Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) - Conceptions of scholarship
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) - Conceptions of scholarship
It seems that Boyer (1990) was one of the first to propose the idea of the scholarship of teaching, alongside other types of scholarship. An excerpt of Boyer’s conception of different types of scholarship is presented in Box 1.
Box 1: Boyer’s (1990) definition of scholarship and the different types of scholarship
'We believe the time has come to move beyond the tired old “teaching versus research” debate and give the familiar and honourable term “scholarship” a broader, more capacious meaning, one that brings legitimacy to the full scope of academic work. Surely, scholarship means engaging in original research. But the work of the scholar also means stepping back from one’s investigation, looking for connections, building bridges between theory and practice, and communicating one’s knowledge effectively to students. Specifically, we conclude that the work of the professoriate might be thought of as having four separate, yet overlapping, functions. These are: the scholarship of discovery; the scholarship of integration; the scholarship of application; and the scholarship of teaching.'
Excerpts taken from chapter 2, pages 16-24.
To summarise Boyer’s assertion, the scholarship of teaching is proposed to be one type of scholarship, alongside other types such as the scholarship of discovery (research). Included in this conception of the scholarship of teaching, Boyer suggests that the scholarly teacher must be up-to-date with regard to the subject-matter that they teach, that they teach in a manner is reflective, intentional, flexible and adaptive, and that facilitates student learning (employing more student-centred, and so less didactic, methods).
Hutchings and Shulman (1999) take Boyer’s definition of the scholarship of teaching further by asking two questions:
- what is the difference between excellent teaching, scholarly teaching, and the scholarship of teaching?
- to what extent is student learning considered as part of this?
These questions, they propose, are crucial if we are to know what we are striving to become as scholars of teaching, and how to do this in practice. Box 2 summarises Hutchings and Shulman’s answers to these questions.
Box 2: Hutchings and Shulman’s (1999) conception of the scholarship of teaching and learning
Regarding excellent teachers, Hutchings and Shulman suggest that ‘all faculty have an obligation to teach well, to engage students, and to foster important forms of student learning.’
Teaching is scholarly, they propose, ‘when it entails, as well, certain practices of classroom assessment and evidence gathering, when it is informed not only by the latest ideas in the field but by current ideas about teaching the field, when it invites peer collaboration and review, then that teaching might rightly be called scholarly, or reflective, or informed.’
And, finally, as regards the scholarship of teaching: ‘in addition to all of this, yet another good is needed, one called a scholarship of teaching, which in another essay, we have described as having the three additional central features of being public ("community property"), open to critique and evaluation, and in a form that others can build on:
A fourth attribute of a scholarship of teaching, implied by the other three, is that it involves question-asking, inquiry, and investigation, particularly around issues of student learning. Thus, they propose the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
Finally, they conclude: ‘A scholarship of teaching is not synonymous with excellent teaching. It requires a kind of "going meta," in which faculty frame and systematically investigate questions related to student learning — the conditions under which it occurs, what it looks like, how to deepen it, and so forth — and do so with an eye not only to improving their own classroom but to advancing practice beyond it. It is the mechanism through which the profession of teaching itself advances, through which teaching can be something other than a seat-of-the-pants operation, with each of us out there making it up as we go. As such, the scholarship of teaching has the potential to serve all teachers — and students.’
Excerpts taken from pages 13-14.
According to Hutchings and Shulman therefore, the scholarship of teaching and learning (a term that seems to have been introduced by them) involves four aspects:
- being an excellent teacher in practice;
- implementing teaching practices that are well considered and informed by pedagogical literature (scholarly teaching);
- disseminating aspects of teaching practice for peer review;
- and being focused on facilitating learning.
The implication of this conception of scholarship is that it is to some extent hierarchical, whereby someone who is engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning is also both an excellent teacher and has a scholarly approach to teaching (see Kreber, 2002, who explicitly proposes a hierarchy in her similar conception of excellent teachers, expert teachers and scholars of teaching).
Thus, what Hutchings and Shulman seem to add to Boyer’s conception is the notion that scholars of teaching would not only be up-to-date with the discipline that they teach, but also, to some extent, with the literature on teaching, and that they would in fact also add to this literature themselves, or at least make their work public in some other way.
Alongside Hutchings and Shulman, Trigwell, Martin, Benjamin, and Prosser (2000) again emphasise the importance of both engaging with and indeed contributing to disseminated knowledge regarding teaching. They also stress in addition the value of reflection on one’s teaching, and a focus on the enhancement of student learning (see Box 3).
