The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Questions and Answers from the Field
By Barbara Cambridge

From the December 1999 AAHE Bulletin

Add your answers to these five interesting questions:

  • Does scholarly teaching differ from the scholarship of teaching?
  • Who does the scholarship of teaching?
  • Is this scholarship disciplinary-specific or interdisciplinary?
  • What role do students have in this work?
  • How do campuses encourage the scholarship of teaching?

"I don’t get it," I heard a faculty member say during a recent daylong meeting at a campus registered in the Campus Program of the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). "I’m prepared to be responsible for doing teaching and scholarship, but what does it mean to put those practices together? What is the ‘scholarship of teaching’?"

This question is echoed in discussions on campuses across the country. Encouraged by the Teaching Academy Campus Program design, which asks campuses to consider a draft definition of the scholarship of teaching and learning (see Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, below), faculty members are grappling with issues generated when they begin to think about teaching as a scholarly act, ways in which disciplinary perspectives and practices influence scholarship in teaching, and a host of other ideas that challenge past assumptions about the place of teaching in the trinity of teaching, research, and service.

This article focuses on questions that faculty members ask as they take up the topic of the scholarship of teaching and learning, and it reports some steps in answering those questions. Like most intriguing intellectual questions, however, there are multiple answers, multiple ways of logically looking at the same issue, and multiple ways of doing work that addresses the questions. Participants in CASTL are generating answers that contribute to the work of many people in defining the territory. Part of CASTL’s purpose is to generate knowledge that is open to critical review and available for use by other members of the educational community.

So as you read, consider how you might address these questions. What would you bring to this exciting work that offers new ways to examine how faculty do the scholarship of teaching and foster student learning? What answers make sense to you, and why?

Do you have answers to add?

What is the difference between scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching?

Effective teaching is the goal of most college professors. Whether they teach often or infrequently, faculty members want their students to learn and want to figure out how to help them do so. Faculty who wish to explore the challenges in fostering student learning seek feedback from students through classroom assessment; guidance from local peers through reciprocal visits, joint course development activities, or faculty development workshops; and insight from disciplinary colleagues through reading literature about pedagogy in their field. They become informed teachers who benefit from the scholarship of others, and might be called "scholarly teachers."

As Pat Hutchings, Carnegie senior scholar, and Lee Shulman, Carnegie’s president, point out in their article "The Scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments" in the September/October 1999 issue of Change, however, the scholarship of teaching is something else. They write that the scholarship of teaching is characterized by "being public, open to critique and evaluation, and in a form that others can build on. . . . It requires a kind of ‘going meta,’ in which faculty frame and systematically investigate questions related to student learning — the conditions under which it occurs, what it looks like, how to deepen it, and so forth — and do so with an eye not only to improving their own classroom but to advancing practice beyond it." In other words, faculty set out to do the scholarship of teaching and learning not only to improve the teaching and learning in their own classroom but also to improve teaching and learning beyond their local setting by adding knowledge to — and even beyond — their disciplinary field.

Who does the scholarship of teaching?

At a recent campus meeting I attended, one faculty member complained aloud that scholarship of teaching belonged in the School of Education, not in his school. He, after all, was trained in the intellectual work of his discipline and not in how to teach. He didn’t intend to switch gears mid-career to take up a new kind of scholarship. Of course, if his interests are not related to the ways in which people learn in his discipline, he is certainly right to continue with another kind of scholarship: discovery, application, or integration. He may find at another point in his career, however, that a question about teaching or learning ignites his scholarly curiosity.

But for many other faculty members, examination of how students learn is compelling throughout their careers. Although they may not have been acculturated through graduate school or their department’s expectations to focus on questions of pedagogy or learning, they have through their teaching posed questions that call for systematic study, questions they really want to answer. As more and more attention is directed particularly at undergraduate teaching and at needing to know how and why students are learning, some faculty members want to do research on thorny problems in teaching and learning in their disciplines or fields.

The Campus Program is designed, in fact, to promote conditions on campuses to support those faculty who do want to undertake this form of scholarship. Campuses have identified a range of conditions that foster or hinder faculty members who want to do this work. Supports include funded projects, an institutional research office that does studies for faculty members, public events that feature key findings of scholars of teaching, administrative support through a center on teaching and learning or a campus academy, and tenure and promotion guidelines that recognize the scholarship of teaching and learning. Inhibitors include time constraints, lack of knowledge about how to study learning within one’s discipline, lack of resources, cultures that favor the scholarship of discovery, and incentive systems that discourage attention to scholarly teaching or the scholarship of teaching.

Even teachers who rely on a colleague to do the scholarship of teaching, from which they can learn in improving their own teaching, can contribute to campus conditions that enable that colleague to prosper. Who does the scholarship of teaching? Not everyone. Who can support the scholarship of teaching? Everyone.

Is the scholarship of teaching and learning disciplinary-specific or interdisciplinary?

In launching the Campus Program, CASTL posed as a starting point for campus discussions a draft definition of the scholarship of teaching, which suggests that "study of a problem [is done] through methods appropriate to disciplinary epistemologies." Its Pew National Fellowship Program selects Carnegie Scholars in disciplinary groups to provide collegial interactions within the discipline. In a paper entitled "Disciplinary Styles in the Scholarship of Teaching" presented at a September 1999 symposium at the University of York, Mary Huber, a senior scholar at Carnegie, traces the evolution of discourse about teaching and learning within the disciplines and describes how disciplinary styles influence the design of projects on teaching and learning.

