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Situating The Scholarship of Teaching And Learning Methadologically

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Message Number: 
387

Educational research is generally much less precisely defined than is engineering research of either [the scientific or applied] type. The ultimate goal of the scholarship of teaching and learning is to improve learning, but [few] agree on what that means . . . Understanding, skills, attitudes, and values are all highly subjective constructs, unlike tensile strength, efficiency, and profit.

Folks:

The excerpt looks at some of the issues that surface in carrying out the scholarship of teaching and learning in various disciplines. It is from the chapter, Situating the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A Cross-Disciplinary Conversation, by Mary Taylor-Huber and Sherwyn P. Morreale, in and important new book: Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Exploring Common Ground, Mary Taylor Huber and Sherwyn P. Morreale, Editors. A collaboration of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the American Association for Higher Education. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the American Association for Higher Education, With the cooperation of the National Communication Association. Copyright ? 2002. American Association for Higher Education. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

For information about additional copies of this publication: American Association for Higher Education One Dupont Circle, Suite 360 Washington, DC 20036 Ph 202/293-6440, fax 202/293-0073 www.aahe.org/pubs

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

UP NEXT: Life on the Tenure Track: A Seven-Year Crucible

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

 

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SITUATING THE SCHOLARSHIP OF TEACHING AND LEARNING METHODOLOGICALLY

Mary Taylor Huber and Sherwyn P. Morreale

 

While it may be unnecessary to attempt too precise a definition for the scholarship of teaching and learning (see Boyer 1990; Cambridge 1999; Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff 1997; Hutchings 2000; Hutchings and Shulman 1999; Shulman 1998), its distinctive character for most of our authors, lies in its invitation to mainstream faculty (as well as specialists) to treat teaching as a form of inquiry into student learning, to share results of that inquiry with colleagues, and to critique and build on one another's work. As the orienting essay in this volume argues, however, when habits of inquiry become part of a professor's teaching repertoire, they are likely to be drawn, at least initially, from the disciplinary styles of discourse and inquiry that the scholar knows best. Certainly, this is empowering. But as many of the essays testify, using one's disciplinary style(s) for new purposes can become a double-edged sword. The applicability of one's discipline to problems of teaching and learning can be an effective argument for the rightness and importance of this work. On the other hand, the resistance of these 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.

These tensions are most evident in the sciences. For example, the chemists and engineers writing in this volume (Chapters 10, 11) evoke parallels between the scholarship of discovery in their fields and the scholarship of teaching and learning. The authors who discuss engineering cite such common activities as "seeking and securing grant support for research, presenting research results at professional conferences, and publishing them in refereed journals." The chemists point to similarities in the logic of laboratory and pedagogical investigation:

We carry out pedagogical experiments in all instructional contexts, and the impact on a target population should be recorded, assessed, and reported - at the institution where they are being introduced, in the instructional setting, under whatever particular conditions exist. Chemists understand this well enough to always plan and carry out laboratory investigations with care, letting nature tell us what the results, from setting certain boundary conditions, are. If this kind of scholarly investigation takes place in chemistry classrooms, carried out and concluded in ways that display the benefits of the work for others, then the practice of chemistry education can advance.

Still, differences in subject matter are fundamental between basic research in chemistry and research about teaching and learning. Many of the attractions of doing chemical research, according to Coppola and Jacobs, derive from "performing reproducible experiments on a well defined system." Chemists are used to getting results with "high levels of confidence" and are "probably more comfortable with causation" then most other scientists, "because correlation gets an enormous statistical boost as a result of large population sizes [of atoms and molecules] in chemical samples and of boundary conditions that can be precisely regulated." Scientists accustomed to such conditions can be "skeptical about collecting information that is more like social science." The engineers agree:

Educational research is generally much less precisely defined than is engineering research of either [the scientific or applied] type. The ultimate goal of the scholarship of teaching and learning is to improve learning, but [few] agree on what that means . . . Understanding, skills, attitudes, and values are all highly subjective constructs, unlike tensile strength, efficiency, and profit.

The problems are not only conceptual but also instrumental. As the engineers go on to say, "Appropriate metrics and valid and reliable instruments to measure them are much easier to identify in science and engineering than in education." These issues can cast a dark shadow over specialist education researchers in the sciences as well as mainstream faculty just interested in exploring teaching and learning in their own classrooms, labs, or programs.

Even in the social sciences, the locus classicus of educational research, scholars of teaching and learning can feel insecure. As the orienting essay suggests, locally based inquiry, undertaken as part of one's own practice, cannot satisfy the strictures of either the large-scale survey or the small-scale experiment. For example, the psychology authors in this volume (Chapter 8) point to the obvious fact that it is simply not possible in classroom-based research to attain the level of control, isolation of variables, and precise manipulation of treatments that have made the experimental method so powerful a tool in psychology. Still, they argue, other methods are beginning to produce good descriptive work, which, more than precision, may be what is needed now. Citing the groundbreaking work of Piaget, which was widely criticized by his contemporaries for being based on observations of his own three children, Nummedal, Benson, and Chew "believe a similar period of rich description and grounded theory building, . . . based on creative inquiry into teaching practices, is a necessary first step for the scholarship of teaching and learning in psychology."

