April 22, 2010

A Journal Feature Worth Noting

By: in Faculty Development, Teaching Professor Blog

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As regular blog readers know, I read a variety of pedagogical periodicals in which I almost always find content relevant to all teachers, not just those in the periodical’s discipline. I have written previously about how the positioning of pedagogical scholarship so extensively within the disciplines concerns me. I know there are instructional issues that are discipline specific, but my long years of reading this literature have convinced they are far fewer than those issues shared by all disciplines. But that’s background for what I wanted to write about in this entry.

Recently, I was reading the journal Cell Biology Education (sometimes referred to as CBE Life Sciences Education). It’s a fairly new pedagogical periodical but it’s consistently excellent—made so in part by a regular feature called Current Insights. Edited by Erin Dolan, a biochemist who works at Virginia Tech, the column summarizes educational research relevant to those teaching in the sciences. Or, in the editor’s words, “This feature is designed to point … readers to current articles of interest in life sciences education as well as more general and noteworthy publications in education research.”

Sometimes articles highlighted in the usually two- to three-page column explore a theme. For example, the Spring 2009 column is devoted to five research pieces that study “the successes and challenges of adopting inquiry-based instructional strategies.” (p. 9) Other times individual research pieces are noted, including relevant research reviews.

Dolan provides complete citation information—listing Web addresses and indicating whether the article is open access or not. She explains in “noneducationese” the research questions explored, the methods of analysis used and the results.

I would recommend the column to anyone who teaches college level science. Beyond that, I would suggest that anyone who regularly reads a pedagogical periodical take look at the column. If you are as impressed as I’ve been, send along a link to the editor of your pedaogical periodical. This seems like such an effective way to keep faculty apprised of research relevant to practice—maybe resulting in practice that is more informed by research.

The success of a feature like this depends on having an editor who knows something about educational research and one committed to sharing findings, even though this work rarely counts as pedagogical scholarship. I don’t see how anyone could read Dolan’s columns without being convinced that that this scholarship of integration and application is important, necessary, and intellectually robust work.

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