Sholarship in teaching and learning

I came up two interesting articles exploring the challenges, opportunities and paradoxes in the scholarship of teaching and learning. The one article by Healy (2000) is titled “Developing the scholarship of teaching in higher education: a discipline-based approach” (Higher Education Research & Development 19, 2) and the other article a meta-analysis of the relationship between research and teaching (by Hattie & Marsh 1996).

Very interestingly, both articles explore the scholarship of teaching and learning within the context of the nexus (or in some cases, a black hole) between research and teaching. Except for the fact that research in teaching and learning is often (mostly?) not considered to be ‘real’ research; Healy (2000) also points out repeatedly that somehow we have ourselves to blame for the sometimes ‘shabby’ approach we take to the scholarship of teaching and learning. He states ” … if teaching [and the scholarship of teaching and learning] is to be valued equally with research then, like research, teaching must open itself to the scrutiny of theoretical perspectives, methods, evidence and results” (2000:176). It is as if we complain about the fact that teaching is not valued properly, but then we are adverse to critical engagement with theoretical perspectives and peer review of what we teach and how we teach it.Healy (2000:181) proposes that for pedagogic research to be valued on the same level as discipline-specific research; the same standards need to be applied. There needs to be a comparability of “rigour, standards and esteem” (Healy 2000:170).

While Healy (2000) and others acknowledge that the allegiance of faculty is firstly to their disciplines; he proposes that there should not be this gap between disciplinary research and researching teaching and learning in a particular discipline. There is no reason why the one cannot enrich the other.

Reflecting on this, I suspect that there are at least six principles that could (should?) guide the scholarship of teaching and learning:

Principle 1: The scholarship of teaching and learning should match the rigour, standards, validity and esteem of disciplinary or subject-specific research. Some faculty considers teaching to be “common sense, knowledge and experience” while they would not support such an approach to the substantive areas they teach (Healy 2000:175). The scholarship of teaching and learning requires comparable dedication, rigour and commitment in empirical research in other disciplines. If the status of pedagogic research is to be raised, the same standards should be applied to ODL scholarship as for discipline specific research (Weimer 1993).

Principle 2: While the scholarship of teaching and learning is often explicitly linked to the teaching of specific disciplines; the nature of the scholarship of teaching and learning involves inter, multi and trans-disciplinary approaches and methodologies.

Principle 3: The scholarship of teaching and learning cannot and should not be divorced from the context of the discipline in which the teaching and learning takes place.

Principle 4: The complementary nature of teaching and research is a key strategic issue for increasing the effectiveness and quality of teaching and learning in ODL institutions.

Principle 5: Increasing the quality and impact of the scholarship teaching and learning requires the providing strategic direction, support, integrated planning and coordination of initiatives and interventions.

In closing,  it is important to note that the goal of mainstreaming ODL research is not to “not be publish or perish, or teach or impeach, but to publish and teach effectively. The aim is to increase the circumstances in which teaching and research have occasion to meet, and to provide rewards not only for better teaching or for better research but for demonstrations of the integration between teaching and research” (Hattie & Marsh 1996: 533).


About opendistanceteachingandlearning

Research professor in Open Distance and E-Learning (ODeL) at the University of South Africa (Unisa). Interested in teaching and learning in networked and open distance and e-learning environments. I blog in my personal capacity and the views expressed in the blog does not reflect or represent the views of my employer, the University of South Africa (Unisa).
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