A passion for the 3 p's

May 18, 2001

Pat Leon meets two academics who believe teaching should be seen as a scholarly activity.

Vaneeta D'Andrea and David Gosling share a passion. It is a passion that has bound them since they met one solstice in Vaasa, Finland. It is a passion for the scholarship of teaching. It has taken them around the globe, holding workshops as far afield as Kyrgyzstan and South Africa. It has inspired them to write books and articles, to advise government and international bodies, to launch a journal and to organise the first conference to bring Carnegie scholars from the United States and national teaching fellows from the United Kingdom together to talk about their work.

D'Andrea and Gosling are two of a new breed of what some call "portfolio" academics. They are academics who teach, research and run their own business, in their case Critical Change Consultants for Higher Education. They are also both heads of educational development units at London universities - City and East London respectively - that are co-hosting the conference on June 6.

"We both believe passionately in teaching," Gosling says. "We believe it needs to be given respect and parity with research. It needs to be recognised as a scholarly activity. That is where the London conference comes in."

The idea of teaching as a scholarly activity was advanced by Ernest Boyer, former president of the Carnegie Foundation in the United States, in the 1990 report Scholarship Reconsidered . In 1998, the foundation launched the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) with the aim of ensuring higher education teaching was a more public rather than private activity between lecturer and students. This opened the way for recognition of people's innovative work in teaching and learning, of which the Carnegie scholars are one example.

D'Andrea is American by birth and a Carnegie scholar. She was one of four sociology scholars selected for 2000-01. Unusually for a foreigner, Gosling was a finalist in the 2001-02 round in philosophy, one of 12 subjects on offer. "David was the only British citizen who has ever been a Carnegie finalist and the only foreign national to make it to the finalist list. It's quite an honour," D'Andrea says.

The CASTL programme, which is funded by Carnegie and the Pew Charitable Trusts, is not an award for teaching excellence. It allows faculty to investigate and document issues about how their subject is taught and learnt. With some 30-40 participants selected each year, the idea is to build a community of teaching scholars and a body of work.

Carnegie scholars receive $6,000 (£4,200) for research and attend two summer seminars and one mid-year at the foundation in California. The scholar's home campus is expected to give them time to research, pay travel and materials expenses and, most importantly, publicise the work.

The amount compares poorly with the £50,000 teaching fellowships from the UK's Institute for Learning and Teaching. "The UK put a huge amount of money into the fellowships for three years. The USdidn't think this was the way to go and took a smaller pump-priming approach," D'Andrea says.

Five Carnegie fellows are crossing the Atlantic for the conference to team up with five UK national teaching fellows as presenters.

"We started with the idea of a staff development event on the scholarship of teaching. Because Vaneeta was a Carnegie scholar, we said 'let us feature the CASTL programme'. Then we thought, 'Why not bring over some some Carnegie scholars?'," Gosling says.

City and East London universities are co-sponsoring the conference and they are linked with the CASTL programme, the American Association of Higher Education's campus academy programme and the ILT. The ILT has decided to use the event to conduct its final selection of this year's 20 teaching fellowships.

Gosling describes the scholarship of teaching as "encouraging academics to go out into the marketplace of ideas about teaching their subject and test out their thinking. It involves looking at the foundations of their subject and the existing literature."

Lee S. Schulmann, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, calls it a "three p's" rationale for scholarship: professionalism, pragmatism and policy. He argues that academics are members of at least two professions, for example their subject discipline and the teaching discipline, and they should approach both in the same spirit and with the same habits of rational inquiry.

The pragmatic rationale is that students are at university to learn and that faculty, therefore, should always be thinking about making sure they do. If academics reflect, document, assess and analyse their teaching and students' learning, and make the results available to others, not only will their work improve but others will have a base to work from.

The policy angle is straightforward. Teaching has to be accountable for the money it receives from public or private purses, and assessment has become central to this accountability. Schulmann believes that vigorous scholarship of teaching and learning, if supported by institutions, "can and must respond to policy needs and issues".

This strikes a chord with D'Andrea and Gosling. A lot of their work has been as advisers to governments, not least that of the UK. They produced a report for the Higher Education Funding Council for England on Building Capacity for Change in the Scholarship of Teaching , with colleagues from Strathclyde University, which is aimed at enhancing the status of research into teaching. They are also part of a team that is evaluating how Hefce funding for institutions to enhance teaching quality is being spent.

Since 1995, Gosling has been convener of the Heads of Educational Development Group, which has more than 80 members. As such, he has a particular slant on how institutions are developing teaching expertise: "It has often been ad hoc and pragmatic."

His comparative study on educational development units is published this month. It shows a big shift in the past five years with lots of initiatives. Before, units were small, poorly resourced and were "kept out of harm's way", he says. After Dearing they may go under different names but have a more central location and role, often managed by a pro vice-chancellor or someone who is on a similar level.

He and D'Andrea argue that the post-Dearing stress on teaching is an opportunity to influence the mission and culture of institutions. "It is at the cutting edge," D'Andrea says, "and we want to be there."

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning conference is at Kensington Town Hall, London, on June 6.

Details: www.uel.ac.uk/eds/ </a>

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