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An updated version of this paper was presented to the Improving Student Learning International Conference, University of York, September 1999, and the National Council of Geography in Higher Education Annual Conference, Boston, November 1999.
|"Teaching is the highest form of understanding"|
|(Aristotle, quoted by Boyer, 1990: 23)
|"The very concept of a scholarship of pedagogy is still very unfamiliar to many university teachers"|
|(Baume, 1996: 4)|
The most influential proponents of the need to move away from an emphasis on disciplinary research as the single form of scholarship recognized in academe, are the late Ernest Boyer and his colleagues at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (Boyer, 1990; Glassick et al., 1997). They argue that there is a need to give scholarship a broader meaning so as to define the work of university teachers in ways that enrich, rather than restrict, the quality of undergraduate education. They identify four separate, but overlapping areas of scholarship:
This paper focuses particularly on the last of Boyer's forms of scholarship, that of teaching, though it is argued that this involves engagement with all four areas of scholarship. The main argument of the paper is that good teaching needs to better understood, more open to scrutiny, and better communicated (Boyer, 1990; Ramsden and Martin, 1996). For this to happen, it is suggested that teachers in higher education institutions need to learn how to adopt a scholarly approach to teaching and how to collect and present rigorous evidence of their effectiveness as teachers. This involves reflection, inquiry, evaluating, documenting and communicating about teaching. The article begins with an analysis of what is meant by the scholarship of teaching. The major section of the paper is concerned with a discussion of what needs to be done to develop the scholarship of teaching geography in higher education. The argument draws largely on generic educational literature and reviews how far the ideas have been applied in geography. It is essentially a discussion paper and calls for further comment from its readers.
Despite calling for greater attention to be given to the scholarship of teaching, Boyer (1990) does not attempt to give an operational definition. His conception is limited to teachers who are "well informed" and who "stimulate active, not passive learning and encourage students to be critical, creative thinkers, with the capacity to go on learning." Further he suggests that "good teaching means that faculty, as scholars, are also learners" (Boyer, 1990: 23-4). Though these are laudable objectives in themselves, it has been left to other writers to explore and extend the meaning of the term 'scholarship of teaching' (Trigwell, et al., 1999).
Schulman (1993), for example, emphasizes the key role of communication, when he describes teaching as "community property". He describes the life of scholars, who are members of active communities: sharing, discussing, critiquing and exchanging practices; and engaged in peer review. Schon (1983; 1995), on the other hand, sees the key elements to be the teacher engaged in reflective practice and action research. "If teaching is to be seen as a form of scholarship, then the practice of teaching must be seen as giving rise to new knowledge" (Schon, 1995: 31). Drawing on this work and that of others, Martin et al. (1999) identify a consensus that the scholarship of teaching involves three essential and integrated elements:
This list supports the view of Cross and Steadman (1996: 28) that there are "multiple scholarships of teaching". The scholarship of teaching can involve all four forms identified by Boyer: discovery research into the nature of learning and teaching; integration of material from several disciplines to understand what is going on in the classroom; application of what is known about how students learn to the learning-teaching process; and teaching, "not only transmitting knowledge, but transforming and extending it as well" (Boyer, 1990: 24).
The advantage of thinking of the different kinds of academic work, all as forms of scholarship, is that it emphasizes their common features, rather than their differences. Glassick et al. (1997: 10) argue that "whatever the scholarly emphasis, the approach deserves dignity and respect, insofar as it is performed with distinction. Excellence must be the only yardstick." 1
III Developing the scholarship of teaching geography in higher education
The traditional model of educational development is an institutional-based one (Gosling, 1996; Knapper, 1997). However, it is argued here that for most academics, developing the scholarship of teaching will only bring about change in their priorities if it is embedded in disciplines and departments. This is because, first, there is strong perception among staff that there are significant differences among disciplines in what academics do and how those activities are described and valued. There is supporting evidence for these perceptions in that, for example, learning goals vary between disciplines. Donald (1997: 54) concluded from reviewing the evidence that: "the physical and life sciences emphasize learning of facts and principles, while in the social sciences and humanities, communication skills and critical thinking are important. In return, students rate humanities instructors more positively than physical science instructors." Secondly, for most academic staff their primary allegiance is to their subject or profession, and their sense of themselves as staff at a given institution is secondary (Becher, 1994; Diamond and Adams, 1995b; Gibbs, 1996; Jenkins, 1996). It is important therefore that the scholarship of teaching geography in higher education is not divorced from the content of the discipline. As Rice (1995: vi) notes: "improvement of teaching needs to be rooted in the intellectual substance of the field".
