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The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning as \"Research\"

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Message Number: 
1140

The good news is that disciplinary cultures themselves have become friendlier to pedagogical concerns over the past twenty years, with scholarly societies devoting more air-, column-, and cyberspace to teaching and learning in their conferences, journals, and web sites. The sciences, especially, have been encouraged by National Science Foundation programs to strengthen science education. But other fields too-sometimes spurred by the drive from accrediting bodies to articulate student learning outcomes-have stepped up to the plate. 

 

Folks:

Happy New Year, everyone! The posting below gives an important update on the status of the scholarship of teaching and learning in evaluations for tenure and promotion. It is from Chapter five: Valuing-and Evaluating-Teaching, in the book, The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Reconsidered: Institutional Integration and Impact, by Pat Hutchings, Mary Taylor Huber and Anthony Ciccone. Copyright (c) 2011 by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 51 Vista Lane, Stanford, California 94305. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. Published by Jossey-Bass: A Wiley Imprint, 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741-www.josseybass.com.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

UP NEXT:  Assuring Effectiveness and productivity in Higher Education

 

 

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning as \"Research\"

 

The dilemmas posed by the under-institutionalization of the new scholarships have become most evident to scholars of teaching and learning in the quest to gain recognition for their work as \"research.\" On the positive side, faculty have made successful cases for promotion and tenure based on pedagogical projects and publications-even at research universities-as documented through the case studies of the four pathfinders featured in Balancing Acts: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Academic Careers (Huber, 2004). There is also evidence that policy revisions have prompted a growing number of faculty to include such work in their dossiers.[12] Still, campus leaders are quick to point out that recognition for the scholarship of teaching and learning as research is by no means yet assured-and that this uncertainty remains a barrier to wider faculty engagement.

 

The problems are typically not in the language of the faculty evaluation policy documents themselves. True, many colleges and universities have very general guidelines defining research and creative work at the institution-wide level-but at least these guidelines don't rule out pedagogical scholarship. Even policies that explicitly include pedagogical scholarship have usually been through a lengthy and painstaking vetting process and are very cautiously worded.[13] Two Canadian institutions provide examples with contrasting degrees of specificity and elaboration. Queen's University has a straightforward statement: \"Writing and research with respect to pedagogy and innovative teaching shall be assessed as scholarly activity\" (Leger, Van Melle, Mighty, and Stockley, 2009, p. 8), whereas the University of British Columbia, officially open to a wider range of products, frames its Agreement on the Conditions of Appointment for Faculty with an eye toward clarifying when these products count as scholarship, and when they do not: \"For example, textbooks and curriculum reform that changed academic understanding or made a significant contribution to the way in which a discipline or field is taught might constitute useful evidence of the scholarship of teaching, whereas textbooks or curriculum revision of a routine nature would not\" (2006, Section 4.03, \"Scholarly Activity,'' under Article 4, \"Criteria for Appointment, Reappointment, Tenure and Promotion\").

 

Many policy statements include criteria for the evaluation of scholarship that are-like typical definitions of research and creative work-quite broadly cast. For example, the University of British Columbia's Agreement also includes: \"originality or innovation, demonstrable impact in a particular field or discipline, peer reviews, dissemination in the public domain, or substantial or sustained use by others\" (2006, Section 4.03, \"Scholarly Activity,\" under Article 4, \"Criteria for Appointment, Reappointment, Tenure and Promotion\"). Thanks, in short, to the high level of generality of such documents, and to the extreme care with which they are written and revised, whatever problems scholars of teaching and learning face in getting their published pedagogical work recognized as research don't usually lie in the formal rules themselves. The problem is in the interpretation and implementation.

 

Disciplinary Differences

 

The most general issue, in fact, concerns the interpretation of the rules by particular departments and divisions within the institution, because colleagues in these units make the first, and usually most important, call in recommending (or not) a colleague for tenure and promotion, as well as for ordinary merit review. This important feature of the peer review process allows for variation in the scholarly and evaluative cultures of different fields, but it can also cause problems for scholars of teaching and learning because understanding of this kind of pedagogical work is simply not that widespread. Thus, when leaders of the CASTL program at Queen's University surveyed department heads to find out how the work \"was represented as part of the pathway to academic advancement,\" they found some confusion and resistance. Even though, as we have noted, university rules for scholarly activity clearly included \"writing and research with respect to pedagogy and innovative teaching,\" there were chairs for whom \"the predominance of discipline based research as the traditional vehicle for promotion seemed to overshadow any consideration of SoTL affiliated activities\" (Leger, Van Melle, Mighty, and Stockley, 2009, p. 10).

