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Scholarship Revisited: Perspectives on the Scholarship of Teaching

Edited by Carolin Kreber
Jossey-Bass
2001
120 pages
ISBN: 0-7879-5447-0
$27.00 (paper)

Reviewed by

David A. Dowell

Director of Strategic Planning and Vice Provost
CSU Long Beach


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This concise volume brings together a series of essays based upon the results of a two-year Delphi study of the scholarship of teaching carried out by the editor with an international panel of experts. The Delphi method is an iterative survey method designed to elicit consensus and identify persistent disagreement in expert panels. The Delphi method was developed for the U.S. Defense Department by the RAND Corporation for use in planning military strategy in the 1960s and has by now been widely used in many fields including education. (For an introduction to Delphi see http://www.iit.edu/~it/delphi.html or for RAND Corporation's 2003 annotated bibliography on Delphi, see http://www.rand.org/publications/bib/SB1019.pdf.)

Panelists arrived at "high agreement ... and strong consensus" (p. 4) on eighteen statements about the scholarship of teaching and learning and "agreed, on the whole" on twenty-one "unresolved" issues (p. 5). The volume is not a report on the findings of the Delphi study but, more interestingly, a set of essays that explore the implications of some of the results of the Delphi project.

Michael B. Paulsen explores the relationship between research and the scholarship of teaching. He notes a distinction made by Pat Cross between "classroom assessment" and "classroom research." The former is aimed at discovering what works while the latter is aimed at understanding why interventions are effective. Classroom assessment has local value but classroom research has greater potential for contributing to the scholarship of teaching.

Michael Theall and John A. Centra focus on assessing the scholarship of teaching. They note that Delphi panelists sometimes arrived at high consensus, such as with the assertion that "those who practice the scholarship of teaching carefully design ways to examine, interpret, and share learning about teaching" (p. 26). Theall and Centra go on to provide valuable checklists of criteria for assessing the scholarship of teaching at the individual, departmental, and institutional levels.

Maryellen Weimer takes up the challenge of learning from experience-- and the shortcomings of experience as a guide. She notes five problems with relying upon experience as the sole guide to excellence in teaching. First, experiential knowledge arises independent of any theoretical or conceptual framework. Second, experiential knowledge is not connected with empirical evidence. Third, experience "generally ignores" the nuances of adapting teaching methods to differing contexts and learning styles. Fourth, experiential wisdom is not usually well-informed by what went before. Finally, "poor and inadequate" assessment techniques characterize experiential knowledge (p. 52). Given that experience is the main source of knowledge about teaching for most university faculty, this is a provocative assessment.

Laurie Richlin discusses the distinction between scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching. Scholarly teaching, in her view, is a careful, empirical approach that systematically gathers evidence about what works and uses that evidence to improve instruction. The scholarship of teaching goes another step and shares those results in a peer-reviewed manner with colleagues. Ronald Smith tackles a related issue and distinguishes between teaching expertise and the scholarship of teaching, providing several rubrics for categorizing each. One rubric uses a dimension of sophistication ranging from "technical skills" to "deliberative action (p.72)." A second rubric uses a dimension ranging from "novice" to "expert" (p.74). In another chapter, Cynthia B. Weston and Lynn McAlpine provide another rubric with a developmental focus (p. 91).

Carolin Kreber tackles the issue of graduate education and faculty preparation for teaching. She provides five recommendations for the reform of graduate education: Include at least two courses in pedagogy, allow dissertations to focus on pedagogy, provide opportunities for graduate students to teach, provide workshops and seminars on teaching, and identify professors who practice the scholarship of teaching to serve as mentors. She also provides recommendations for departments to foster the scholarship of teaching: Introduce collaborative action research programs for faculty teams, allow faculty to contract to focus on scholarship of teaching for a period, base workshops on educational theory and research, establish department reading circles, and base courses on the scholarship of teaching (p. 79).

In the closing chapter, Carolin Kreber discusses an unresolved issue: "whether teaching, in order to be valued in the academy, has to be scholarly" (p. 99). In this context, "scholarly" refers to the scholarship of teaching. This is provocative. Clearly, by the definitions of scholarly teaching provided elsewhere in the volume, much, perhaps most college and university teaching is not "scholarly." In this context, good or excellent teaching do not equate to scholarly teaching, because one may be a good teacher without being engaged in the kind of systematic assessment of the effectiveness of instructional practices which define scholarly teaching.

Overall, this is a useful volume that will be of greatest interest to those already engaged in the scholarship of teaching. It contains some practical ideas regarding how to assess scholarship of teaching and some valuable discussions of fundamental concepts. At another level, one can extract something of a snapshot of the state of thinking in academe about the controversial issue of the scholarship of teaching. This volume makes clear that a fair amount of ambiguity characterizes current understandings of the scholarship of teaching. The distinctions between the scholarship of teaching and "excellent teaching" and "scholarly teaching" are also not sharp. As defined by most of the authors of this volume, very few faculty members will ever attain the status of "scholars of teaching," and probably a minority will attain the status of "scholarly teachers." If so, perhaps the academy needs to think more about how to simply make the best practices of teaching widely accessible and adopted by more faculty members.

Posted April 22, 2003

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. ©2003 by David A. Dowell.

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