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Scholarship of Teaching and Learning guide


"...the strategy, plan of action, process, design lying behind the choice and use of particular methods..."

Michael Crotty (1998)

Methodologies in SoTL

Methodology is the specific research ‘type’ that underpins the systems of research. At times, it establishes the researcher’s beliefs and values as part of the context for the research. For example, a narrative enquiry matches to qualitative methodology and experimental equals a quantitative methodology. 

Methodologies can be overwhelming sometimes if you're new to the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Qualitative methodologies are quite different to quantitative methodologies.

For some science-discipline researchers qualitative methodologies appear to lack rigour. For social scientists and those whose discipline is education, qualitative research methodologies’ principles focus on rich data, often collaboratively gathered, rather than a positivist focus seeking to prove or disprove a hypothesis.

Choosing a methodology

A good suggestion for SoTL researchers is 'Don’t start with trying to define, understand or select a methodology'. Instead, explore your research topic or subject in the SoTL literature. This will take some time (because it’s fun and we tend to get drawn into all sorts of new ideas not necessarily relevant) while you narrow the literature to your specific research interest.

Choosing your methodology is best guided by your research question, your own experience and your exploration of literature. A good place to start this thinking is to follow the prompt questions below to tease out the specifics of your project.

Choosing methodology prompt questions:

  • What problem or topic or issue do I want to investigate?
  • What does the literature say about it?
  • What disciplinary research expertise do I have that could shape my approach?  
  • What kind of data would best answer my research questions?
  • What methods of data collection would best match answering the problem?
  • What theoretical or philosophical stance informs my (qualitative) methodology?

Combine your answers to the above questions with your exploration of your topic literature. What methodologies you identify in similar research papers will move you towards identifying your own methodology.

Qualitative methodologies

Some qualitative methodologies are described in brief below but more detailed exploration is supported by the Library’s Qualitative study design guide.

Click on the plus (+) icons below to explore some of the qualitative methodologies.

Case studies


The aim is to focus on individual instances and conduct an in-depth study of the experiences of a singular nature. In teaching and learning, this includes a focus on one area of practice.


Case studies takes place in a natural setting (a situation that already exists) and considers the relationships and processes within this social setting.  For this reason, case studies are often related (not exclusively) to a social constructivist learning theory. A teaching and learning case study might be an investigation into one area of educational practice. For example, designing a study that focuses on the effect on a group of students of verbal feedback versus written feedback for assessment could be considered a case study.


Case studies use multiple sources and usually a combination of methods. Note that case studies can often use a mixed-methods approach rather than solely qualitative.

  • Observation
  • Interview
  • Oral recording
  • Document analysis
  • Quantitative data sets such as online engagement instances or student cohort traits.


  • Ability to explore and describe, in depth, an issue or event.
  • Opportunity to develop an understanding of some aspect of behaviour in its social setting.
  • Can be used for a variety of purposes: exploratory, descriptive or explanatory research, depending on the questions asked.


  • Be mindful of the alternative research classifications of a case study. It could be viewed as a method, approach, style, strategy or design.
  • A researcher conducting a case study needs to consider how they are going to address issues around generalisability, validity and reliability.

Example case studies  

  • Savage, J., & Healy, J. (2019). Creative teaching design in STEM: Using graduate learning outcomes to distribute students' existing knowledge in first-year biology practical work groups. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 16(3).   
  • Kerr, S. (2023). Students’ perceptions of choice-based assessment: A case study. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, 23(1), 46-58.
  • Tebeje, M. (2021). Educational aspirations and experiences of refugee-background African youth in Australia: A case study. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 25(8), 877-895.

Narrative Inquiry


Narrative inquiry can reveal unique perspectives and provide a deeper understanding of a situation by sharing the nature and order of events at particular times in history.


Narrative inquiry records the experiences of an individual or small group. People’s lived experiences, or particular perspectives of that individual, are documented in a chronological manner that reflects human interest and assists in our sense-making processes. The narrative is recounted for a particular audience and the meaning is dependent on the social context in which it was produced. This methodology is often linked to Vygotsky’s theory of cultural-historical theory of cognition.