 

These differences in interpretation are not always the simple result of individual understanding and preference. Many institutions formally invite academic units to write their own specifications for what counts as scholarship in their discipline or professional field. Cheryl Albers, a leader of CASTL's work at Buffalo State College, provides a good example of the range of discussions and results that one could find at many colleges that have sought formally to acknowledge the value of the work:

 

Policy revision was accomplished through a collaboration among the significant campus structures for faculty governance (the College Senate), academic planning (the Academic Council), and support for SOTL (CASTL Campus Programs Advisory Committee). The document that emerged from campus wide debate and negotiations stresses: the credibility of multiple forms of scholarship; identification of characteristics that unite and those that distinguish various forms of scholarship; acknowledgement that not all faculty will undertake SOTL; the premise that the criteria for assessing scholarship are more important than its classification; and preservation of departments' rights to determine acceptable products of, and criteria for, assessing the quality and significance of scholarship [2004, p. 1].

 

This means that at Buffalo State (and the same is true elsewhere), departments develop their own statements to guide implementation of the general policy. Albers notes further that some, such as the Computer Information Systems Department at Buffalo State, had actually included the scholarship of teaching and learning in their \"Definition of Scholarship\" before this campus wide approach was enacted (2004). So, clearly a great deal depends on how these departments' intersecting connections both to institutional and disciplinary norms play out-including, in this case, not just what products of the scholarship of teaching might be acceptable as research, but also by what criteria their quality will be judged, and even whether pedagogical work will be countable as research at all. A particularly informative case study from Western Carolina University notes differences among departments at that institution in regard to \"load balance\" among different types of faculty work, the value attributed to various outlets for scholarship (regardless of type), proper forms of peer review, and variation in the official value accorded the scholarship of teaching and learning at different career stages (Cruz, Ellern, Ford, Moss, and White, 2009).

 

The good news is that disciplinary cultures themselves have become friendlier to pedagogical concerns over the past twenty years, with scholarly societies devoting more air-, column-, and cyberspace to teaching and learning in their conferences, journals, and web sites. The sciences, especially, have been encouraged by National Science Foundation programs to strengthen science education. But other fields too-sometimes spurred by the drive from accrediting bodies to articulate student learning outcomes-have stepped up to the plate. As mentioned in Chapter 1, faculty in all fields are now exploring ways to engage undergraduates in disciplinary ways of knowing (Gurung, Chick, and Haynie, 2008). Indeed, the disciplines are now finding themselves home to faculty exploring the possibilities of a wide variety of new pedagogies. Of course, the intensification of interest in matters pedagogical is not evenly spread across fields, but it is probably safe to say that nowhere are teaching and learning still considered marginal or minor concerns.

 

This is not to say that the scholarship of teaching and learning looks the same or is valued the same across the various disciplines and fields-a fact that complicates institutional efforts to recognize at least some work in the scholarship of teaching and learning as research. Scholars of teaching and learning often draw from familiar disciplinary repertoires of method and argument when undertaking classroom inquiry, which is, of course, a good way to get started. Yet, as Huber and Morreale have pointed out, \"the resistance of these [pedagogical] problems to the discipline's familiar modes of inquiry, conceptualization, and research procedures can limit interest in the scholarship of teaching and learning, and even undermine its legitimacy\" (2002, p. 16). These problems are somewhat different in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and professional fields-and so, too, is the response of disciplinary colleagues to inquiry that deals with what is often seen as alien subject matter (teaching and learning), makes use of \"stretched\" or borrowed methods to look more closely at learning, draws from a different literature, cites different authorities, and is made public in often unfamiliar outlets (see Huber, 1999; Huber and Morreale, 2002; Huber, 2004). Clearly, these considerations can color the opinions of colleagues both inside and outside the scholar's institution, affecting tenure and promotion proceedings directly (committee members and external reviewers), but also indirectly through the evaluation of proposals for grants or conference presentations and of manuscripts for journal or book publishers.[14]

 

Questions About Quality

 

When faculty submit the scholarship of teaching and learning as a component of their research and creative activity, they must (like anyone else engaging in new and less familiar lines of work) be prepared for special scrutiny. Some, like Brian Coppola, a chemist from the University of Michigan, and his advocates, believe that the best strategy for making the case is \"the standard metric. \" The goal is to show that the work-however unusual the subject matter (issues in learning), genre (a new curriculum), or methods-can be measured by the same criteria usually applied to research: external funding, peer-reviewed publications, evidence of impact, and support from prestigious peers (see Huber, 2004). In fact, most guidelines, like those mentioned earlier, with their invocation of such criteria as innovation, impact, and leadership, explicitly invite the standard metric approach.

