The Scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments

Pat Hutchings and Lee S. Shulman
Originally published in Change, September/October 1999. Volume 31, Number 5. Pages 10-15.
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It's the middle of June as we begin this article, and our writing faces serious competition from the spirited company of 43 faculty in residence here at The Carnegie Foundation. Members of the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL), these "Carnegie Scholars" selected through the Pew National Fellowship Program, one of CASTL's components—examine teaching and learning issues in their fields in order, as our program materials say, to 1) foster significant, long-lasting learning for all students, 2) advance the practice and profession of teaching, and 3) bring to teaching the recognition afforded to other forms of scholarly work. One Scholar is studying "moments of difficulty" as opportunities for student learning; another is pilot-testing a new model for teaching accounting; several have focused their work on ways to make students more purposeful, self-directed learners.

CASTL is only a piece of the larger picture, but work such as this opens useful windows on what is happening in this fourth of the four scholarships, the "scholarship of teaching": what it is, its contributions and conundrums, and, especially, how notions about it have evolved since its initial appearance in work by Ernest Boyer and Eugene Rice at the beginning of this decade.

For starters, it's now safe to say—as many in higher education predicted— that the scholarship of teaching has been a catalyst for thought and action. True, some faculty find the term off-putting or confusing. At a recent event for campuses, one participant reported that there was a readiness among her colleagues for many of the ideas behind the scholarship of teaching but that the phrase itself was divisive and simply could not be used. In general, however, the scholarship of teaching and the vision it embodies—albeit sometimes fuzzily—have generated significant interest and activity in the last few years.

Within the context of the Carnegie program, for instance, we would point not only to the 43 faculty selected to participate (representing nine fields and diverse campuses), but to the much larger pool of applicants the program attracts. There are, in short, now faculty—lots of them—who are eager to engage in sustained inquiry into their teaching practice and their students' learning and who are well positioned to do so in ways that contribute to practice beyond their own classrooms.

We would point, as well, to the growing list of campuses (about 120 as we write this, ranging from Augustana College to Xavier University of Louisiana, from Brown University to Birmingham-Southern, from Middlesex Community College to the University of Minnesota) that have made a public commitment to the scholarship of teaching through CASTL's Campus Program. Coordinated by Carnegie's partner, the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE), the Campus Program invites campuses to undertake a public process of stock-taking and planning for ways they can support knowledge-building about teaching and learning. Our hope is that many of these campus conversations will evolve into what we are calling campus "teaching academies," new entities that can serve as support systems, sanctuaries, and learning centers for scholars across the disciplines, interdisciplines, and professions pursuing the scholarship of teaching seriously.

Scholarly and professional societies, too, are part of the action, working as partners with Carnegie and AAHE to advance the development of the scholarship of teaching.

But there is, as they say, more: witness the growing literature on the topic in just the last few years. In 1996, K. Patricia Cross (long-time champion of faculty members' study of their students' learning) and her colleague Mimi Harris Steadman gave us Classroom Research: Implementing the Scholarship of Teaching. Two years later it was Scholarship Assessed, the sequel to Scholarship Reconsidered, in which Charles Glassick, Mary Taylor Huber, and Eugene Maeroff set forth standards for assessing the full range of scholarly work in which faculty engage, including teaching and the scholarship of teaching. Last spring saw the release of a special issue of Indiana University's journal Research and Creative Activity, dedicated wholly to the scholarship of teaching as practiced by faculty in that system (and introduced in a terrific essay by Eileen Bender and Donald Gray). Meanwhile, Jossey-Bass is planning a new volume on the subject, drawing on an international study by Carolin Kreber of the University of Alberta. And of course, this article in Change should be mentioned, drawing as it does on all this earlier work and on current work through the Carnegie Academy.

Also notable are the many events and gatherings focused on the scholarship of teaching. AAHE's National Conference last March featured a special Campus Colloquium on the scholarship of teaching, at which interest far exceeded the 250-person capacity. Marquette University recently posted a call for proposals for a "Scholarship of Teaching" conference to be held this fall in conjunction with its Preparing Future Faculty program. This summer's Academy of Management meeting includes an invited symposium on the scholarship of teaching; next year's American Chemical Society meeting will do the same. In addition, AAHE's conference on faculty roles and rewards next February will have as its theme "Scholarship Reconsidered Reconsidered," with a major strand of sessions focused on the scholarship of teaching.

Finally, we now see the beginnings of an infrastructure to support the scholarship of teaching: "teaching academies" and other entities established on campuses to help sustain such work; Web-based resources, such as the Crossroads Project of the American Studies Association, through which faculty can make their teaching and scholarship of teaching "community property" available for peer review and commentary; and new online journals focused on the scholarship of teaching, such as the one at George Mason University (

Our colleague at Carnegie, Mary Huber, recently began a study of forums in which the exchange of information and ideas about teaching and learning in higher education takes place. "What has been surprising to me," Huber reported in her presentation at AAHE's National Conference last March, "is not only how many forums there are right now for this exchange, but how surprised people seem to be to find this out." From where we sit, it seems that the character of that exchange may be shifting, too, with growing numbers of folks looking for ways to turn a corner toward this thing called the scholarship of teaching.

