Indiana University      Research & Creative Activity      April 1999 Volume XXII Number 1

The Scholarship of Teaching

by Eileen Bender and Donald Gray
For more information on the Scholarship of Teaching, see Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

Our work as university professors for a long time has been bedeviled by two injurious ideas. The first is that the demands of teaching and research are counterforces fiercely contending for control of our time. The very metaphors we use to characterize the plight of professors reflect this idea. We are acrobats, juggling unevenly weighted "teaching loads" and programs of research; or, worse, we are scholars and scientists held hostage in classrooms, for whom ransoms must be negotiated to gain "release" for research.

Eileen Bender, professor of English and university director of FACET at Indiana University South Bend, and Donald Gray, professor emeritus of English, Indiana University Bloomington --credit

The second idea is that we are curiously alone in our classrooms. We often imagine teaching as individualistic and self-directed, a sequestered event to which students are the only witnesses, and in which the professor is the only teacher. We think of students as being taught rather than as learning. They even listen to us when they speak; classroom "discussion" often breaks down to a stream of questions or comments steadily mediated by us as we shape and spin all that is said to fit the plans of the day, the week, or the semester.

We tend to assume that what we do in our classrooms is so individual and private that it cannot be evaluated or even fruitfully talked about. The prospect of peers in our classrooms--observers or collaborators--makes us uneasy. Conversations about teaching outside our classrooms characteristically pull up short of what we like to imagine and cherish as the mystery of our effectiveness. Instead, these talks bump along on the level of anecdote, disjointed news about good days and bad, tactics that worked and assignments that did not or, frequently, finer points our students somehow missed.

Such practices reinforce a view of teaching as personal, idiosyncratic, and ephemeral, quite unlike the heavily scrutinized and replicable activity we identify as research. While we imagine research settings to be cool, tightly controlled, and contaminant-free, we know classroom environments, in contrast, to be diverse and occasionally unruly. Research and creative activity is seen as a search for the new and original, submitted to specialists with expertise recognized beyond any single campus; while the campus provides the narrower context where teaching, an assimilative process designed for the improvement of generalists and amateurs, takes place.

In recent years, the process of learning, the essential object of both research and teaching, has come under new scrutiny, and the idea of the combat between teaching and research seems less and less adequate to nourish our work. Educational leaders such as Ernest Boyer, Eugene Rice, Lee Shulman, and Gerhard Caspar have focused our attention instead on the interaction, interpenetration, and convergence of the dynamic processes of teaching and research.

Thinking about teaching begins where all intellectual inquiry begins, with questions about what is going on and how to explain, support, and replicate answers that satisfy us. With the blurring of the boundaries that we have long drawn between faculty roles in research and teaching--and a growing recognition of their common intellectual patterns of questioning, exploring, testing, and professing--a new phrase has emerged, challenging the stereotypes and calling for further amplification: "the scholarship of teaching."

For Boyer, who is credited with coining the phrase in his widely discussed Scholarship Reconsidered (1990), our acts of discovery, application, integration, and teaching are all "scholarships," four mutually dependent and overlapping forms of inquiry focused on learning. For Eugene Rice, Boyer's expanded conception of scholarship takes us to an idea of the university as a community of inquiry. In this community the "new American scholar" participates not as an Emersonian individualist but as a multiply committed colleague of students as well as fellow teachers, all of whom engage in what Gerhard Caspar has called the defining activity of research and teaching: the search to know.

One outcome of this conception of the common purpose of teaching and research has been to involve students in faculty research. That endeavor is worthy. But the scholarship of teaching we want to advertise and advocate in the stories in this issue of Research & Creative Activity does not only enlist students in research tasks defined by their teachers. Instead, it asks teachers to do research on their own practices, including perhaps the reasons and results of enabling undergraduates to join in the scholarly or scientific work of the faculty.

Led by its new president, Lee Shulman, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has mounted a national initiative to promote faculty discussions of the definition and role of the scholarship of teaching. Shulman asks us, in short, neither to re-label teaching as "scholarship" nor research as "teaching," but simply to recognize that teaching is scholarly work. As faculty schooled in an academy dominated by the preeminence of research, we should know what that means: an activity that is problem based, intentionally designed, theoretically grounded, peer evaluated, and accountable. Teaching, like other forms of scholarly work, must not only be reflective, systematic, and replicable, but public.

The Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching (FACET) is an Indiana University presidential initiative established in 1989 to promote teaching excellence across the university by recognizing IU's most exemplary teaching faculty, encouraging collegial exchange, and creating a network of distinguished scholar-mentors. At the annual FACET retreat, faculty selected each year from all eight IU campuses through a campus and statewide peer review process participate in workshops and discussions with program alumni and leaders in higher education. They address the challenges of collegiate teaching and student learning and share and review strategies to enhance pedagogy and practice. For more information on FACET members and programs, visit the FACET Web site ( --credit

Conceiving of teaching as, in Shulman's words, "community property," bumps into the second idea that troubles our work: our notion of the uniqueness and privacy of teaching. That idea carries its costs. Parker J. Palmer is only one of many contemporary academic observers and critics who warn of the perils to the university itself of enforcing the myth of a teacher's necessary isolation. Not only may isolation be read by those outside (and maybe inside) the university as a refusal of accountability, but to sequester ourselves from colleagues from whom we can learn as we teach is to risk a narrowing of purpose and an erosion of energy and spirit.

More important, the scholarship of teaching itself tells us that learning in the classroom is collaborative, that the professor is not the only teacher in the room, and that what happens in it is not just up to us. Everyone implicated in the scholarship of teaching meets everyone else in a series of ever-wider circles: students learning from each other in groups or teams in and outside a classroom; teachers learning from students; teachers talking to each other about teaching; teachers reading about how students learn and how other teachers teach; teachers eventually writing about teaching, participating in other ways in the professional conversation that is one of the signs and certifications of the scholarship of teaching.

We have much to learn, and much to add, to that conversation. Cognitive research has brought us dramatic insights into patterns of students' moral and intellectual development. We have begun to understand how teaching styles influence learning and about gender and cultural differences and their direct relationship to learning. Pedagogical research, both empirical and theoretical, has provided data on the quantitative and qualitative impact of new technologies and the multi-mediated classroom; faculty members have not only learned about but are experimenting with new strategies of instruction and demonstration--active learning, collaborative learning, service learning--which test and supplement but do not eliminate traditional modes of presentation, lecture, and discussion.

Whatever directions the professional discourse about learning may point us, the scholarship of teaching begins in the classroom where each of us is principally (but not solely) responsible that learning happens. We identify and draw from our fields and disciplines what we want students to learn: skills of inquiry, skills of analysis, argument, and expression; attention to the pleasures and puzzles of the text, the maps of the genome, the enigmas of politics, culture, and history, the dance of the physical and chemical worlds. Teaching, by its very nature, is exploratory: when we choose our texts, design our syllabi, and devise assignments we are constructing experimental frameworks of learning shaped by the requirements, discoveries, and debates of our disciplines, past and present. Through those tasks we teach our scholarship.

But the scholarship of teaching is not merely teaching our scholarship. Nor is it simply teaching well. It is thinking hard and consecutively about the frameworks we have constructed and how we move within them. As scholars of our teaching we must attend unremittingly to the responses of our students. We must use what we learn about their learning as data that justify or require us to change our practices, and we must make what we learn about our teaching one of the essential topics of conversations within our disciplines. The scholarship of teaching means that we invest in our teaching the intellectual powers we practice in our research.

Many faculty members at Indiana University, and many associate instructors and members of the adjunct faculty as well, have tendered that investment. For every faculty member featured in this issue, we received ten nominations of colleagues engaged in the hard work of thinking about teaching. Scores of others undoubtedly study their teaching in the ways and with the care that they study the matter of their research.

Concurrently, we also have encountered those who, without questioning the centrality of teaching to the faculty mission, have not developed a degree of comfort with conceiving of it as scholarship. This may suggest we have yet fully to come to terms with this new paradigm and with its challenge to the professoriate to rethink and rechart existing or imagined academic boundaries. More than simply a new term for traditional tasks, the scholarship of teaching describes a new concept of academic work. In the scholarly classroom, guided by reflective practitioners, students are encouraged to become speaking subjects, and teaching becomes the object of ceaseless and generative inquiry. In this changing realm, scholar and student, joined in widening circles of learning, engage in a mutually illuminating and dynamic process, fueled by our collective desire to know.

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