In addition, Huber examines the nature and role of interdisciplinary exchange. Carnegie Scholars are selected within their disciplines but spend their residency time at the Carnegie Foundation working across disciplines. Campus Program participants have judged that they need widespread, crossdisciplinary discussions of the place of the scholarship of teaching and learning in the academy. Huber concludes that "the challenge here is to reconceptualize relationships between the disciplines, so that the lessons flow in all directions rather than demanding the diffusion of one privileged way of knowing."

It may be that, at least at this point, the method, more than the finding, is what is disciplinary-specific; that faculty within disciplines are likely to warrant findings reached through methods previously sanctioned by practice within that discipline. Over time, we will learn whether the findings hold across disciplines when the same issue is studied through methods warranted in a different discipline. For example, Mariolina Salvatori, a Carnegie Scholar in English from the University of Pittsburgh, has studied for many years in her own discipline the concept of "moments of difficulty" as opportunities for learning. The premise of her argument is that perceiving and naming something as "difficult" is a form of knowledge that is responsible and profitable to tap. She is now testing her theory to determine whether it is discipline-specific. In studying how other disciplines confront this aspect of teaching, she will find out, among other things, whether other disciplines will warrant her ways of testing her theory and her findings, or if she will need to use new methods to do the testing in order to have her findings accepted.

One possible outcome of the work of Salvatori and others is an expansion of ways of knowing within and across disciplines.

Is there a role for students in the scholarship of teaching and learning?

Elon College decided that the student role is central. Elon recently funded four teams to study intellectual engagement in the classroom. Each team consists of a professor and two student associates. The history team is designing and studying different "student as teacher; teacher as student" models in the classroom use of student research. The biology team is designing and studying relevant, inquiry-based course and laboratory components of a course for nonmajors. The environmental studies and economics team is training students in diverse fields to be expert resource persons in a simulation used in the school’s Global Experiences course and will examine the results of the practice. Reflective integration is the focus of a three-discipline team examining a set of linked courses. Students bring to all the teams experience and knowledge that only learners newer in the discipline than the faculty member can bring.

In a November 1999 edition of an update I send quarterly to Campus Program partners, I wrote about the possibilities for faculty/student research teams investigating intellectually intriguing questions about learning in disciplines. Done well, undergraduate research is a form of active learning that contributes to deep understanding. In most disciplines, faculty have to this point conducted research with undergraduates that includes the students doing ongoing laboratory work, helping to check sources for a book project, or being part of fieldwork. Few faculty have considered the rich possibilities of undergraduate research in teaching and learning.

This kind of research has the powerful advantage of creating new knowledge for the discipline while enabling student researchers to become more aware of their own process of learning and the circumstances under which they can best learn within a discipline that views the world through a particular set of lenses and warrants and analyzes evidence in particular ways. We talk often about teaching students to be lifelong learners. Undergraduate research can spur students to base their knowledge of their own learning on more than individual intuition or experience.

What strategies are Campus Program campuses using to promote the scholarship of teaching and learning?

Recently George Walker, graduate school dean at Indiana University-Bloomington, spoke about ways that various units on the campus will help faculty who want to do the scholarship of teaching and learning. The Sponsored Research Services staff at IUB will help faculty in writing proposals for external support. Individual units will be encouraged to change faculty annual reports to prompt faculty members to describe fully their research on teaching and learning. The human subjects process will be reexamined to continue to ensure the best interests of students while making timely the ability to do the scholarship. The Summer Faculty Fellowship program will be expanded to fund fellowships in scholarship of teaching. And, significantly, Walker will match all funds for the scholarship of teaching and learning that come from external sources.

Two schools are investigating available literature and current conditions as they prepare to act. An area for faculty study during 19992000 at Alverno College, which sets aside Friday afternoons for collaborative faculty activities, will be pedagogical practices that actively engage students. Recent literature on pedagogical practice and scholarly teaching will be available to all faculty members, and Alverno will hold interdisciplinary workshops on how different disciplines use strategies that engage students in the practice of their disciplines. When these preliminary acts of inquiry are complete, Alverno will decide on its next step.

The second school, Illinois State University, is also interested in student engagement and involvement in the university. Through quasi experiments, questionnaires, face-to-face interviews, and analysis of existing institutional data, its faculty wants to answer two questions — What are faculty and student conceptions of engagement and involvement? and What is the relationship of student involvement/engagement to learning and other student outcomes? After determining current faculty perceptions and the existing relationship of involvement and learning, the campus will take the next steps.

Two more schools have used special occasions to promote the scholarship of teaching and learning. North Carolina State University decided that a greater opportunity for change exists if colleges and universities throughout the state take up the work, so it invited all state schools to convene for planning and collaborative activities. The new president of the University of Akron used his inauguration to emphasize the need to pay attention to teaching; the school has mobilized teaching academy ambassadors to focus on, among other issues, what needs to be known about students to improve their learning.


Campuses are designing a variety of strategies and activities that fit their own cultures and needs. It is clear that campuses must figure out for themselves what fits the institution’s history, mission, and direction. It is equally clear that every campus has pressing questions about student learning that will benefit from the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Barbara Cambridge is director of AAHE’s Teaching Initiatives. She can be contacted at In that role, she oversees the Teaching Academy Campus Program, an element of CASTL managed by AAHE for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

The Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL), a multiyear project funded by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and The Pew Charitable Trusts, seeks to support the development of a scholarship of teaching and learning that will

  • foster significant, long-lasting learning for all students,
  • enhance the practice and profession of teaching, and
  • bring to faculty members’ work as teachers the recognition and reward afforded to other forms of scholarly work in higher education.

CASTL’s three lines of work are the Pew National Fellowship Program for Carnegie Scholars, work with scholarly and professional societies, and the Teaching Academy Campus Program.

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