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

Learning to Teach,


For more information on the Scholarship of Teaching, see Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
by Deborah Galyan

"Shield your paper! Don't share your work!"

Those admonitions were common in the classrooms of the '70s, when Barbara Cambridge, professor of English and associate dean of the faculties at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, began teaching composition. It wasn't long before her quest to understand how people "really write" led her to conclude that student collaboration, far from being negative, is an essential pedagogical element in composition classes. "Composition is a discipline in which community has become increasingly important, as we discover how people write in situations outside the classroom. Writers don't write in solitude. They consult, write, and revise in all kinds of collaborative situations," Cambridge observes. "Thus, we began to understand that people do better writing when they work with other people, whether they're in or out of the classroom."

Barbara Cambridge, professor of English and associate dean of the faculties at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, confers with a student in the Collabratorium, a computer laboratory in the University College building. --credit

Searching for new ideas to help her students become better writers, Cambridge consulted other composition teachers and looked at research. She found that public school teachers, who were theorizing about composition in their KŠ12 teaching practices, "had eye-opening things to say about collaboration." Cambridge remembers, "When I started to read about collaborative theory and then to engage in collaborative practice, I realized that I wasn't the only teacher in my classroom. It was scary but also exciting to realize that, as a community of teachers and learners, we were all responsible for the success of the learning process."

Cambridge set out to gather information from IUPUI faculty in other departments, hoping to learn from the ways they taught writing. In 1989, she became director of campus writing, a position designed to support writing initiatives across the curriculum. "That was really good for me. I was a learner as well as a teacher," she recalls. "As I listened to other people who were learning and teaching, I realized that we needed a more systematic way of sharing information--not just for writing, but for all disciplines, if we were going to capture all that we had learned. We needed to move from being a series of good teachers, who had kept our successes and failures inside the walls of our classrooms, to a community of teachers and learners, who could work together to design learning environments in a more systematic way."

In the late '80s, Cambridge and others were beginning to acknowledge teaching not just as an extension of scholarship, but as a form of scholarship itself, warranting its own discourse, conventions of method, and documentation. "I gave a talk to some associate faculty members at IUPUI, and I remember it well, because it was the first time I had tried publicly to talk about this issue," Cambridge recalls. "I said, 'We are engaged in knowledge-building by the fact of our teaching.' I remember thinking: Yes! We really are!" Cambridge laughs. "Everyone knows that knowledge-building is something scholars do." Since then, Cambridge has taken her early questions and ideas about teaching beyond her classrooms into a series of widening circles of dialogue at the campus, state, and national levels.

For Cambridge, acknowledging teaching as a scholarly act also means subjecting it to the same scrutiny and standards of critique that exist in other disciplines. "As we know from traditional scholarship, a scholar must document a discovery, share it with others, and open it up to critique," she explains. "In this way, scholars contribute to the ongoing conversations within their disciplines. This process is the logical next step in elevating teaching to the level of scholarly work." In 1994, IUPUI participated, with twelve other campuses nationwide, in the American Association for Higher Education's Peer Review of Teaching project (for descriptions of campus work on the scholarship of teaching or more information about the Campus Program, see Cambridge's activity in that project helped her to understand the crucial role of peer review in the assessment of scholarly teaching. She went on to chair the Task Force on Assessment and Accountability, one part of IU's Strategic Directions long-range planning initiative.

Thinking about teaching as a serious intellectual activity in its own right poses all kinds of complex questions: Is the scholarship of teaching discipline-based, cross-disciplinary, or some of both? What tools should teachers use to assess student learning? How should faculty members be rewarded for scholarly teaching? How must graduate education change if students are expected to be not just teachers, but scholarly teachers?

Cambridge (top center) is frequently involved in discussions of teaching and learning with colleagues directing teaching initiatives on other campuses. Here she leads a workshop about student assessment at the first Indiana University Faculty Development Conference. Clockwise: Robert Votaw, associate professor of geology, and director, Academic Resource Center, Indiana University Northwest; Karen Everdon, FACET coordinator, Indiana University South Bend; Eileen Bender, professor of English, university director, FACET, IUSB; Susan Kahn, director, Urban Universities Portfolio Project, IUPUI; Jacqueline Hatfield, visiting research associate, Office of Faculty and Senior Staff Development, IUPUI; Gwynn Mettetal, associate professor of educational psychology, and director, University Center for Excellence in Teaching, IUSB; and Mary Wolting, director of developmental studies, School of Education, IUPUI. --credit

Today, Cambridge is deeply engaged in all these questions, and in the debate they ignite, at colleges and universities across the nation. Directing the Carnegie Teaching Academy Campus Program, Cambridge provides stewardship for interested schools as they commit to new models of teaching as scholarly work. Funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Carnegie Foundation, the Campus Program is one component of a three-part, five-year initiative devoted to the scholarship of teaching and learning. Another component, the Pew Scholars National Fellowship Program, brings together outstanding faculty members from across the nation to explore new conceptual models for practicing and documenting teaching as a form of scholarly work. The third component, in which Cambridge is also engaged, is designed to encourage scholarly societies to develop national networks for external peer review of teaching, similar to those for traditional research.

In her capacity as director of the American Association for Higher Education's Teaching Initiatives, Cambridge has begun work on what she calls "a kind of national conversation around these issues of teaching and learning." As she explains, "We need to see if we can develop a language and some conventions and methods that aren't just discipline-based or campus-based, but are nationally recognized. That's what distinguishes a legitimate area of scholarship."

When the Campus Program was announced last summer, Cambridge received hundreds of inquiries. "Many of those phone calls were from individuals who said that the invitation had come at just the right time because their campuses were just beginning to address the scholarship of teaching. Others asked, 'Do we dare get involved with this? Will it send the message that we aren't as engaged as we should be in our traditional scholarship?' The fact that the Carnegie Foundation has selected this topic gives it legitimacy. That is helpful for those who are approaching the issue with apprehension," Cambridge observes. Four IU campuses have already joined the conversation: IUB, IU East, IUPUI, and

IU South Bend. When asked if she thinks the concept of scholarly teaching is powerful enough to compel colleges and universities to restructure according to its dictates, Cambridge answers yes. "We already know that the content of teaching and learning is substantial enough to warrant continuing scholarship," she says. "Now we have to work together to make systemic change. I think the timing is absolutely right."

Directing the program requires Cambridge to spend about 80 percent of her work time in Washington, D.C., and traveling to campuses across the country, far from IUPUI and her Bloomington home. "My primary identity is still as a teacher and a learner," she says. "I'm still doing those things every day, with wonderfully engaged faculty colleagues. And I'm grateful to IU and to IUPUI for allowing me to continue as a faculty member while I work on this project. It's an affirmation of the value they assign to the scholarship of teaching."

Return to the Table of Contents