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Doctoral Education and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
It is my experience that PhD programs teach students to become researchers, but do not prepare us for careers in teaching. Not only is there little formal "teacher training" available, but also there is no requirement of teaching proficiency for those of us who plan teaching careers. To get a teaching job, I must prove an ability to do research. How unfortunate for my future students. --Geology student, Survey of Doctoral Education and Career Preparation (www.phd-survey.org)
American academe has long been devoted to excellence in undergraduate and graduate education; our society celebrates the benefits of broad-based liberal learning and integrative undergraduate curricula, and champions the finest in graduate research and scholarship. And yet, in many doctoral-granting departments, the undergraduate and graduate enterprises are separately administered, conceptualized, and executed. This perspective ignores the fact that it is graduate school that prepares future faculty for the challenges of undergraduate teaching and learning. And the reality is that, despite the fact that arts and science doctoral students most often cite "enjoyment of teaching" as the reason for their interest in faculty positions, many report feeling inadequately prepared for their chosen careers (see Golde article, this issue).
Of course, many departments and universities have begun offering meaningful pedagogical preparation to their graduate students, addressing the needs of those who make up a significant part of the teaching force at most research universities. But even asking the question, how can teaching be integrated into doctoral programs? skews the issue by inadvertently emphasizing some kind of competition between teaching and research. A schism between undergraduate and graduate education remains. Instead, graduate programs could reframe research and teaching as complimentary, collaborative, coextensive endeavors by offering graduate students access to and instruction in the scholarship of teaching and learning.
Graduate education is fundamentally about inquiry, and doctoral recipients have developed the habits of mind that promise a lifetime of learning and knowing. These habits which are so valuable in the lab or library can also be brought to the classroom, contributing to disciplinary knowledge in a way that influences the teaching of the field. Graduate students are taught to pursue the disciplinary scholarship of discovery, but they are rarely asked to turn the same curious and critical eye on questions of student learning and effective teaching.
For those who enter graduate education with a desire to teach, examining their teaching and student learning in the same scholarly way as they pursue discovery could offer a valuable bridge between the classroom and the lab, library, and field. Early encouragement of these future faculty members would result in a more coherent doctoral experience; linking teaching and research as shared forms of scholarship integrates two facets of intellectual work. Most new faculty members spend much of their time teaching, and making systematic investigation of student learning in the discipline integral to doctoral preparation provides them with a new venue for meaningful research. But even those students who do not self-identify as prospective members of the professoriate would benefit from a more scholarly approach to and awareness of teaching as a professional activity, and learning as a site of inquiry.
What Is the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning?
The scholarship of teaching and learning is based on several assumptions. The practices of teaching and learning are rarely transparent. Both are enormously complex and poorly understood; they can, but rarely do, benefit from examination, critique, and analysis leading to improvement. Furthermore, teaching is not simply the mastery of tricks and techniques; it is intellectual work. But learning and teaching are fundamentally embedded in the content, process, and specificity of a discipline and their investigation requires disciplinary expertise; they require disciplinary experts to understand them. The scholarship of teaching and learning is a rigorous investigation into classroom practice, how a teacher teaches, and how (and what) students learn.
The scholarship of teaching and learning begins with observation of student learning and the realization that there is something happening in the classroom that we do not understand. An investigator establishes a hypothesis with clear goals, prepares for the investigation through literature searches and other forms of background research, selects methods of inquiry appropriate to the discipline and the circumstances, gathers data in such a way as to provide significant results, presents the results publicly, and receives peer review and critique so that others can build on the work.
At the heart of all research is the question, how do you know? How do you know the construction of national identity is at work in the plays of the Scottish Enlightenment? How do you know that cyclic AMP and LDL trigger enhanced gap junction assembly through a stimulation of connexin trafficking? How do you know that race is the key arbiter of blue-collar employment outcomes for young black and white men? The scholarship of teaching and learning asks similar kinds of questions and seeks similar kinds of answers. How do you know whether students gain a deeper insight into characters when they role-play and improvise relationships? How do you know whether students learn more about the results of individual research through a poster session in class? How do you know what works to improve student visualization of physics concepts in an online environment? These are questions about teaching and learning--and about understanding in the discipline.
How Can This Work Be Done?
The Carnegie Foundation's work with faculty, campuses, and scholarly/professional societies through the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) (www.carnegiefoundation.org/CASTL) has taught us that this kind of scholarship can influence the culture of teaching, improve student learning, and encourage a deeper understanding of disciplinary knowledge-building. This has happened for current faculty, and it can happen for graduate students preparing for the professoriate. To that end, we propose four steps to scaffold the training of graduate students: exposure, encounter, engagement, extension.
