Scholarly teaching applies a scholarly lens to the practice of teaching by using evidence and reflecting intentionally on what is happening in our classrooms in order to improve our teaching and enhance students’ learning. Although scholarly teaching is closely related to (and a necessary component of) the scholarship of teaching and learning, the two differ slightly in their intent; as stated by Richlin (2001), ““…the purpose of scholarly teaching is to impact the activity of teaching and the resulting learning, whereas the scholarship of teaching results in a formal, peer-reviewed communication in the appropriate media or venue, which then becomes part of the knowledge base of teaching and learning in higher education.”
Most instructors engage in some form of reflective improvement process, though this is often informal: we may note that a particular class or assignment didn’t seem to work as well as we had hoped and we make some mental notes about changes we’ll make the next time around. In a sense, scholarly teachers are simply more systematic about this process, engaging in a multi-step cycle:
- Identify the teaching/learning issue – What is the problem that you want to address? This could be something that you want your students to learn, or some change in behavior that you would like to see (that presumably will improve student learning indirectly, such as increased engagement or improved attendance). This includes establishing a baseline for later comparison (i.e., what does your teaching or classroom look like now?).
- Consult the knowledge base – As researchers, we would never embark on a new project without surveying the literature but as teachers, we often end up re-inventing the wheel because we neglect to ask what others have done in similar situations.
- Select an intervention – Given what you now know about what others have done in similar situations, what approach is likely to be the most useful for addressing your particular issue, in your particular context?
- Determine how you will evaluate impact – This requires thinking systematically about the impact you hope to see. What does success look like? How will you know whether the changes you are making are having an impact on student learning or behavior? What evidence will you need to collect? Common forms of evidence include empirical results of formative or summative assessments (e.g., pre- and post-tests of learning, or comparing course/assignment outcomes with those from previous classes) or qualitative surveys.
- Implement and observe/record the impact of the intervention
- Analyze results and reflect (and return to step #1) – Once the evidence has been collected, it should be compared to the baseline to assess whether improvements have actually occurred as intended. If the intervention did not have the intended impact, why not? Are there minor adjustments that should be made or should an entirely different approach be considered?
As noted, many instructors already engage in this process informally or implicitly; a key component of scholarly teaching is making this process explicit and thinking systematically about how a particular teaching intervention/change impacts the student experience. For those interested in becoming more scholarly teachers, the following links may be helpful:
- Teaching Journals Directory – To assist with step #2 above, Kennesaw State University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning has compiled a comprehensive list of both disciplinary and interdisciplinary journals devoted to teaching in higher education (searchable by discipline or topic)
- Evaluating Teaching Effectiveness – To assist with step #4 above, check this CTL Teaching Issues page for links to a number of surveys and inventories that can be used to solicit student feedback on teaching behaviors and how pedagogy has impacted their learning.
- Scholarly Teaching and the Scholarship of Teaching – Richlin’s 2001 article is considered the seminal work outlining the scholarly teaching process [full citation: L. Richlin (2001), Scholarly Teaching and the Scholarship of Teaching. In L. Richlin (Ed.), New Directions for Teaching and Learning (Vol. 86, pp. 57-68). Brisbane, Australia: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.]
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- Defining the Scholarship of Teaching versus Scholarly Teaching – this article nicely lays out the differences, particularly in how each is evaluated.