand challenge” is to raise its awareness of the considerable educational infrastructure that already exists, both within and outside engineering, and the substantive body of knowledge of proven principles and effective practices in teaching, learning, and educational innovation” (Jamieson & Lohmann, 2012, p. 50).
  • Chemistry: “Chemists must recognize that their disciplinary expertise gives them an important voice in advancing the content, pedagogy, and assessment of chemistry education.” (Coppola & Jacobs, 2001, p. 2)
  • Physics: “The fact that instructors have not embraced research-based instructional strategies as readily as they regularly assimilate novel theoretical or experimental approaches in their technical research field is troubling.” (Fraser et al., 2014, p. 2)
  • Biology: “We need to think creatively about how to bring life sciences research methods—such as those used to study physiological systems, to model ecological processes across scales, and to analyze metabolic networks—to bear on the study of teaching and learning.” (Dolan, 2015, p. 2)
  • STEM Fields More Generally: “Growing attention is being paid to the instruction practices of STEM faculty, specifically to encourage more widespread use of instructional strategies grounded in the research of how students learn.” (Borrego, 2014, p. 220)

How to Do It

It can be useful to think of scholarly teaching as a combination of five dimensions that work together “to enable faculty to locate, guide, and evaluate their development as effective teachers” (IUPUI Center for Teaching and Learning).

  • Evidence-based practice – basing instructional decisions on reliable evidence
  • Reflective practice – purposeful inquiry about one’s own pedagogical practice and associated assumptions
  • Course design – selection of course materials and design to align course goals, learning activities/assessment, and student learning outcomes
  • Ethics and responsibility – use of teaching practices with a focus on diversity and inclusion to empower students and respect intellectual honesty
  • Subject-Matter Expertise and Pedagogical Knowledge – proficiency in both subject matter and teaching-related knowledge

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you need not address all five dimensions simultaneously; rather, consider this list a guide or a roadmap for your pedagogical professional development. And TLL is here to help!

Below is a (non-exhaustive) list of T+LL resources to help you get started (or continue) with developing your scholarly teaching practice.

DimensionT+LL Resource(s)
Evidence-based PracticeT+LL offers many “How-To”s that are grounded in the scientific literature on teaching and learning. Peruse topics that you are interested in on our “How to Teach” page
Reflective PracticeAssess and Improve Your Teaching
Teaching Consultations with T+LL
Course DesignDesign a Course: From Finish to Start
Crafting a Syllabus
Ethics & ResponsibilityCommunity of Anti-Racist Educators at MIT
Creating an Inclusive Classroom
Pedagogical KnowledgeT+LL Speaker Series
A list of journals publishing education research specific to STEM fields


Bernstein, D. J., Addison, W., Altman, C., Hollister, D., Komarraju, M., Prieto, L., Rocheleau, C. A., & Shore, C. (2010). Toward a scientist-educator model of teaching psychology. In Undergraduate education in psychology: A blueprint for the future of the discipline. (pp. 29–45). American Psychological Association. 

Borrego, M., & Henderson, C. (2014). Increasing the use of evidence-based teaching in STEM higher education: A comparison of eight change strategies. Journal of Engineering Education, 103(2), 220–252. https://doi.org/10.1002/jee.20040

Coppola, B. P., & Jacobs, D. C. (2002). Is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning New to Chemistry? Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Exploring Common Ground, 197–216. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/document?repid=rep1&type=pdf&doi=d79e2c081d4f76cd81965f42e3975206ff3416ad

Dolan, E. L. (2015). Biology Education Research 2.0. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 14(4), ed1. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.15-11-0229

Fraser, J. M., Timan, A. L., Miller, K., Dowd, J. E., Tucker, L., & Mazur, E. (2014). Teaching and physics education research: Bridging the gap. Reports on Progress in Physics, 77(3), 032401. https://doi.org/10.1088/0034-4885/77/3/032401

Jamieson, L. H., & Lohmann, J. R. (2012). Innovation with impact: Creating a culture for scholarly and systematic innovation in engineering education (pp. 1–10). American Society for Engineering Education. https://aseecmsprod.azureedge.net/aseecmsprod/asee/media/content/member%20resources/pdfs/innovation-with-impact-report.pdf

Potter, M. K., & Kustra, E. (2011). The relationship between Scholarly Teaching and SoTL: Models, distinctions, and clarifications. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2011.050123

Richlin, L. (2001). Scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2001(86), 57–68. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.16