Case studies use multiple sources and usually a combination of methods, such as:

  • Interviews or conversations
  • Qualitative survey
  • Recordings of oral history, also from literary works, diaries and autobiographies and other communication media such as drawings, photographs, poetry, plays, video recordings. Documents can be used as support for correlation and triangulation of information mentioned in interview.
  • Focus groups can be used where the focus is a small group or community.


  • Narrative methods produce extremely rich data, usually not obtainable through other methods.
  • Allows the opportunity to Often give voice to marginalised populations whose perspective is not often sought.
  • Ability to generate meaning and construct identities through narratives and storytelling.


  • Generate large quantities of data, which makes it very time consuming
  • Data is influenced by interactions between interviewer and respondent and other contextual factors
  • The narrative represents a particular experience at a point in time rather than reality, our memory affects our interpretation over time.

Example narrative inquiry studies

  • Raphael, J., Creely, E., & Moss, J. (2022). Developing a drama-based inclusive education workshop about disability for pre-service teachers: A narrative inquiry after Scheler and Levinas. Educational Review, 74(5), 978-991.
  • Ajjawi, R., Dracup, M., & Boud, D. (2021). Hero, survivor or stuck: A narrative analysis of student constructions of persistence after failure. Teaching in Higher Education,

Grounded Theory


This methodology emphasizes building theories using data collected from research participants, to provide well-grounded explanations and insights into teaching and learning processes. Grounded theory focuses on building well-grounded explanations and insights into teaching and learning processes, based on data collected from research participants.


Grounded theory proposes that careful observation of the social world can lead to the construction of theory (Rice & Ezzy, 1999). It is iterative and evolving, aiming to construct new theory from collected data (uses any and all types of data, both qualitative and quantitative data). It is also known as the “grounded theory method”, although the terms have become interchangeable (Bryant & Charmaz, 2007). Grounded theory is often linked to interpretist educational theory.

Grounded theory characteristics include: 

  • Data collection and analysis occurring simultaneously, with one informing the other. 
  • Data grouped into concepts, categories and themes. 
  • A data collection process influenced by the simultaneous development of those concepts, categories and themes. 
  • Notably, data collection is cyclical and reflective. This is different from the more linear processes occurring in other methodologies; rather, the resulting theories are developed inductively from the data.


Grounded theory uses multiple sources and usually a combination of methods, such as: 

  • Observation 
  • Examination of documents 
  • Focus groups and interviews


  • Grounded theory is widely used across a wide range of disciplines.
  • An open and flexible way of conducting research, in which the developing theory is continuously checked and developed by data.  
  • Facilitates theory construction and the construction of fresh concepts. It also avoids assuming structures are stable  
  • Useful for when researchers wish to explain a process, or find a solution for a problem, not to test an existing theory.


  • Researchers should try to remain open and allow the data to shape emergent theory. Do not let any theoretical ideas influence what they expect out of the data. 
  • As much time as necessary should be allocated for the iterative cycles of data gathering, coding, sampling until saturation is reached. 
  • Focus groups and interviews are typically being more practical in health research than observation (Starks & Brown Trinidad, 2007).

Example grounded theory studies 

  • Castanelli, D. J., Weller, J. M., Molloy, E., Bearman, M. (2022). How trainees come to trust supervisors in workplace-based assessment: A grounded theory study. Academic Medicine, 97(5), 704-710.
  • Ferguson, S. N. (2021). Effects of faculty and staff connectedness on student self-efficacy. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 21(2), 58-78.

Action Research


Action research assigns persons, communities and stakeholders as participates. Participates collaborate with researchers through questioning and sensemaking, to produce practical outcomes and new understandings that are useful to solve issues of pressing concern to both parties.


Action Research is linked to constructivist theories of learning. It has three primary characteristics:   

  • It is action oriented with participants actively involved in the research. 
  • It is a collaborative process between participant and researcher. The participants have more of a say in what is being researched and how they want the research to be conducted. 
  • It is an iterative and evolving cycle so that it is flexible and responsive to a changing situation.


