In the UK, the Institute for Learning and Teaching [ILT] exists to enhance learning and teaching in higher education
Nicholls sought to critique the way in which the ILT promotes ‘a commitment to scholarship in teaching…’ as a professional value, asking what does this mean?
The issue is compounded by ‘Boyer’s untimely death’, which ‘left the concept [of SOTL] open to examination and reinterpretation’ (Nicholls 2004)
The research questions
What does the term ‘Scholarship of Teaching’ mean to academics & the academic community?
Has the use of certain language to attach professional value to the scholarship of teaching led to confusion?
Do individual academics and disciplinary groups share similar or different conceptions of ‘the scholarship of teaching’?
Review of Boyer (1990) to revisit principal notions attached to ‘the scholarship of teaching’ & to ground the research findings
Use of Bourdieu’s (1986, 1988, 1989) concepts of symbolic cultural & social capital as theoretical framework to analyse how people may try to enhance the status & value of teaching
Interview with 25 academics & analysis of data to ascertain what they understood by ‘the scholarship of teaching’
Building on Boyer
Nicholls built on Boyer’s (1990) foundation of interpreting the scholarship of teaching as an integrated & inclusive activity entailing:
Synoptic capacity – drawing together diverse ideas to make coherent meaning
Pedagogical content knowledge – overcoming ‘split between intellectual substance and teaching process’
Scholarly enquiry into student learning
Further definitions of SOTL
While using Boyer as a foundation, Nicholls referred to:
Trigwell et al (2000); and
to demonstrate that ‘a great deal more research is required … if the scholarship of teaching is to have clear, distinct and definitive meaning’
SOTL & terminology
Boyer and the ITL embrace different definitions of SOTL
Understanding why this difference is important is essential to appreciating Nicholls’ argument
Nicholls used Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital to critique the way SOTL has been used by the ITL as a ‘mechanism for promoting teaching in academic discourse’
Use of Bourdieu & research findings
Bourdieu postulated that:
social agents act as the conduits for power within societies (which are arbitrary); and
different types of capital accrue in societies: social, symbolic and material.
Social capital accrues through informal exchanges but this requires a cohesive group
Using the term ‘scholarship’ with ‘teaching’ can be seen as an attempt to create symbolic capital
ILT teaching fellowships are an example – they emulate research fellowships
Boyer interviewed 25 academics in the UK about their perceptions of SOTL, guided by 5 questions:
What do you understand by the term Scholarship?
What do you perceive the scholarship of your discipline to be?
What do you understand by the Scholarship of Teaching?
Do you think that there is a Scholarship of Teaching?
If yes what does the Scholarship of Teaching constitute for you?
Clear set of agreed terms relating to ‘scholarship’ emerged (we will consider these later)
Academics from same discipline agreed on ‘scholarship’, but differences between disciplines
Questions on SOTL hard to answer – most academics did not associate ‘scholarship’ with ‘teaching’
20 out of 25 respondents had not heard of SOTL
Academics are confused about the term ‘scholarship’ when it is applied to teaching & this impacts on their engagement
ITL has referred to scholarship as a professional value to accrue symbolic capital to HE teaching but confusion has led to this not being widely embraced
Exploring the term ‘Scholarship of Teaching’ further could be useful if a more systematic approach is taken & this could lead to greater engagement
Adding a local perspective
UK academics (n = 25)
produce new knowledge
share knowledge with others, including peers
use variety of avenues to disseminate knowledge
UTAS academics (n = 4)
engagement with theories of T & L
ascertain, apply & review best practice
knowledge of literature
dialogue with peers
reflection & research
making findings public
Situating Nicholls’ findings in SOTL
Deleuze and Guattari (1987): ‘principles of connection and heterogeneity … any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other’
Boyer (1990) The scholarship of teaching – dynamic, begins with what we know. Educates and entices future scholars. Trigwell et al (2000) – five hierarchical interpretations of SOT, from what teacher does to how students learn. Andresen (2000) – what, how, and why we teach. Critical reflection, peer review, inquiry (motivation). Elton (2008) – collaboration between lecturers and students; teaching not separate from research. Kreber (2002) – four distinct areas: discovery, excellent practice, knowledge, experience. Nicholls (2004) – believes discourse on SOT poorly conceptualised & confusing.
‘ I worry that as we wallow around seeking to differentiate between “excellent” teaching, “scholarly” (or informed) teaching, and the “scholarship of teaching” … the door of opportunity opened by Boyer’s notion that we can define scholarship differently will close before pedagogical scholarship manages to move inside.’
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