What does one find around that corner? What is this thing we're calling "the scholarship of teaching"? This is not, it turns out, merely a routine question but a marker of how this topic has evolved over the past several years. Five years ago, say, the scholarship of teaching was typically used as a term of general approbation, as a way of saying that teaching—good teaching—was serious intellectual work and should be rewarded. This was, after all, the powerful message most readers took from Scholarship Reconsidered.

We must, Boyer wrote, "move beyond the tired old 'teaching versus research' debate and give the familiar and honorable term `scholarship' a broader, more capacious meaning," one that includes four distinct but interrelated dimensions: discovery, integration, application, and teaching. Boyer thus sought to bring greater recognition and reward to teaching, suggesting that excellent teaching is marked by the same habits of mind that characterize other types of scholarly work.

What Boyer did not do was to draw a sharp line between excellent teaching and the scholarship of teaching. Now, however, we've reached a stage at which more precise distinctions seem to be wanted. Indeed, we sense a kind of crankiness among colleagues who are frustrated by the ambiguities of the phrase. How, they're asking, is excellent teaching different from the scholarship of teaching? If it is, why should anyone care about it? Is there a useful distinction to be made between the scholarship of teaching and "scholarly teaching"? Where does student learning fit in? These, in fact, are the very questions that campuses in the Campus Program are responding to as part of their process of stock-taking. They're important questions—to be taken up not in the name of creating yet another set of terms but as a way of being clear about our ends and the strategies necessary to reach them.

In this spirit, we would propose that all faculty have an obligation to teach well, to engage students, and to foster important forms of student learning—not that this is easily done. Such teaching is a good fully sufficient unto itself. When it entails, as well, certain practices of classroom assessment and evidence gathering, when it is informed not only by the latest ideas in the field but by current ideas about teaching the field, when it invites peer collaboration and review, then that teaching might rightly be called scholarly, or reflective, or informed. But in addition to all of this, yet another good is needed, one called a scholarship of teaching, which in another essay, we have described as having the three additional central features of being public ("community property"), open to critique and evaluation, and in a form that others can build on:

A scholarship of teaching will entail a public account of some or all of the full act of teaching—vision, design, enactment, outcomes, and analysis-in a manner susceptible to critical review by the teacher's professional peers and amenable to productive employment in future work by members of that same community (Shulman, in The Course Portfolio, 1998, p. 6).

A fourth attribute of a scholarship of teaching, implied by the other three, is that it involves question-asking, inquiry, and investigation, particularly around issues of student learning. Thus, though we have been referring here to the scholarship of teaching, our work is with the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Indeed, our guidelines for the Carnegie Scholars program call for projects that investigate "not only teacher practice but the character and depth of student learning that results (or does not) from that practice."

And with this, we believe, the circle comes full round. A scholarship of teaching is not synonymous with excellent teaching. 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. This conception of the scholarship of teaching is not something we presume all faculty (even the most excellent and scholarly teachers among them) will or should do— though it would be good to see that more of them have the opportunity to do so if they wish. But the scholarship of teaching is a condition—as yet a mostly absent condition for excellent teaching. It is the mechanism through which the profession of teaching itself advances, through which teaching can be something other than a seat-of-the-pants operation, with each of us out there making it up as we go. As such, the scholarship of teaching has the potential to serve all teachers—and students.

This vision will not be easily reached. And it will not be achieved except over the long haul. It is important to stress that faculty in most fields are not, after all, in the habit of— nor do most have the training for— framing questions about their teaching and students' learning and designing the systematic inquiry that will open up those questions. Indeed, one of the fundamental hurdles to such work lies in the assumption that only bad teachers have questions or problems with their practice. Randy Bass, a faculty member in American Studies at Georgetown University, and a Carnegie Scholar, writes,

In scholarship and research, having a problem is at the heart of the investigative process; it is the compound of the generative questions around which all creative and productive activity revolves. But in one's teaching, a "problem" is something you don't want to have, and if you have one, you probably want to fix it. Changing the status of the problem in teaching from terminal remediation to ongoing investigation is precisely what the movement for a scholarship of teaching is all about ("The Scholarship of Teaching: What's the Problem?" Inventio, 1998-99, online journal at

Even faculty like Bass, who identify "problems" they want to explore and have the intellectual tools for doing so, face the reality that they live and work in a culture (on their campus and/or in their scholarly or professional community) that is only beginning to be receptive to such work. Doing it is a risk, both in terms of tenure and promotion and in terms of wider impact on the field, since there are as yet few channels for other faculty to come upon and engage with this work in ways that will make a lasting difference. And, of course, there's the issue of time. In short, the scholarship of teaching runs against the grain in big ways.