Yet this approach has a downside, especially when it comes to the evaluation of new kinds of work. When Sheri Sheppard, a mechanical engineer from Stanford University, was up for tenure and promotion, she found that the journals, conferences, and external reviewers for her work on engineering education, though respected in that emergent subfield, were not well known to the colleagues on her tenure committee. Her funding did not come with the same prestige; the methods seemed soft; the graduate students did not move on to the \"best\" positions. Most troubling of all was the fact that even her most successful teaching innovations tended to become public property without her name attached-making it hard to trace, much less lay claim to, the impact of her work (Huber, 2004). She was successful, but it took special effort to make the case on her behalf.[15]

 

Unfortunately, similar problems can dampen the reception of work on teaching that's presented in genres beyond traditionally peer-reviewed conference presentations, journal articles, and scholarly books. Textbooks, though more likely to be regarded as works of scholarship in some fields than others, have long been problematic when submitted as research for purposes of faculty evaluation. And so have new media projects. Can elaborate web sites created with pedagogical purposes in mind be seen as the equivalent of a book? Can such work be peer reviewed? In the view of one observer, \"getting academe's gatekeepers to take digital work seriously\" is still a problem, even with sites designed as interactive archives for traditional scholarly research: \"If the members of your tenure-and-promotion committee don't have the skills to judge your dazzling visualization of Republican Rome or your fluid-text edition of Rasselas, and if it's not getting written about in the journals they read and respect, how likely are they to give you full points for your work?\" (Howard, 2010).[16]

 

New college and university guidelines allowing work in the scholarship of teaching and learning to be submitted as research have opened many doors. But variation among departments in their regard for pedagogical work, and the standard metrics problem highlighted here by cases in engineering education and new media resources, are still challenges to address. Nor are they unique to the scholarship of teaching and learning. For example, a 2008 report on Scholarship in Public: Knowledge Creation and Tenure Policy in the Engaged University notes that pubic scholars tend to organize their work around projects \"carried out by a purpose-built team organized for a finite period of time in order to bring about specific results or to create particular events or resources\" (Ellison and Eatman, 2008, p. 8). Thus, to be appropriately responsive to community-engaged scholarship, the authors argue that \"project-friendly\" policies are needed. The evaluation of locally or regionally focused endeavors should \"not use national or international scope to define intellectual quality,\" but rather attend to the project's \"complexity, creativity, and rigor,\" and promotion and tenure policies should also recognize the variety of roles (project management and leadership), results (a new program or curriculum), and products (public presentation) that \"may flow from project-based academic work\" (Ellison and Eatman, 2008, p. 8).

 

Clearly, there is a lot at stake in finding ways for the faculty evaluation system to \"see\" the genres native to particular kinds of work, if that work is to maintain its integrity and even count as research. Of course, there is always the possibility of submitting work in the scholarship of teaching and learning as teaching or service, but these alternatives raise difficult issues as well.

 

REFERENCES

 

Cruz, L. Ellern, J., Ford, G., Moss, H. and White, B. J. (2009). Recognition and Reward: SOTL and the Tenure Process at a Regional Comprehensive University.

 

Ellison, J., and Eatman, T. K. (2008). Scholarship in Public: Knowledge Creation and Tenure Policy in the Engaged University; A Resource on Promotion and Tenure in the Arts, Humanities, and Design. Imagining America Tenure Team Initiative on Public Scholarship. Syracuse, N.Y.: Imagining America.

 

Huber, M. T. (1999). \"Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.\" Paper presented at the Seventh International Improving Student Learning Symposium, University of York, U.K., Sept 1999.

 

Huber, M. T. (2004). Balancing Acts: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Academic Careers. Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education.

 

Huber, M. T., and Morreale, S. P. (2002). \"Situating the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A Cross-Disciplinary Conversation.\" Introduction to M. T. Huber and S. P. Morreale (eds.), Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Exploring Common Ground. Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education and The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

 

Leger, A., Van Melle, E. E., Mighty, J., and Stockley, D. (2009). \"Creating a Foundation for SoTL and Academic Advancement at Queen's University. \"Transformative Dialogues: Teaching and learning eJournal, 3(1). http://kwantlen.ca/TD/TD.3.1/.