Early exposure to the scholarship of teaching and learning is a vital first step and could appropriately be included in all doctoral programs. Indeed, part of developing the habits of mind unique to and representative of stewards of the discipline is understanding the ways in which that discipline and those habits are cultivated, communicated, and transferred to the next generation of scholars. In the first year of study, many doctoral programs provide exposure to the important questions and problems of the field, often in courses devoted to exploring the span, history, and pressing problems of the discipline. What better time for a discussion of the implications of scholarship in and of teaching and learning? Another appropriate time and place for this work would be as part of the pedagogical training provided to graduate students preparing for the teaching assignments included in their departmental responsibilities.
A specific and guided encounter with the scholarship of teaching and learning, the next stage, provides graduate students with opportunities to examine and critique questions and projects. It is important for future faculty to develop a familiarity not only with the scholarship but also with how that scholarship is manifested in various forms and functions. To this end, it is important for faculty mentors to provide examples of scholarly projects, in process and completed, along with the framing observations, initial inquiries, question-narrowing processes, data collection and analysis, and peer review. Instruction in the scholarship of teaching and learning during or immediately following appointment as teaching assistants, graders, lab assistants, or instructors would prove invaluable to those who provide first contact between undergraduates and the disciplines.
Once graduate students understand what such inquiry might entail, it is vital that they be given opportunities for engagement in their own design process; specifically, they should be mentored in the process by which investigations are conceived and implemented. This step is best accomplished in groups, with serious attention to support and critique; it is the beginning of going public and of peer review, but it is also an opportunity for the development of a new way of seeing, thinking, teaching, and asking questions about student learning. Following close upon this engagement, students would need mentoring (albeit less rigorous) in more autonomous projects. Thus, engagement is a two step process moving from collective to individual inquiry (although engagement could also continue as a collaborative effort).
Indeed, we have learned that it is CASTL's collaborative features that best support individual inquiry; thus, a structure providing individual graduate students with opportunities for collective projects could prove most fruitful and would fit well with departmental initiatives. For example, a department faced with dropping lower division enrollment or looking to revamp approaches to integrative general education could work through graduate students to investigate issues of student learning within and between courses. Such projects could target persistent disciplinary questions as well as crosscutting issues, with dissemination through conferences and publications as one ultimate outcome.
Extension is the final stage, not necessary but important as an option for graduate students pursuing this kind of scholarship. Extension involves graduate students becoming mentors for the next cohort, extending their understanding through aid and support; they become not experts in the scholarship of teaching and learning but informed assistants in ongoing lines of inquiry. Additionally, after pursing initial projects these graduate students would be well placed to continue this kind of inquiry in faculty positions, extending their influence to others on campus. They would also be able to take advantage of the intellectual support of colleagues and collaborators around the globe. As graduate students embark on this path, they will be able to contribute to forums in their fields and participate in cross-disciplinary meetings like the American Association or Higher Education/CASTL Colloquium, the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Conference, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Network for Academic Renewal meetings, and numerous other disciplinary and interdisciplinary venues.
Individual departments could encourage this work through the doctoral program and as a part of teaching support services. Faculty buy-in and mentorship are vital to success and communicate a dedication not only to teaching as a worthwhile activity but also to teaching excellence and deep learning as a valued goal. Departments whose graduate students routinely do a lot of undergraduate teaching (e.g., fine arts tutorials, English composition classes, science labs) are particularly well situated to capitalize on this structure. Groups of committed departments might work collaboratively; indeed, allied departments are important in this regard for both campus coherence and interdisciplinary support. Natural allies include disciplines with long associations--such as theater and communications, biology and environmental sciences, or ethnic studies and American studies--as well as disciplines with similar course structures--such as chemistry and physics labs, or history and literature discussion sections.
Disciplinary and interdisciplinary centers, especially in science and technology fields, also could support this work. Humanities centers abound, and the best are attuned to the needs of both teaching and scholarship. Ventures such as the University of Wisconsin's Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning and Georgetown University's Center for New Directions in Learning and Scholarship provide opportunities for collaboration and for connections between teaching and research. Likewise, centers for teaching and learning, which have become important trading zones for the discussion and improvement of practice, could be instrumental, especially those already working on TA training. There are other important precedents, most notably the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program, cosponsored by the Council of Graduate Schools and AAC&U, which was profoundly influential on many campuses and continues to influence the training of graduate students.
The good news is that models and methods for approaching the scholarship of teaching and learning in graduate education are already taking hold, and the students who are creating and executing research projects are realizing tangible benefits. Participation in the scholarship of teaching provides doctoral students with a heightened awareness of their charge and responsibility; they are able to transform their love of teaching into skills built on knowledge that allow them to contribute to their discipline and transmit their passion to another generation of students. Involvement in the scholarship of teaching and learning makes students better researchers in their own field; they are able to develop the habits of self-reflection and assessment of their own practice and its impact that translates directly into work in the lab or manuscript. Furthermore, these students are better prepared to enter future careers, more ready for the rigors of college teaching, and more aware of the realities of student learning. But perhaps most importantly, by improving teaching and learning through scholarly inquiry we make students' engagement with the material more visible, and hence more fruitful. It is an important step towards enriching and expanding the conversation between graduate and undergraduate education.