Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Promoting Publication or Encouraging Engagement?

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Promoting Publication or Encouraging Engagement?

David Starr-Glass (University of New York in Prague, Czech Republic)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7409-7.ch004
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Ernest Boyer's (1990, 1996) writings attempted to reposition teaching as a legitimate and prioritized activity within the academy. He recognized teaching as having the same value as traditional research, presenting it as an endeavor with its own distinctive scholarship; however, in reality, teaching is quite different from research. This chapter provides a background for Boyer's reconsideration and considers the history of an emerging Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). In particular, it focuses on the double-edged sword presented by the requirement of publishing in SoTL. Publishing can either be orientated inwards, disseminating new knowledge in ways that consolidated the discipline's status, or orientated outwards, directed towards those concerned with improving the efficacy of their teaching. The chapter looks at the publication requirement, its impact on the vision and mission of SoTL, and the degree to which it has repositioned and reprioritized teaching in the academy. It provides suggestions on ways of furthering SoTL's impact and on new directions for research, practice, and publication.
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Faculty has been presented with multiple roles in the academy; roles that it has subsequently assumed. These roles are integral to the social structures, dramaturgical enactments, and cultural environment of higher education. They shape how faculty members perceive themselves, how they arrange their priorities, and how they are evaluated and rewarded. For some, the primary role and responsibility is teaching: sharing knowledge and encouraging learners to reach levels of understanding that they could not have reached otherwise. For others, scholarly research is paramount and its primary purpose is to advance the boundaries of knowledge and to share this with the scholarly community. Faculty members may have role preferences, but they do not necessarily have choices; whether teaching or research predominates depends on the nature of the institution, its value and reward systems, and increasingly on the nature of funding.

Historically, the research function had been privileged and rewarded in the academy – particularly in large American research universities that have extensive postgraduate activity. Within this traditionally “narrow paradigm” of scholarly activity, teaching had been neglected or at least had been relegated to a low priority; however, teaching and research are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, it is clear that each makes a critical contribution to the growth of faculty, the reputation of the institution, and the success of its students. Although the symbiotic relationship between teaching and research seems clear, this does not mean that a balance between excellence in research and excellence in teaching is necessarily appreciated by faculty or achieved by the institution.

In his Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate Ernest Boyer (1990) radically moved the argument away from a putative trade-off between the faculty’s research and teaching efforts. Instead of presenting a zero-sum scenario, in which teaching activities necessarily detracted from research excellence, he advanced a win-win proposition that acknowledged the importance of both, their borderless fluidity, and their potential for synergistic enhancement. Twenty-five years later, some fear that this synergistic vision has been gradually forgotten, or steadily eroded. The erosion is not necessarily deliberate; rather, it is the inevitable outcome of focusing too keenly on the parts that occupy the foreground, while neglecting the background that gives those parts meaning. Of the four domains of scholarship that Boyer identified it would have seemed that the newest – the Scholarship of Teaching – had the greatest freshness and potential. Yet the fluidity between teaching, research, and publication in the Scholarship of Teaching has run into problems: it has gelled, the balance has been disturbed, and the fragmented pieces have been privileged over the unified whole. In particular, it often seems that the focus of Scholarship of Teaching has moved away from what instructors do, and what learners experience in classrooms or online environments, to what scholars present and share in the pages of their publications.

This chapter examines the presumption of a publishing imperative in the scholarship associated with teaching. Although a number of variants of a scholarly approach to teaching have been proposed, the most robust has been the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). Since its origin, SoTL practitioners and scholars have been exhorted to publish their work – literally to make it public. This imperative, which has been used to define and promote SoTL, raises a number of questions: Has the publishing requirement contributed to a broader understanding of how teaching is done, or how the learning process is understood? To what extent has Boyer’s connection between research, publication, and teaching been realized? Has publication promoted the infusion of SoTL values and understandings in the academy? Has the preoccupation – some might even say the fixation – of demonstrating SoTL scholarliness through publication had the unanticipated consequence of separating it from promoting teaching excellence and advancing engagement with learners?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge Creation: The construction of new insight by the learner from existing elements. Knowledge creation is active and centered on the learner, although it often occurs through a process of social exchange and cognitive cooperation rather than uniquely in the mind of the individual learner.

Teaching: There are two fundamentally different ways of understanding teaching. The first sees teaching as an instructor-centered activity in which knowledge is transmitted from someone who has acquired that knowledge to novice learners: teaching as knowledge transmission. The second sees teaching as a learner-centered activity in which the instructor ensures that learning is made possible for novice learners and supports, guides, and encourages them in their active and independent creation of new knowledge: teaching as assisted knowledge creation .

Teaching Engagement: Teaching engagement begins with the teacher’s recognition that the learner is an authentic party in the learning process. This leads to a flow of positive interest and active involvement in the learner’s creation of knowledge and intellectual progress. Although teaching engagement originates with the instructor, it cannot be fully developed unless there is a reciprocal relationship, in which both instructor and learner recognize the benefits of cooperation, advantages of sharing, and the potential for synergism in the learning endeavor.

Disciplinary Culture: A common set of assumptions, attitudes, conceptualizations, epistemologies, and values held by members of an academic disciplinary community (such as chemistry, or sociology), which is tacitly transmitted to new members and which shapes their views of the nature, production, transmission, and sharing of knowledge.

Disciplinary Boundary: The extent to which the tacit assumptions, attitudes, conceptualizations, epistemologies, and values of an academic discipline (such as chemistry) give it and its community identity and internal cohesion, but which also distinguish and separate it from disciplines (such as sociology).

Boundary Work: Using a spatial metaphor, boundary work is research or teaching that take place at the outer limits of the territory that defines an academic discipline. It recognizes the cultural, epistemological, and methodological territory of the discipline and the different territories occupied by other disciplines. Boundary work often involves interdisciplinary research and different teaching cultures, and frequently requires venturing into the non-man’s land that lies between disciplines and which is claimed by none.

Scholarship: Possession of a rich understanding and deep appreciation of the subject matter and culture of an academic discipline, coupled with the ability to articulate disciplinary knowledge in ways that are recognized as considered and innovative by other scholarly peers.

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