Using a definition of the scholarship of teaching as one based on: engagement with research into teaching and learning; critical reflection of practice; and communication and dissemination about the practice of one's subject; provides a challenging agenda for the development of the teaching of geography in higher education. To implement this agenda will involve developing: the application of scholarship in teaching; the status of teaching; the complementary nature of teaching and research; the standing of discipline-based pedagogic research; and the role of discipline networks. These five elements are closely related.
1. Developing the application of scholarship in teaching
Applying the ideas of scholarship to the practice of individual teachers leads to the assertion that the extent to which staff are scholarly in this element of their academic life is reflected in how they teach. This suggests that there is a continuum in the scholarly approach to teaching. At one end of the spectrum are teachers who show no awareness in the way they teach of the literature and ideas on teaching and learning in their discipline, do not reflect on their teaching practice or their students' learning, and do not discuss their teaching with colleagues. At the other end of the continuum are teachers who are fully practising the scholarship of teaching. They seek to understand teaching better "by consulting the literature on teaching and learning, by investigating their own teaching, by reflecting on their own teaching intentions and their students' learning, and by formally communicating their ideas and practice to their peers" (Martin et al., 1998). Most geography teachers in higher education fall somewhere between these two extremes.
A scholarly approach to teaching has been advocated in geography by Jenkins (1998: 95-96) who, in writing about designing the curriculum in geography departments in higher education, argues that "teaching and curriculum design is an act of scholarship, and that as academics when we teach we demonstrate the value of universities to society and immediately our students by the extent to which we are aware of and use the conversations on the scholarship of the curriculum. If we treat curriculum design as something that can be done by common sense, knowledge and experience, why should we expect others to value the knowledge we have developed on the substantive areas we teach?"
To be scholarly, academics need to use the same kind of thought processes in their teaching that they apply to their research (Elton, 1992). A good example of this concerns lecturing. There is a wealth of literature which shows the limitations for student learning of lecturing continuously for 55 minutes or more (see Bligh, 1998 for a review of some of the evidence). Yet many staff continue to teach in this way and lectures of this kind remain the most common learning experience for many students in higher education. It appears that many staff are either ignorant of the research evidence or choose to ignore it, perhaps because there is a culture in some departments in which the improvement of teaching and learning is rarely discussed. A scholarly approach to teaching would involve becoming familiar with this literature and acting on its findings. This does not necessarily mean reading the original research studies (although most lecturers encourage the students studying their options to do this), but it should at least mean reflecting on the theory and practice of lecturing applied to one's discipline. Agnew and Elton (1998) provide a very readable and practical account of how students' learning in geography lectures may be enhanced by integrating activities into the sessions.
2. Developing the status of teaching
The idea of scholarship in teaching is an attractive one to those keen to see improvement in the status of teaching in higher education institutions (HEIs). The argument made is that teaching too can be the most scholarly of pursuits. However, if teaching is to be valued equally with research then, like research, teaching must open itself to the scrutiny of theoretical perspectives, methods, evidence and results (Martin, et al., 1999). This view has been taken a stage further by Gibbs (1995a; 1999), who argues that for every process which supports quality in research, there is a parallel process which can be used to support quality in teaching (Table 2).
