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Campus Progress: Supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Volume edited by Barbara L. Cambridge
Sections edited by Marcia Babb, Constance E. Cook, Richard Gale, Devorah Lieberman, Duane Roen, and Ellen L. Wert
American Association for Higher Education
Available from Stylus Publishing
2004
228 pages
ISBN: 1-56377-066-0
$34.50 (paper)

Reviewed by

Gail G. Evans

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies
Director of General Education
San José State University

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Anyone involved in changing campus culture knows that the task requires a great deal of time, energy, and just plain hard work. This edited text, Campus Progress: Supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, addresses strategies to improve how campuses support the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). The information provided by the editors, as well as the experiences reported by over forty colleges, universities and associations, would be extremely helpful to any institution in the process of implementing or augmenting their resources for SoTL. A second benefit of the text is that the information could be beneficial for other areas of strategic planning and institutional change, in addition to teaching and learning.

Many of the institutions, who are affiliated with The Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and who provide their insights, agree. Although campuses have adapted the definition of the scholarship of teaching and learning for their own purposes, the working definition in this text is “problem posing about an issue of teaching or learning, study of the problem through methods appropriate to disciplinary epistemologies, application of results to practice, communication of results, self-reflection, and peer review” (p. 2).

The text is organized around five principles to effecting change, specifically addressing SoTL:

  • Developing infrastructure
  • Collaborating for change
  • Instituting policies
  • Documenting and assessing impact
  • Learning along the way

The introduction by volume editor Barbara Cambridge is followed by five sections, each introduced by a section editor and each addressing one of the principles. A section is comprised of six to eight anecdotal narratives from various institutions explaining how they addressed that principle. I particularly appreciated this format because many kinds of colleges, universities, and associations were represented.

Developing Infrastructure

This section clearly shows the relationship between improving the culture of SoTL and having a “physical” teaching and learning center on campus. Of the eight institutions that share their stories, seven already have successful teaching-learning centers, and the eighth is developing one. Although each model is a bit different, they all “make clear that the centrality of teaching-learning centers to the development and implementation of initiatives in the scholarship of teaching and learning” is critical (p. 15).

Collaborating for Change

One of the many concepts I brought back from the AAC&U Greater Expectations Institute I attended last summer in Burlington, Vermont (http://www.aacu.org/meetings/gexinstitute/2005/index.cfm) is this: Regardless of the initiative any institution attempts, campus “buy-in” is absolutely crucial. In the volume’s section on collaborating for change, seven institutions provide a framework for how they accomplished such collaboration, or “buy-in,” for their particular circumstances. Their reports were framed around four key questions (p. 55):

  • How has collaboration served (or not served) to further SoTL on a campus?
  • What are specific examples of collaboration that occurred on a campus in relation to SoTL?
  • What have been the key elements of these collaborations?
  • What are lessons and best practices learned about collaboration that a campus could share with others?

Section editor Devorah Lieberman compiled an excellent chart comparing seven institutions’ “Campus-Specific Emergent Themes and Challenges about Collaboration” (p. 60-61). The research indicated that the most important themes leading to successful culture change included

  • Holding open campus discussions
  • Getting the involvement of deans, provost, and president
  • Involving students
  • Communicating results through specific examples and evidence of success
  • Involving teaching and learning centers
  • Acquiring funding and support
  • Insuring diversity of participants
  • Valuing the promotion and tenure process
  • Identifying future challenges to sustaining change
  • Transitioning to second-generation collaborations
  • Providing ongoing funding

Instituting Policies

My favorite sentence here was, “The institutions in this section have achieved productive synergies with coalitions among leaders who understand that effective teaching is teaching that results in better student learning” (p. 103). It has been my experience that sometimes we in academe forget why we are really here, to optimize student learning!

Section editor Duane Roen cites four common practices that lead to policy change garnered from the seven documented institutions (p. 105):

  • Successful institutional initiatives emerge from wide-ranging, prolonged conversations.
  • Committed leaders make a difference.
  • External support makes a difference.
  • Faculty roles and rewards are inextricably linked.