Action Research uses multiple sources and usually a combination of methods, such as: 

  • Surveys 
  • Questionnaires 
  • Interviews 
  • Oral recordings 
  • Workshops 
  • Focus groups, 
  • Photovoice (use of images or video to capture the local environment / community and to share with others) 
  • Informal conversations 


  • Participatory process allows collaborators, especially marginalised groups, to be empowered and emancipated.  
  • Participants become co-researchers and take an active role in the research process. Asserting their right and ability to have a say in decisions which affect them. 
  • Participants and researcher produce practical knowledge together. This means research results are immediately applied to a concrete situation.


  • Individual workplace settings will determine what is permissible and ethical within a particular environment.

Example action research studies

  • Venkiteswaran, V., & Cohen, M. (2018). Digital storytelling and sustainable development goals: Motivating business students to engage with SDGs. Social Business, 8(4), 411–428.
  • Young, K., Hermon, K., Cardilini, A., & Binek, C. (2022). Action-research approach: Building capacity and enhancing work-integrated learning curricula. International Journal of Work - Integrated Learning, 23(4), 445-461.

Quantitative methodologies

Some quantitative methodologies are described in brief below but more detailed exploration is supported by the Library’s Quantitative study design guide

Click on the plus (+) icons below to explore some of the quantitative methodologies. 



Experimental study methodology is used to investigate the impact of specific interventions or strategies in a controlled manner.


In an experimental study, researchers intentionally manipulate one or more variables to observe how these changes influence participant outcomes. The experiment is conducted in a systematic and controlled manner to determine if a cause-and-effect relationship exists (Bishop-Clark, Dietz-Uhler & Nelson, 2012).


Experimental study uses multiple sources and usually a combination of methods, such as: 

  • Randomised trials 
  • Pre-test/Post-test design 
  • Repeated measures design  
  • Blinding and placebo-controlled trials


  • Enables exploration of cause and effect relationships 
  • It aligns easily with further meta-analyses  
  • Control over variables 
  • Replicability


  • Consider random group assignment when allocating participants. This eliminates the possibility of research outcomes influenced by characteristics of the participants. 
  • Experimental study should be theory-driven and leads to multiple analyses (Al-Sinani et al., 2022)  
  • Deciding to introducing a variable or intervention in experimental studies comes with ethical risk.

Example experimental studies

  • Lin, L., Mills, L.A., & Ifenthaler, D. (2016). Collaboration, multi-tasking and problem solving performance in shared virtual spaces. Journal of Computing Higher Education, 28, 344–357.
  • Luo, H., Chen, Y., Chen, T., Koszalka, T. A., & Feng, Q. (2023). Impact of role assignment and group size on asynchronous online discussion: An experimental study. Computers & Education, 192, 104658.

Quasi experimental


Quasi-experimental methodology is a research approach that investigates causal relationships without using random assignment to groups or conditions.


Quasi-experimental study methodology is used to examine the causal impact of an intervention on a target outcome when random assignment is not feasible or ethical. This approach allows researchers to draw inferences about cause-and-effect relationships in situations where controlled experiments might be impractical or impossible.


Quasi-experimental methodology uses multiple sources and usually a combination of methods, such as: 

  • Non-randomised trials


  • Quasi-experimental designs offer a practical alternative for studying causal relationships in real-world settings where random assignment isn't feasible. 
  • Often used in situations where random assignment is not practical or ethical, such as in educational settings where researchers can't randomly assign students to different classes.


  • The lack of random assignment can mean a higher risk of uncontrolled or unmeasured variables. 
  • The potential for confounding variables can make it difficult to ascertain if the observed outcomes are solely due to the intervention or if other uncontrolled factors played a role.