The most significant of the processes for enhancing quality, according to Gibbs (1995a), is the reward for teaching excellence, for both individuals and departments. This view is shared by staff. An international survey by Wright (1995) found that out of thirty-six measures listed, recognition of teaching in tenure and promotion decisions is seen by academics in every country surveyed, including the UK, as having the most potential for improving the quality of teaching. Yet there is clear evidence that "the gap between perceptions of what university reward processes actually do, and what academic staff would like them to do, is much larger for teaching than it is for research; and that this is particularly true for undergraduate teaching" (Ramsden and Martin, 1996: 304). The same study concluded that there is "no substitute for action to promote good teachers if universities want their staff to accept that good teaching is properly recognized" (p. 312). The need to give more emphasis to valuing teaching more highly in allocating staff rewards in geography is also emphasized by the Association of American Geographers (Abler, et al., 1994).
The main constraint on implementing these ideas is the perception that it is more difficult to identify excellence in teaching compared to excellence in research. However, there are several examples of good practice in this area and guidance is available on the selection of appropriate criteria (Elton, 1998; Gibbs 1995b, Ramsden and Martin, 1996). Among the points stressed are:
The development and application of promotion criteria are primarily the responsibility of institutions, although discipline-based associations have an important role in encouraging their development and advising on the appropriateness of the criteria to their disciplines. Such scholarly associations also have a vital part to play in raising the status of teaching in higher education, through the support they give to educational initiatives and the priority they give to teaching and learning matters. The role of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG) in coordinating the responses of the discipline in the UK to the proposal of the Higher Education Funding Councils (HEFCs) to establish national subject centres/networks and to the initiative of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) to develop benchmarking standards in geography, are good examples. Further recognition could be given by instituting teaching awards and developing a regular key note lecture slot in the Annual Conference concerned with geography educational issues. 2
Moves to give professional standing for teachers in higher education, with the founding of the Institute for Learning and Teaching (ILT) in the UK, should further raise the status of teaching in higher education. The first task of the ILT will be to develop a framework for the accreditation of teaching and learning programmes for higher education staff (ILT Planning Group, 1998). It is important that these programmes include explicit elements on discipline-based issues in learning and teaching, which is missing from the Staff and Educational Development Association accreditation scheme.
3 Developing the complementary nature of teaching and research
Departments of geography are faced with increasing pressures to perform well in research and to generate increased income from research and consultancy, while at the same time providing high quality teaching. If the scholarship of teaching is to be developed it is important to develop the complementary nature of these different activities.
The relationship between undergraduate teaching quality and research quality has attracted much attention in recent years (Hodges, 1999; Jenkins, 1999). On the one hand, it is asserted that the best teaching and learning in geography is led by the best researchers (Cooke, 1998b) and that there is a strong correlation between where the best geography research is done and where the best teaching is available (Johnston, 1996).3 On the other hand, Jenkins (1995) has argued that the competition induced by the RAE has had deleterious effects on the quality of undergraduate teaching in geography. In trying to resolve these competing claims it was argued in an earlier article that there is a need to unpack the relationship between teaching and research quality (Healey, 1997). In particular it was suggested that any such relationship applies more at the level of the department than it does for individuals and that the apparent relationship at department level may be more a reflection of the benefit students gain from the additional resources attracted to the departments which perform highly in research, than a concentration of excellent teaching in highly rated research departments.
There has been a large number of studies which have examined the relationship between the quality of undergraduate teaching and research in higher education and most have found that there is little or no correlation (Feldman, 1987; Hattie and Marsh, 1996; Jenkins, 1999; Ramsden and Moses, 1992). Yet, as Webster (1985) argues, the myth that there is a relationship persists because we want there to be a link. "Politically the stakes are loaded against evidence showing there is not a link between teaching and research. Neither staff, who wish to be allowed to continue to engage in both teaching and research, nor institutional managers who want to maintain university funding based upon research and teaching have any desire to see the link severed or weakened" (Brew and Boud, 1995a: 37).
