One of the biggest challenges in supporting teaching on campus or in the disciplines is not just encouraging those individuals who are interested in such work, but helping to develop the field itself. Our aim is to explore ways in which the science of teaching could be positioned within the broader discourse and practice of teaching and learning. The hope, of course, is that as teaching science develops, it will become attractive to a larger number of educators, and that the company will ultimately raise the level of reflection on teaching and learning for all academics – teachers, administrators, and students. We must not forget the role of students in shaping a culture of teaching and learning on campus. Your expectations about what an appropriate course should be can be a strong conservative force.
The teaching cultures will involve collaborative fieldwork at a few select campuses and will require a concentration in probably no more than four disciplines or areas. However, it is informed by what we hear from the many individuals, campuses, and disciplines or career fields in the larger program. And she will be informed of what we are learning about the forums where the exchange on teaching and learning in higher education is currently taking place. Perhaps this compares to traditional research, but the field of teaching and learning in higher education is much more active (though not very evenly distributed) than many might think.
When you start filling in the cells with example forums for teaching and learning discussions, the first thing you might notice is that these are by no means exclusively or even primarily campus-related. This is certainly all for the better. Finally, one needs national or regional meetings to share new work and meet people, and as we shall see there is a fairly rich variety of other types of forums that serve the purpose at the national level: there is a fairly respectable number of journals , newsletters, funders, associations, programs, awards and workshops. Many are available for faculty or projects regardless of disciplinary affiliations, and there is a separate set of such forums available for many specific disciplinary groups. It is even possible to find some of these national forums for specific subject groups as well.
Partly because these forums are national (and even international), they’re pretty easy to find. In fact, many of these forums are advertised on their sponsor’s website or have their own website. We are only at the beginning of our research but have already found over a hundred entries for each of the national/general and national/disciplinary cells. Understandably, it’s harder for an outsider to find forums that cater to specific campus clusters—grouped by state or region, for example, or by institutional type. And of course, you really have to be on campus or speaking to the folks there to learn about campus-wide forums designed just for your faculty. Of course, the most difficult things to fathom from the outside are the department-specific discussions and forums.
Most of the examples we have found of national forums for groups or clusters of disciplines come from the fields of science, mathematics, engineering and technology, partly because science education has received such generous support. However, it is the case that our colleagues in academia occasionally share their wealth. Surely it will turn out that the largest group of forums will be those with a national reach but a disciplinary focus. These forums are also fairly easy to find on association websites or when conversing with colleagues involved in the teaching and learning communities that form in virtually every discipline. Many of our examples come from recent applications, as most applicants have been involved in a variety of programs, commissions, conferences, awards, magazines and association sections that keep these groups alive. But two warnings: these worlds can be quite marginalized within the discipline and quite divided within themselves. There is a distinct field of educators contributing to peer-reviewed case study and case research journals in management and business education.
The other thing worth saying here is that putting all these activities in one cell is really misleading because sometimes there isn’t too much communication between these disciplinary teaching and learning groups. Forums for groups or campus clusters, aimed at faculty from across the discipline, are often organized by collaborations between member campuses. For faculty from campus clusters in a single subject, there are sessions at meetings sponsored by regional sections of national subject associations. One could also mention forums sponsored by state branches of national organizations. We haven’t yet found any examples of forums organized for faculty from campus clusters or discipline clusters, but we will certainly do so.
A lot is happening at campus level – especially for teachers from all fields of study. Teaching and learning centers sponsor a variety of campus-wide events, and virtually every campus offers teaching awards. We found several forums for colleagues from professional groups organized at school or college level. In fact, one activity that can be valuable for campus conversations is finding out where such discussions are taking place.
That’s the outline I wanted to share with you today. Of course, it mentions little about the structure and does not affect the content, quality, or “centrality” of these forums to the larger company in the department, college or university, or discipline. I also haven’t talked about some of the very interesting questions related to flow between forums. In this regard, journals, conferences, workshops, and list services on campus are certainly important; and certainly the teaching and learning centers contribute to the flow within a campus itself. And we cannot forget the travelers, nor can we forget the many faculty developers and regular faculty who travel to workshops and sessions on campus and to meetings across the country.
Many questions arise. How does this infrastructure for conversations about teaching and learning compare to others in academic life? Is it so rich, so diverse, so serious? Do its participants treat the company with the same seriousness? Can one characterize these groups of scholars that form around teaching and learning as discourse communities? What would we need to do to encourage broader participation in these conversations, or to nurture new communities of discourse among a broader spectrum of college and university teachers?
Building discourse communities around the science of teaching and learning is clearly a task that presents many challenges, but also much to build on. As our forum overview shows, there are already many places where educators meet to discuss teaching and learning – in general, in their own and related fields, at their own and other institutions. Many of these discussions may already be directly within the framework of what we call the science of teaching and learning, some will be open to being “infused” by ideas such as inquiry, literature, documentation or peer review. Others will be closed. Some teachers will be intrigued to learn how much good work is going on. Others will be dismissive, finding that the conversation lacks the requisite level of intellectual energy and exchange. The idea of teaching and learning science aims to enrich these conversations, broaden their scope and make them attractive to educators with the highest expectations.
Thanks to Jeff C. Palmer | #Infrastructure #Conversations #Teaching #Learning