Roen concludes the introduction with the point that the efforts of individual or state systems are not enough, but collaboration of national consortia of institutions is also critical for success in changing the culture related to SoTL.

Documenting and Assessing Impact

In this age of accountability and assessment, it has become increasingly important to document our achievements. The seven institutions cited in this section address their experiences in answering three basic questions.

Why Document and Assess the Impact of our Efforts?

Darryl Smith does a fine job of describing the “mapping progress” of institutions in maintaining a record of their campuses’ support of SoTL. “The mapping protocol…reflects key elements of change in terms of breadth and depth, and it creates the opportunity for an institution to mark where it is in the change effort and to locate the elements of that change” (p. 147). This mapping progress, developed by the American Association of Higher Education and Carnegie, was organized into seven areas key to the success of any change effort, which are used to help frame institutional action as well as reflection (p. 147-149):

Centrality: Assumes change is central to the process.
Leadership: Reflects shared responsibility.
Integration: Links the effort to other institutional initiatives.
Resources: Utilizes space, time, expertise, technology, and infrastructure to make sustained change more probable.
Signs of Success: Assesses the breadth and depth of change.
Reflection: Makes sense of the activities and efforts by discussing the interpretations.
Strategy: Develops strategies for modifications.

What Forms Might Documentation and Assessment Take?

In this section, three different institutions explain types of assessment that have proven effective. There is extensive discussion on the use of portfolios, as well as six steps that may prove beneficial in self-assessment (p. 151-154):

Develop an assessment plan: It is critical that the plan is developed with campus-wide participation. Key indicators might include tracking publications and presentations on SoTL or participation rate in a teaching and learning center.
Understand the context for SoTL: It is important to link SoTL to the university’s mission and goals.
Establish a baseline: This involves choosing a beginning point, or time when indicators begin being assessed.
Identify key indicators: The indicators should be meaningful to students, faculty, and administrators alike, and should be measurable, objective, and easily assessed.
Keep an up-to-date record of production: The authors found the best indicator of production in SoTL to be counting the numbers of projects, presentations, and papers that the faculty produced.
Use the results: It is important to showcase the impact of SoTL to the entire campus community.

How Do We Use the Data We Gather?

Two different chapters, by Talya Bauer of Portland State University and Kathleen McKinney et al. from Illinois State University, respectively, include ideas on how best to distribute information on SoTL.

Section editor Ellen Wert summarizes common themes found across campuses in terms of assessing the impact of a scholarship of teaching and learning (p. 145). Success depends on

  • Understanding and building on the culture of the institution
  • Gathering information and communicating results
  • Distinguishing SoTL from other campus initiatives through solid information about results
  • Understanding failure as well as success, and continually taking the steps necessary for success
  • Using familiar terms for how we think about and discuss our roles, our work, and our understanding of teaching and learning

Learning Along the Way

The final section of the book, edited by Marcia Babb and Richard Gale of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, examines past experiences, current trends, as well as future directions for the scholarship of teaching and learning. The eight institutions each share successes and pitfalls that might be avoided. Four words taken from Mary Beaudry and Alease Bruce at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, framed the section for attaining a successful scholarship of teaching and learning at an institution: “initiate, support, reward, and disseminate” (p. 177).

Conclusion

I highly recommend Campus Progress: Supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning to anyone who is launching an initiative to change the culture surrounding SoTL at her/his institution. The experiences related by a diverse sample of institutions could be extremely useful in achieving success, as well as avoiding pitfalls. Reading this book might mean the difference between the success or failure of a campus project intended to support SoTL.

Posted May 24, 2006.

All material appearing in this journal is subject to applicable copyright laws.
Publication in this journal in no way indicates the endorsement of the content by the California State University, the Institute for Teaching and Learning, or the Exchanges Editorial Board. ©2006 by Gail G. Evans.

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