Disciplinary styles in the humanities make different demands on the scholarship of teaching and learning. Earlier, we mentioned historians' reluctance to take seriously reflections on teaching that appear overly anecdotal, underevidenced, and insufficiently footnoted. In fact, one strength of the scholarship of teaching and learning, according to Calder, Cutler, and Kelly (Chapter 2), is "the respect it shows for disciplinary languages and disciplinary standards for what constitutes a convincing argument." They cite as a telling example the case of Samuel Wineburg, a cognitive psychologist who has done some provocative work on expert/novice approaches to history. Wineburg knows psychologists and historians. So when he presented his work in the Journal of Educational Psychology, he spoke in the technical language of that field. But there was nothing of that language in an article Wineburg published later in the American Historical Association's Perspectives newsletter, though he reports on the same research.

When addressing historians . . . [Wineburg] translated his findings into an argument-driven narrative . . . There, instead of starting with a dry, abstract summary of the "cognitive revolution" in learning studies, he began with a history of recent debates about what to do with today's "generation at risk," the young people experts have labeled "historically challenged." . . . To show why he thinks it is ill advised to teach history as if it were merely a fact-based discipline, Wineburg told a story about what happened when he sat down with a group of eight "novice" history students and a group of eight "expert" historians and asked them to make sense of some ambiguous documents and pictures relating to the Battle of Lexington. . . . But more to the point, the argument in Wineburg's story moves forward on the strength of evidence that historians are used to evaluating: quotations from research subjects, summaries of empirical results, revealing anecdotes, and references to other sources within the range of their reading habits.

This story is, of course, about the strength of disciplinary styles in shaping the scholarship of teaching and learning. But it is also a story about the emergence of a "trading zone" among the disciplines, where scholars are busy simplifying, translating, telling, and persuading "foreigners" to hear their stories and try their wares. In this zone, one finds scholars of teaching and learning seeking advice, collaborations, references, methods, and colleagues to fill in whatever their own disciplinary communities cannot or will not provide. Their goals are to do better by their students, and they are willing (within limits) to enter the trading zone and buy, beg, borrow, or steal the tools they need to do the job.

References

Bennet, C. (2001). "Notes for Presentation." Remarks delivered at the session on Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, CASTL Summer Program, Menlo Park, California.

Benson, S.A. (April 16, 2001). "Greetings >From Spencer Benson." Posting to CASTL Scholars listserv. Retrieved April 16, 2001.

Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Cambridge, B. (December 1999). "The Scholarship of teaching and Learning: Questions and Answers From the Field." AAHE Bulletin 52(4): 7-10.

Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. (1999). "Informational Program." Booklet. Menlo Park, CA: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Cross, K.P. (July/August 2001). "Leading-Edge Efforts to Improve Teaching and Learning: The Hesburgh Awards." Change 33(4): 30-37.

Downey, G.L., J. Dumit, and S. Traweek. (1997). "Corridor Talk." In Cyborgs and Citadels: Anthropological Interventions in Emerging Sciences and Technologies, edited by G.L. Downey and J. Dumit, pp. 245-263. Santa Fe, NM: Scholl of American Research Press.

Gallison, P. (1997). Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Geertz, C. (1983). Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology. New York: Basic Books.

-----. (2000). "The Strange Estrangement: Charles Taylor and the Natural Sciences." In Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics, by C. Geertz, pp. 143-159. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Glassick, C.E., M.T. Huber, and G.I. Maeroff. (1997). Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate. Special Report of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Huber, M.T. (July/August 2001). "Balancing Acts: Designing Careers Around the Scholarship of Teaching." Change 33(4): 21-29.

Hutchings, P., ed. (2000). Opening Lines: Approaches to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Menlo Park, CA: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

-----. And L.S. Shulman. (September/October 1999). "The Scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments." Change: 31 (5): 10-15.

Kirsch, G. (1992). "Methodological Pluralism: Epistemological Issues." In Methods and Methodology in Composition Research, edited by G. Kirsch and P. Sullivan, pp. 247-269. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Nelson, C. (2000). "How Could I Do the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning? Selected Examples of Several of the Different Genres of SOTL." In Opening Lines: Approaches to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, edited by P. Hutchings. On accompanying CD. Menlo Park, CA: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Schon, D.A. (November/December 1995). "The new Scholarship Requires a New Epistemology: Knowing-in-Action." Change 27 (6): 26-34.

Schwab, J. (1964). "Structure of the Disciplines." In The Structure of Knowledge and the Curriculum, edited by G.W. Ford and L. Pugno, pp. 6-30. Chicago: Rand McNally.

Shulman, L. (1998). "Course Anatomy: The Dissection and Analysis of Knowledge Through Teaching." In The Course Portfolio: How Faculty Can Examine Their Teachign to Advance Practice and Improve Student Learning, edited by P. Hutchings, pp. 5-12. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.

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ABOUT THE EDITORS

Mary Taylor Huber is a senior scholar at The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, where she helps guide the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). She also directs a research program on Cultures of Teaching in Higher Education that makes good use of her training as a cultural anthropologist. Huber is a coauthor of Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate (1977), the Foundation's follow-on report to Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (Boyer, 1990), to which Huber also contributed.

Sherwyn P. Morreale is associate director of the National Communication Association (NCA), following a 15-year career of teaching and research at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. At NCA, she is responsible for its communication instruction initiatives, including a CASTL program and a a national Preparing Future Faculty endeavor. She has authored tow communication textbooks and numerous journal articles in the areas of communication competence, curricula, and assessment.