scholarship of teaching and learning
I recently read an article in Studies in Higher Education titled “Why Do Academics Blog?” It got me thinking about this blog and why I do it.
I recently attended the annual conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL). The conference allowed me to reflect on questions about the scholarship and practice of teaching and learning, and it fueled thoughts that eventually led to this article on how we might go about modeling scholarly practice.
In 1997 Ernest Boyer identified the concept of the Scholarship of Teaching. This was the first time that TEACHING had been identified as legitimate scholarship. Over time this idea has evolved into the movement called “SoTL” or the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Many of us are scholarly teachers; we read the literature, plan, assess, reflect, and revise. But what makes our teaching scholarship is very different. Lee Shulman (1999) clearly delineated the difference. To be scholarship, teaching must become public, be an object of critical review and evaluation by members of one’s community, and it must be built upon and developed.
The title is borrowed from text in an excellent article that challenges our use of the “what works” phrase in relationship to teaching and learning. Biology professor Kimberly Tanner writes, “… trying to determine ‘what works’ is problematic in many ways and belies the fundamental complexities of the teaching and learning process that have been acknowledged by scholars for thousands of years, from Socrates, to Piaget, to more recent authors and researchers.” (p. 329) She proceeds to identify six reasons why the phrase hinders rather than fosters an evidence-based approach to teaching reform (in biology, her field, but these reasons relate to all disciplines). “Language is powerful,” she notes. (p. 329) We use it to frame issues, and when we do, it guides our thinking.
I read lots of articles on teaching and learning. Most are solid pieces of pedagogical scholarship; a few are exceptional and I found one of those here lately. I prepared a long and detailed summary of it for the August/September issue of The Teaching Professor newsletter. For this post I’d like to identify several features that make this such an outstanding exemplar of pedagogical scholarship.
Each year Magna Publications sponsors an award recognizing an outstanding piece of scholarly work on teaching and learning. Authors received the award and its $1,000 stipend at the 9th annual Teaching Professor Conference this past weekend in Washington, D.C.
It’s an issue many colleges and universities are facing today: How do you expand research capacity while still preserving an institution’s traditional emphasis on effective teaching? How is it possible to improve your reputation in one of these areas without abandoning your reputation in the other? How can you expand your mission in an environment of increasingly strained budgets, greater competition among institutions (including public, private, for-profit, and virtual universities), and rigorous accountability? And how do you balance the expectation of so many legislatures and governing boards that you demonstrate student success with their simultaneous expectation that you obtain more and more external funding from sponsored research and the frequent pursuit of grants?
Most universities require tenure-track faculty members to achieve in three particular domains – teaching, service, and scholarship. Scholarship provokes the most anxiety. Faculty members quickly succumb to the publish or perish syndrome; a syndrome depicted by obsessive thoughts about scholarship expectations, a frenzy to publish, restless nights, and a plethora of excuses. The antidotes cleverly identified in this article are designed to treat the publish or perish syndrome.
Magna Publications and The Teaching Professor are seeking nominations for the Maryellen Weimer Scholarly Work on Teaching and Learning Award. Now in its fourth year, the award recognizes outstanding scholarly contributions that advance college-level teaching and learning practices.
My former colleague Jim Fairweather has written a paper commissioned by the National Academies National Research Council Board of Science Education which makes some interesting points. But first a bit of background.