Dementia Conference 2017

What is Scholarly Teaching?

In advance of our forthcoming Winter Symposium on Getting Started in Educational Enquiry and Pedagogical Research, we asked one of the speakers- Professor Peter Draper- to reflect on what scholarly teaching is.

What is scholarly teaching?

The American scholar Ernest Boyer (Boyer, 1990) described four types of scholarship that are embedded in all academic disciplines:

  • discovery (the discipline’s fundamental research priorities)
  • application (the impact of research on real-world problems)
  • integration (how one discipline draws on and informs the work of others) and
  • teaching and learning.

Boyer’s work reminds us that although scholarly teaching may appear to be a recent innovation distracting us from ‘real’ academic work, it is actually central to the mission of all higher education disciplines reflecting important questions about how knowledge is created, evaluated, applied and transmitted.  As such, all academics should aspire to be scholarly teachers.

Students’ learning is the starting point for reflection on scholarly teaching.  As fledgling members of disciplinary communities, students are not empty vessels for teachers to fill but active as knowledge builders - making links, evaluating evidence, mastering our disciplines’ research methods and applying knowledge in new ways in the rapidly changing worlds of the workplace and wider society.  Scholarly teaching asks that we reflect on our success in working with students to achieve these goals.  At the level of the individual ‘learning event’ we can consider whether our teaching strategies enable our students to grasp and apply key concepts; and at the programme level we can reflect on our success in preparing students as competent to enter the world of employment as graduates. At all levels our reflection is more authentic and useful when it draws appropriately on information from students themselves.

Scholarly teaching is also collegiate.  The immediate context for all academic work is the professional community of scholars.  Just as the outputs of disciplinary research are improved by peer review, strategies and techniques for teaching and learning can be refined when the individual academic steps outside the ‘private’ space of the teaching room or laboratory and begins to share with colleagues.  This may begin with relatively informal discussions about ‘what works’ with other members of module teams, but also extends to more formal opportunities such as the annual University Learning and Teaching conference, or perhaps a blog post for the Teaching Excellence Academy.  Scholarly teaching can also give rise to outputs recognizable to all research-engaged academics: peer reviewed papers in the discipline’s scholarly journals, or presentations at teaching and learning conferences.

In summary, these are one academic’s suggestions concerning the nature of scholarly teaching.

  • Scholarly teaching takes place in the context of particular academic disciplines and is informed by the discipline’s research methods, disciplinary priorities and epistemologies.
  • Scholarly teaching will always retain that disciplinary ‘flavour’, although it will also be open to ideas and insights from cognate disciplines.
  • The student is always the focus of scholarly teaching, and ultimately the teacher’s success is judged in terms of student learning.
  • Scholarly teaching draws appropriately on evidence to support its claims, which may take the form of formal or informal student evaluations, or sophisticated large scale data collected as part of a funded project.
  • And scholarly teaching is initiated, developed, evaluated, validated and disseminated through a range of student and peer review processes ranging from informal discussions between colleagues through seminars and blog posts to more traditional formats such as the peer reviewed scholarly paper or textbook.

Boyer E (1990) Scholarship reconsidered: priorities of the professoriate.  San Francisco.  Jossey-Bass Publishers.

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