The theme of this special edition derives from the 10th Annual Teaching and Learning Conference, which focussed on advancing teaching innovation and research excellence in higher education. We were privileged to have hosted one of the world’s most eminent scholars of the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), Lee Shuman. Offering profound insights into the intersection of research and practice within the landscape of the Academy, Shulman asked: ‘What is “evidence” for the improvement of teaching and learning in an unscripted and highly contextualized world?’ He argued that ‘whether describing good medical practice, educational design, or management in business, experts insist that judgments and decisions are evidence-based’.
Setting up for scrutiny the distinctions amongst evidence, conjecture, speculation, anecdote or fantasy, he challenged us to consider how we use, acquire, create or defend what counts as ‘evidence’ in our pedagogies and our designs. The question of evidence is particularly relevant in the context of challenging the archetypical university teacher who is expected to conduct research, teach, and perform community service. As teaching rises beyond the status of the ‘poor cousin’ of research, academics increasingly have an obligetion to make public the ‘evidence’ that characterises teaching excellence. Performance metrics no longer suffice as indicators of excellence, nor do self-study narratives.