Notwithstanding the absence, or weakness, of a link between research and teaching in numerous correlation studies, there may still be complementary features which can be developed. For example, Elton (1986) argues that scholarship is the link between teaching and research. Scholarship, in both subject disciplines and in teaching, involves new and critical reinterpretations of what is already known (Elton, 1992). His concern is with the application of scholarship and the consequent reflective practice to both disciplines and pedagogy. A slightly different perspective is taken by Brew and Boud (1995a, b), who suggest that the common element which links teaching and research is learning. Research, they argue, is a process of learning or discovery, while teaching is concerned with facilitating learning. The processes which students go through in learning are, they argue, similar to the processes of research. Thus the common feature which characterizes research, teaching and scholarship is learning. 4
Developing the complementary nature of teaching and research is a key strategic issue for most departments and HEIs. For example, Hattie and Marsh (1996: 533) argue fervently that "universities need to set as a mission goal the improvement of the nexus between research and teaching. The goal should 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." It is arguable that the ease with which teaching and research may be linked varies between disciplines. For example, integrating the latest research findings into undergraduate teaching may be relatively more difficult in the sciences in comparison with the humanities and social sciences; the same may apply to physical geography in comparison to human geography.
A recent study found that students at one institution perceived clear benefits from staff research, including staff enthusiasm and the credibility of staff and their institution (Jenkins, et al., 1998). However, they also perceived disadvantages from staff involvement in research, particularly staff availability to students. Moreover, students did not perceive themselves as stakeholders in staff research. These findings led the authors to make some clear recommendations for how research should be managed to benefit student learning (Table 3).
A further key way in which the link between research and teaching can be forged is by encouraging discipline specialists to undertake research into their teaching and the ways in which their students learn.
4. Developing the standing of discipline-based pedagogic research
Research into the learning and teaching of geography is a key element of the scholarship of teaching, but relatively few geographers undertake research into their teaching and publish their findings. One of the reasons for this is that the status of pedagogic research in the UK, both in general and in the disciplines, needs clarifying. Obtaining recognition for undertaking pedagogic research has led to calls in the UK for the establishment of a separate unit of assessment devoted to higher education in the HEFCs' research assessment exercise (RAE); and for discipline specialists being allowed to submit to both their discipline unit and a new pedagogic research in higher education unit (Healey, 1998d; Macdonald, 1999; Yorke, 1998). Alternatively subject-based RAE Panels could take pedagogic research into the disciplines more seriously. A positive sign is that HEFCE have recently established a pedagogic research initiative within the ESRC, although much of this research is likely to be at school level.5
The term 'research' in the UK is becoming synonymous in many people's minds with research which counts for the RAE. There is a need to unpack the term and recognize that it has a broader meaning. Research into learning ranges in a continuum from an informal evaluation of a session or a whole module at one end, to a major educational research project at the other end. In between is 'action' or 'classroom' research (Healey and Jenkins, 1999). Undoubtedly, much research into teaching and learning in geography meets the RAE definition of "an original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding" (HEFCs, 1998c: Annex C). However, many studies are more concerned with practical questions that arise in the classroom and with improving student learning, than with generating RAE research publications, though these may also be an outcome of such 'action' research projects (Angelo and Cross, 1993; Cross and Steadman, 1996; McKernan, 1996) (Table 4).
Currently there are, as Jenkins (1997: 13) points out, "lower standards of evidence and scholarship demonstrated in discussions about the teaching of geography than those of the discipline per se". This lack of professionalism, he argues, "reflects the lower status teaching and research on discipline-based pedagogy occupies vis-à-vis research on the discipline per se". It is important, if the status of pedagogic research is to be raised, that the same standards are applied to pedagogic journals as for other discipline journals (Weimer, 1993; 1997). Although this criticism applies less to geography than many other disciplines, there is a tension for editors of discipline pedagogic journals in trying to raise the level of scholarship of the articles published, while not discouraging discipline-specialists from writing (and reading) their journals (Healey, 1998a).
5. Developing the role of discipline networks
The final way in which the scholarship of teaching geography in higher education will be enhanced is to develop the role of discipline networks. Geographers have accumulated a lot of experience in developing educational networks, at least in relation to most other disciplines. However, most of what has occurred has been project-based (Healey, 1998a, b, c). The Computers in Teaching Initiative in the UK, with a centre at the University of Leicester devoted to geography, geology and meteorology, is an exception. The HEFCs' initiative to establish subject centres/networks holds out the potential for the development of permanent teaching communities owned by the disciplines (HEFCs 1998b).
