September 25, 2008

Teaching and Learning Scholarship: An Innovative Example

By: in Articles, Teaching and Learning

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As this example illustrates, scholarship doesn’t always have to take the form of articles in refereed journals and sometimes when the scholarship is pedagogical, other formats make very good sense.

The case in point is a new program at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine that recognizes innovation in the classroom. The thinking was that it might be easier to objectively evaluate the scholarship and quality of the various products of instruction rather than the complex and subjective challenge of evaluating teachers themselves. The program was designed with four objectives in mind: 1) enhance the profile of scholarship on teaching and learning by using a rigorous peer review process; 2) raise the level of discourse on educational activities; 3) better communicate about new and successful pedagogical ideas; and 4) create a template for teaching recognition that is easily replicable elsewhere.

Faculty submit a one- to two-page description of a recent educational activity, resource, strategy or approach they have implemented in their classroom. Those descriptions are evaluated by two to three external peer reviewers with interest and expertise in the activity described. They rate the activities based on clear objectives, adequate preparation, appropriate methods, measures of quality/effectiveness, effective presentation, and reflective techniques. Then an internal awards committee meets and selects awardees using the peer review feedback and supplementing it with internal assessment information. The number of awards given in a year is not limited (34 were given the first year), and recipients from one year are welcome to submit a proposal the following year.

Awardees are recognized at a high-profile reception hosted by the dean of the Medical School. Among early awards were ones for a yearlong faculty development program that joined faculty and medical students in a collaboration on a curricular project; a new multi-media curriculum in cancer genetics and a web-based resource that supported medical student learning in community-based primary care practices.

Dr. Dan Wolpaw, associate professor of medicine, who has been instrumental in designing and implementing this still- new program, reports that it is too early to tell how the award will affect faculty during the promotion and tenure process. “I am hopeful. For the first time these medical educators will have peer-reviewed teaching efforts to tuck into their portfolios. These should have more credibility than course descriptions and the often indistinguishable number ratings that represent student feedback.”

As the program evolves, Wolpaw hopes, “that with continued emphasis on rigorous narrative expectations, examples from this year and the motivation generated by the awards process, the degree of scholarship in teaching will climb year by year.”

If you have additional questions about program details, be welcome to e-mail professor Wolpaw (Daniel.wolpaw@case.edu).

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