Box 3: Trigwell et al. (2000) – four attributes of the scholarship of teaching
Trigwell et al. propose:
'The extent to which a teacher is engaging in the scholarship of teaching might therefore be described in terms of these four dimensions as follows:
Trigwell et al. go further to describe what the combination of attributes on these dimensions may look like, in terms of teachers who are more or less likely to be engaging in scholarship.
Excerpts taken from pages 163-164.
To summarise the conception of the scholarship of teaching as proposed by Trigwell et al., they propose that the activity that someone engages in might be identified as scholarship of teaching to the extent that it reflects the following: knowledge of others’ disseminated scholarship of teaching; focused reflection on own practice; dissemination of own practice; and a student-centred perspective.
Although dissemination of teaching practices and ideas has been explicitly mentioned as an important aspect of the scholarship of teaching according to Hutchings and Shulman (1999), Kreber (2002), and Trigwell et al. (2000), this is emphasised further by Trigwell and Shale (2004) as the defining characteristic of scholarship (see Box 4). They also emphasise that the aim of scholarship is to influence the teaching practice of teachers (not just to increase knowledge of teaching and learning per se), and to improve student learning, as they note the exclusion of students and their learning processes from many of the conceptions of the scholarship of teaching.
Box 4: Trigwell and Shale’s (2004) conception of the scholarship of teaching
Trigwell and Shale seem to be arguing that unless scholarly teaching processes are made public, it is not scholarship, hence it is the output that is the scholarship, not the scholarly teaching processes themselves.
However, Trigwell and Shale also note that the aim of the scholarship of teaching is not just to disseminate teaching practices and ideas, but to allow such scholarship to inform practice, so that teaching, and thus learning, is improved.
In a definition that builds upon Kreber’s (2002) hierarchical view of excellent and expert teachers and scholars of teaching, Trigwell and Shale propose further that:
Trigwell and Shale’s idea that being a scholar of teaching should greatly influence one’s own (as well as others’) teaching practice is presumably one of several differences between the scholarship of teaching and the scholarship of discovery in relation to education (thus, pedagogical research), and emphasises the role of the scholar of teaching as a teaching practitioner as much as a teaching intellectual or theorist or philosopher (i.e. just having knowledge about teaching).
We will end this section with the three key aspects of SoT that Martin et al. (1999) identified as having the most consensus according to some authors whose work they mentioned (see Box 5).
Box 5: The consensus on aspects of SoT according to Martin et al. (1999)
'Each of [these] . . . authors (Shulman, 1993; Schön, 1995; Stenhouse, 1980) brings a particular perspective and emphasis to the debate, but overall there is consensus on three essential and integrated elements. Scholarship of teaching involves:
Questions for reflection:
- Which of these conceptions of SoTL (or SoT) do you most agree with?
- Why is that?
- Which do you most disagree with, and why?
- Do you think there is anything missing from these different conceptions, and if so, what?
- Are there any aspects of these definitions that you disagree with, and so think should be removed or modified?
- How would you amalgamate these different ideas to form one main definition?
Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Available here.
Hutchings, P., and Shulman, L. (1999). The scholarship of teaching: new elaborations, new developments, Change, 31(5), p. 10-15. Kreber, C. (2001). Designing a teaching portfolio based on a formal model of the scholarship of teaching. In D. Lieberman & C. Wehlburg (Eds.), To improve the academy; 19; (pp. 268–285). Bolton, MA: Anker.
Kreber, C. (2002). Teaching Excellence, Teaching Expertise, and the Scholarship of Teaching. Innovative Higher Education, Vol. 27, No. 1, Fall 2002.
Martin, E., Benjamin, J., Prosser, M. & Trigwell, K. (1999). Scholarship of teaching: a study of the approaches of academic staff. In: C. Rust (Ed.) Improving Student Learning: Improving Student Learning Outcomes, Proceedings of the 1998 6th International Symposium, pp. 326–331 Oxford: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, Oxford Brookes University.
Schön, D.A. (1995). The new scholarship requires a new epistemology. Change, Vol.27, Issue 6 (Nov/Dec), 27-34.
Shulman, L.S. (1993). Teaching as community property; putting an end to pedagogical solitude. Change, Vol.25, Issue 6 (Nov/Dec), 6-7.
Stenhouse, L. (1980). Reflections. In L. Stenhouse (ed.), Curriculum Research and Development in Action, London: Heinemann Educational Books, 244-262.
Trigwell, K. and Shale, S. (2004). Student learning and the scholarship of university teaching, Studies in Higher Education, 29:4, 523-536.
Trigwell, K., Martin, E., Benjamin, J., and Prosser, M. (2000). Scholarship of Teaching: a model, Higher Education Research and Development, 19:2, 155 — 168.