Whereas the strength of subject networks is that they build on the propensity for staff to value their discipline contacts, their main weakness is the tendency for insularity. Not only can insularity mean that the network does not benefit from exposure to new ideas, but it can also lead to the needless recreating of wheels. One of the strengths of geographers is that they are good at collaborating. However, a significant problem for many discipline networks is that they do not see beyond their discipline. This came out in Weimer's (1993) review of discipline-based pedagogic journals. She found that most of the journals exist in a sort of splendid isolation with respect to any writing or research done outside the field.
Links to related subject networks are important, not only because many of the ideas discussed are transferable, but also because there is a need to address the issues faced by discipline specialists working in interdisciplinary centres. The plans of the HEFCs' for a single centre/network for geography, earth and environmental sciences should encourage greater links between the subjects, but will bring a challenge for how the centre/network can serve a multi-disciplinary community effectively, while recognizing the different academic cultures and practices of the three subjects.
One way in which the isolation of subject networks can be reduced is to involve generic educational developers in their operation, although this is relatively rare (Healey, 1998a). An exception is the Geography Discipline Network Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL) project, in which nine educational developers, one in each of the nine institutions in the consortium, are members of the project team. Two of the four UK advisers are also educational developers. The project has gained from their insight, particularly in designing the style and preparing the content of the ten guides to good practice in teaching, learning and assessing geography and the associated workshops (Gravestock and Healey, 1998; Healey and Gravestock, 1997; 1998; Healey, 1999).6
International links are also important. Despite educational systems differing from one nation to another, much of the pedagogy suitable for a discipline in one country is transferable to teaching the same discipline in another country, and where the practices are not transferable it is illuminating to explore why this is the case. International networking is seen as an indicator of the health of research networks, but is less frequent among networks in higher education (Healey, 1998c). At the time of writing plans are well advanced for the development of an International Network for Learning and Teaching Geography in Higher Education, which is due to be launched at an international symposium to be held prior to the AAG Annual Conference in March 1999 (Hay et al., 1999).
This paper has focused on developing the multiple scholarships of teaching in geography in higher education. However, despite many calls for valuing and rewarding the scholarship of teaching (e.g. Abler et al., 1994; Boyer, 1990), the concept of a scholarship of teaching is unfamiliar to many university teachers (Baume, 1996). What is needed is for "teachers in higher education to bring to their teaching activities the same critical, doubting and creative attitude which they bring habitually to their research activities" (Elton 1987: 50).
Whether it is those who see themselves primarily as teachers, who become the pedagogic researchers in geography, or subject-based geography researchers diversify into researching into the teaching of their subject, does not really matter. Encouraging both to be involved will help to raise the status of teaching and discipline-based pedagogic research and emphasize that the common feature linking teaching and research is learning.
Teaching will only be properly valued in higher education, Martin argues (1998), "when it is publicly seen to be a scholarly pursuit. This means communicating the way we as scholarly teachers:
It was stated in the introduction that this paper has been written to encourage discussion. It has already benefited from the comments of those listed in the Acknowledgements. It is hoped that it will receive a lot more debate.
2 A step in this direction was taken by the Higher Education Study Group (HESG) of the RGS-IBG agreed at the AGM in January 1999, when they decided to introduce an annual award of £100 to an individual considered to have made "a significant contribution to teaching, learning and assessment in geography in the UK". The HESG Award in Geography is restricted to staff who have had no more than 10 years service in higher education. Special consideration will be given to individuals whose contribution is judged to extend beyond their host department.
3 Interestingly, the assumption is that research productivity enhances teaching effectiveness and not the other way round. Few authors suggest that the creation of specialized research centres, in which staff undertake little or no teaching, has a detrimental effect on research, yet many hold to the view that the separation of teaching from research would have a deleterious effect on the quality of teaching. It is rarely argued that being a good teacher enhances personal research productivity, although there are clear benefits in terms of good communication and Gardiner (1993) provides some examples of how teaching can enhance research in geography.
