Developing the scholarship of teaching geography in higher education

Comment from Received
Shan Wareing 12 April 1999
Mick Healey 4 May 1999
Susan Hardwick 11 May 1999

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Shân Wareing, University of Wales College, Newport, UK

You asked me whether I had any comments on your 'Developing the Scholarship of teaching Geography in Higher Education' paper.

Firstly, I really enjoyed it and found it immensely useful. What particularly impressed me was the referencing and the bibliography (I guess an impressive bibliography is a good move in a paper making the arguments yours makes!). This will be such a useful resource for me; I am very much in your debt for this work.

I found it very readable and persuasive, and I will use it with staff when I run development sessions at Newport, if I may.

There were two points for discussion I would like to raise, both in section III 'Developing the scholarship of teaching geography in higher education'.

This may be a rather longer-winded comment that you had bargained for! I did enjoy the paper very much, so thanks for inviting me to get back to you about it.

Dr Shân Wareing
Head of Learning Development, Department of Library and Learning Resources, Allt-yr-yn campus PO Box 180, Newport NP9 5XR UK
Tel/fax: +44 (0)1633 432556; Email:



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Mick Healey, Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education, UK

My first reaction to your perceptive comments is that yes, I agree. As far as I am aware there is a lack of evidence on the impact of teacher training on teaching at HE. I like your concept of a 'scholarly introvert' who learns more and more about teaching, but never get any better at doing it. Similarly there are intuitive teachers who are excellent at the practice, even though they may have never studied the theory. Nevertheless it seems a reasonable proposition that a good test that someone is adopting a scholarly approach to their teaching is that they attempt to apply the principles of good teaching practice. Probably the best known guide is the seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education proposed by Gamzon and Chickering (1987) (AAHE Bulletin 39 (7), 3-7) in the States. The application of these principles has been influential in improving teaching and learning in a wide range of colleges and universities and has been applied to promoting the effective use of CAL in geography.

I also agree with your comments about the unevenness of progress as individuals attempt to improve their teaching and the recognition that it can sometimes be backwards.

As for the generic versus disciplinary approach. Yes, we need both. I accept the stimulation which can occur from others in other disciplines and it is important that teachers are aware of what is going on outside there discipline. We need to avoid recreating too many wheels. BUT I do believe that teaching discipline A can be different from teaching discipline B. Cultures do differ between disciplines. There is also a very practical argument. Staff believe in their disciplines and it is best to work with this to help them develop the scholarship of teaching in their discipline even if it means that some wheels are recreated. It may be a stage that they need to go through to accept the practice and take ownership of it!

Many thanks for your thoughtful detailed comments.

GEMRU, Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education, Francis Close Hall, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ, UK
Tel. +44 (0)1242 543364; Fax +44 (0)1242 532997; Email



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Susan Hardwick, Southwest Texas State University, USA

Thanks for asking for comments on your [already quite wonderful!] manuscript, "Developing the Scholarship of Teaching Geography in Higher Education". Needless to say, I am more than thrilled to see in print - at long last - what I have believed throughout my entire academic life, that research on teaching and learning is not only solid and respected scholarship but also quite necessary for enriching undergraduate education. I strongly encourage you to seek publication of your manuscript because it is so timely and strikes such a positive chord for the movement now afoot in geography education circles on both sides of the Atlantic.

As requested, here are a few suggested recommendations to strengthen your argument.

  1. Parts I and II work very well - no changes recommended.

  2. Part III:
    Your opening paragraph doesn't seem to fit with arguments presented later in the manuscript [about using ideas developed by researchers in other disciplines]. I do see your point about the importance of embedding our knowledge of geography into studies of how to teach it, but I also have consistently depended on other scholars in other disciplines for some of the best ideas useful in my geography courses. For me, this began in earnest when I co-directed the campus-wide "Literacy and Learning Program" at California State University, Chico before moving to Texas a couple of years ago. This was a faculty development effort sponsored by the Provost's Office. I worked closely with the other co-director who was a "Crit Lit" person from the English Department. She taught me more about theory, method, and practice as they are applied to research on teaching and learning than any geography article in one of our journals to date! In many ways, scholars in English and other fields have already gone where we are going and their work often proves invaluable to our efforts to understand more about processes involved in effective classroom teaching.

    Recommendation for p. 3: Tone down the first two paragraphs a bit!

  3. "Developing the Application of Scholarship in Teaching."
    The ideas expressed in this section provide the foundation for your entire argument and thus are very important - I'd say more about advocating a scholarly approach to teaching geography here - and maybe provide an example of a couple of departments who are successfully involved in developing a "culture in which the improvement of teaching and learning" is discussed. When I taught at the University of Oregon, for example, faculty ate lunch together every day in the coffee room and informally discussed their instructional strategies, ways to meet the needs of their students, and ideas about connecting their research with their classroom teaching. It was exhilarating!

  4. "Developing the complementary nature of teaching and research"
    Students as stakeholders in staff research. You might want to add that in many Psychology Departments, such as the large Psychology Department at Indiana University, undergraduate students regularly participate in faculty research projects. They are expected to sign up for one or more ongoing research projects underway in the dept during their semester or semesters enrolled in psyc courses. Students are given one page summaries of the goals of the project and also receive brief reports at the end of the semester detailing the results of the study. According to Susan Hume, students feel strongly that they are stakeholders in this effort and lean firsthand how to do research on their own from the opportunity to participate. Surely we geographers could do the same or better to integrate students into our own research efforts!?

  5. "Developing the role of discipline networks"
    Mention the Virtual Geography Dept project here - also update section about the International Network for Learning and Teaching. As solid examples of successful discipline networks already up and running.

And finally, if needed, you could add in some more US-based examples such as: AAG's ARGWorld Project (contact Osa Brand for more on this effort) and SWT's "Step Up to Geography Through Distance Learning" project as examples of attempts to learn more about the teaching and learning of geography in a global context. Our department's distance ed. project involves ongoing research on the most effective delivery systems and methods to effectively disseminate graduate courses to teachers in remote locations. Also perhaps useful would be some mention of new journals now emerging that focus on research and teaching - e.g. SWT's Journal on Research in Geographic Education co-edited by David Stea and myself. The first volume will be published this fall. We are also hosting an international conference on Research in Geographic Education next week.

Susan Hardwick
Department of Geography and Planning, Southwest Texas State University, USA
Tel. +1 512 245 1724; Fax +1 512 245 8353; Email

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