02 January 2012

The scholarship of teaching (as research)

I've long admired Rick Reis's newsletter from Stanford, Tomorrow's Professor. He is alert to important trends, drawing our attention to and providing brief but powerful analyses of key issues. His recent post on "the scholarship of teaching and learning as 'research' " is no different. This issue has been of concern to academic and educational developers for some time, and it is good to see the evidence Reis provides that this concern is seeping into the disciplines.

His latest post draws heavily on the work of Mary Taylor Huber, one of the best-known Americans writing on the topic, but his comments will resonate with Australians who have engaged with the conversations here about the implications of TEQSA and discipline-based standards documents, as well as those who have ever put together portfolios for promotion that include evidence of excellence in teaching, or prepared paperwork that includes written learning outcomes for courses or programs.

Read the full posting at http://derekbruff.com/site/tomprof/. Reis introduces the posting with this:

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.
In the next 12-18 months, every Australian university will be paying much closer attention to the aligned curriculum, learning outcomes, statements of academic achievement, and every related issue. Will we also see a greater recognition of the time and attention these require when it comes time for promotion?  If not, I can see no way forward except a complete bifurcation of the academic life, with teachers on the one side and researchers on the other. This would, in my opinion, come at the expense of the richness and depth of academic work and of the learning experience Australia provides for its university students.  (That's not to say that at any one point in a person's career there might be a greater focus on one or the other - for example, PhD theses rarely get written by those who are focussing all their attention on teaching.) However, the truly interesting academics (substitute "lecturers" or "faculty" here, depending on your preferred country of residence), in my experience, are those who are equally interested in creating knowledge through their research, and in sharing the impetus for their research, their methods for creating that new knowledge, and the new knowledge itself, with both their peers and their students through both their writing and their teaching.

I think we at risk of losing something very important, so I hope posts like Reis's are being discussed across the country. Fingers crossed, eh?

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