4 Elton (1992) notes that the process of learning also characterizes each of Boyer's forms of scholarship and that they are closely related to Kolb's (1984) learning cycle stages.
5 For details of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme see: http://www.esrc.ac.uk/prog/teaching.htm
6 A review of the Guides stated that "Geography is a better discipline for their presence: they make a difference by their encouragement not only to do better but to do so in better - educational - ways." (Butterfield et al., 1999).
Table 1 Recent government reports and consultation papers on learning and teaching in higher education
Dearing (NCIHE, 1997)
Report on future of higher education over next 20 years
Booth Report (Accreditation of Teaching in Higher Education Planning Group, 1998)
Proposals for the development of a national accreditation scheme for teaching in higher education
ILT Initial Consultation (CVCP, 1998)
Initial consultation paper on an Institute for Learning and Teaching
ILT Planning Group (1998)
Proposals for the development of the Institute for Learning and Teaching
Learning and Teaching Strategy Consultation (HEFCE, 1998)
Proposals for strategy to support learning and teaching in higher education
Atkins Report (HEFCs, 1998a)
An evaluation of the Computers in Teaching Initiative and Teaching and Learning Technology Support Network
Subject Centres Consultation (HEFCs, 1998b)
Consultation for subject centres to support learning and teaching in higher education
Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL) Evaluation (HEFCE and DENI, 1998)
Evaluation of the FDTL
Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education Consultation (QAA, 1998a)
Consultation on quality assurance and standards framework
QAA plans for subject benchmarking and programme specification (QAA, 1998b)
Sets out quality assurance framework that the Agency will now develop and implement
DfEE Learning Age Green Paper (DfEE, 1998)
Consultation on how lifelong learning can be encouraged
CVCP Skills Report (CVCP, 1998)
A report on encouraging HEIs to prepare students better for the world of work and place greater emphasis on the development of employability skills
Table 2 Quality enhancement processes for research and for teaching
Table 3 Policy recommendations for managing staff research to benefit the quality of student learning
Table 4 Characteristics of 'action' or 'classroom' research
For quality in research
For quality in teaching
Selecting and appointing excellent researchers
Selecting and appointing (potentially) excellent teachers
Training in the scholarship of research
Training in the scholarship of teaching
Peer review of research proposals
Peer review of course proposals
Funding for research projects
Funding for teaching projects
Good research facilities
Good teaching facilities
Reading and discussing the literature
Reading and discussing the literature
Co-operative research in teams
Co-operative teaching in teams
Presenting accounts of research in progress
Presenting accounts of teaching in progress
Peer review of publications
Peer review of teaching
Reward, recognition and promotion for excellence in research
Reward, recognition and promotion for excellence in teaching
Source: Gibbs (1995a: 151)
Staff absence from the institution and lack of availability to students need to be managed in order to ensure that they do not affects students too adversely
Students should have opportunities to benefit from research and from their staff involvement in research
Institutions and subject groupings should be required to monitor and identify how their research policy impacts on and supports the undergraduate curriculum
Institutions and, in particular, departments/subject groups should inform and perhaps involve students in staff research
Subject groups, when designing their curricula, should consider how that curriculum can integrate (staff) research to benefit student learning
The (potential) teaching ability of staff needs to be a key concern at appointment, initial training, appraisal and promotion, but these procedures should also recognise how staff incorporate their research into their teaching
Source: Jenkins et al. (1998: 136-139)
Focus on learner responses to teaching rather than teacher performance
Focus on teachers as active investigators, engaged in studies of learning in their discipline
Research enriched by discussion and collaboration with colleagues and sharing analysis and interpretation with students
Focus on specific questions in an identified class
Requires identification of research questions, appropriate research design, consideration of implications for practice
Practical and relevant
Focus on practical questions teacher faces in teaching; measure of quality is its contribution to knowledge and practice of the teacher
More process than product, with new projects emerging from past investigations
Source: Cross and Steadman (1996: 2-4)
Table 3 Policy recommendations for managing staff research to benefit the quality of student learning
Table 4 Characteristics of 'action' or 'classroom' research
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