Example quasi-experimental studies

  • Sheppard, L., Osmond, J., & Stagnitti, K. (2013). The Effectiveness of a multidisciplinary intervention to improve school readiness in children with developmental concerns: Children's skill development and parent perspective. Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention, 6(2), 94-107,
  • Sudholz, B., Ayala, A. M. C., Timperio, A., Dunstan, D. W., Conroy, D. E., Abbott, G., Holland, B., Arundell, L., Salmon, J. (2023). The impact of height-adjustable desks and classroom prompts on classroom sitting time, social, and motivational factors among adolescents. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 12(1), 97-105,



The purpose of descriptive quantitative research is to systematically investigate, describe, and analyze the characteristics or attributes of a population, phenomenon, or situation in a way that can be quantified and summarized. This methodology helps in understanding patterns, relationships, and trends among variables, which can then be used to make predictions or inform decisions.


Descriptive quantitative research involves collecting numerical data to describe the variables of interest in a systematic manner. This type of research aims to provide a clear and accurate snapshot of a situation or phenomenon, based on data gathered from a sample that is representative of the whole population. Descriptive quantitative research does not focus on establishing causal relationships but rather on providing a detailed description of the situation as it exists.


Descriptive quantitative research uses multiple sources and usually a combination of methods, such as: 

  • Surveys and questionnaires 
  • Observational studies 
  • Secondary data analysis


  • Allows for the collection and analysis of a large amount of data, which increases the generalizability of the findings. 
  • Facilitates the identification of patterns, trends, and relationships among variables. 
  • Enables the use of statistical techniques to summarize and interpret the data, providing objective and reliable results.


  • May not provide a deep understanding of the underlying reasons or motivations behind the observed patterns or trends. 
  • The quality of the results is highly dependent on the quality and representativeness of the data collected. 
  • May not be suitable for exploring complex social phenomena or understanding individual experiences in depth.

Example descriptive studies

  • McKinney, K., & Chick, N.L. (2010). SoTL as women’s work: What do existing data tell us? International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 4(2),
  • Hitch, D., Dell, K., & Larkin, H. (2016). Does universal design education impact on the attitudes of architecture students towards people with a disability? Journal of Accessibility and Design for All, 6(1), 26–48.



The purpose of correlational quantitative research is to determine the relationships between two or more variables. This type of research helps to understand if changes in one variable correspond with changes in another variable, and to what degree. Correlational research is often used to identify variables that may predict outcomes or to explore the relationships between variables when it is not possible or ethical to manipulate them.


Correlational quantitative research involves the collection and analysis of numerical data to determine the strength and direction of relationships between variables. The relationship between variables is expressed using a correlation coefficient, which ranges from -1 to +1. A positive correlation indicates that as one variable increases, the other variable tends to increase as well, and vice versa. A negative correlation indicates that as one variable increases, the other variable tends to decrease, and vice versa. A correlation of 0 indicates no relationship between the variables.


Correlational quantitative research use multiple sources and usually a combination of methods, such as: 

  • Surveys and questionnaires 
  • Secondary data analysis 
  • Observational studies


  • Allows for the identification of relationships between variables. 
  • Can be used to make predictions about one variable based on the value of another variable. 
  • Can be conducted when it is not possible or ethical to manipulate the variables of interest.


  • Correlation does not imply causation. Just because two variables are correlated does not mean that one variable causes the other to change. 
  • May not provide a deep understanding of the underlying reasons for the relationships between variables. 
  • Spurious correlations may occur when two variables appear to be related, but the relationship is actually due to the influence of a third variable that has not been considered.

Example correlational studies

  • Broadbent, J., & Howe, W. D. (2023). Help-seeking matters for online learners who are unconfident. Distance Education, 44(1), 106-119.
  • Cardilini, A. P., Risely, A., & Richardson, M. F. (2022). Supervising the PhD: identifying common mismatches in expectations between candidate and supervisor to improve research training outcomes. Higher Education Research & Development, 41(3), 613-627.
  • Merrick, B., & Joseph, D. (2023). ICT and music technology during COVID-19: Australian music educator perspectives. Research Studies in Music Education, 45(1), 189-210.