Moreover, there are hard intellectual questions yet to be hashed out. One is suggested by a recent e-mail we received from one of the Carnegie Scholars. "Personally," he says, "I can be perfectly content in my own world to continue doing this kind of work because it helps me develop pedagogical expertise and I think students will benefit from that. But I wonder whether this work and the knowledge it 'creates' will be credible with others. Presently I believe that it will not be well received by those in my discipline because it does not use 'credible' methods of inquiry." At issue here, as readers will see, is not only this individual's motivation to do the scholarship of teaching, but also a larger set of issues related to methods and rules of evidence, and therefore to issues of rigor and credibility. Put simply: Will this work "make it" as "scholarship"?

One of the things we have learned from the work of the Carnegie Scholars is how hard it is for faculty, regardless of their own field and its rules of evidence, not to assume that credibility means a traditional social science model of inquiry. Part of the attractiveness of the social sciences comes from the fact that they cover a lot of methodological ground these days, having been extended and transformed over the years through the influence of fields such as anthropology, linguistics, and hermeneutics. They have been transformed, too, by the fact that most of the questions about human behavior we most want answered are not, in the end, "science" questions, ones that lend themselves to immutable general truth, but rather questions about phenomena as they occur in local, particular contexts (like classrooms!). But to get at the fullest, deepest questions about teaching, faculty will have to learn and borrow from a wider array of fields and put a larger repertoire of methods behind the scholarship of teaching.

Which brings us to a second challenge: the need to keep the scholarship of teaching open to a wide set of inquiries. One of the things we have observed thus far is that many faculty gravitate to questions that might be described as "instrumental": Does this new method I'm trying lead to more or better learning than the traditional one?

Such questions are eminently sensible, the very ones, we suspect, for which there is a real audience on campuses, where faculty (and their deans) want to know whether a given approach is likely to be more powerful than another and whether it is therefore worth the time and resources to make the change. But the scholarship of teaching can also make a place for "what" questions—questions in which the task is not to "prove" but to describe and understand an important phenomenon more fully: What does it look like when a student begins to think with a concept rather than simply about it? How can we describe the character of learning in a service-learning site? There must be a place, too, for questions that allow for more theory-building forms of inquiry, and for the development of new conceptual frameworks.

Indeed, if the scholarship of teaching is to advance as a field, there must be inquiry into the process of inquiry itself. We think here of a wonderful paper by Deborah Ball and Magdalene Lampert in which they discuss their teaching in an elementary school classroom, not "to highlight our practice" (which others wanted them to do) but to draw on "our knowledge of investigating practice." Understanding their topic as a problem of representation and communication, they "realized that if we could represent practice, then the possibilities for investigating and communicating about teaching and learning—by different communities—would be enhanced" ("Multiples of Evidence, Time, and Perspective: Revising the Study of Teaching and Learning," in Issues in Education Research, ed. Ellen Condliffe Lagemann and Lee S. Shulman, 1999).

Third, there are issues about the most appropriate forms, media, and "genres" for making the scholarship of teaching available to the field. The word "scholarship," for many academics, conjures up the image of a traditional published article, monograph, or book. But as illustrated by the selection of examples in a "baseline" (that is, "where-we-started") bibliography on the scholarship of teaching developed for CASTL, a much wider variety of forms is now emerging.

Thus, the bibliography includes a book-length study of student errors in writing; a public pedagogical colloquium given by a faculty job candidate during the hiring process; a course portfolio with evidence about the effects of technology in the course; an online resource for exchanging and commenting on course materials and case studies; a protocol for ongoing collaborative inquiry; and a textbook. But it remains to be seen which of these will most advance the goals of the scholarship of teaching, which will be most useful for review and for building on. Technology, for instance, would seem to have special promise as a vehicle for the scholarship of teaching, but much remains to be learned about how to tap its potential.

Finally, there is the issue of sustainability, which matters since the impacts of a scholarship of teaching will be achieved only over the long haul. It is heartening to see individual faculty developing examples of the scholarship of teaching; these will become prompts for a next set of efforts (just as they built on work from the several traditions that converge in the scholarship of teaching). But what's needed as well is a culture and infrastructure that will allow such work to flourish.

Among the many infrastructures that might be imagined, we end this article by focusing on just one possibility—a possibility appropriate to the need and available to many of the campus leaders who read this magazine. It is this: that campuses should think about redefining the work of their institutional research offices. Traditionally, these offices have been treated as a kind of company audit, sitting outside the organization's inner workings but keeping track of its "effectiveness" as witnessed by graduation rates, student credit hours, faculty workloads, and so forth.

Imagine, instead, a kind of institutional research that asks much tougher, more central questions: What are our students really learning? What do they understand deeply? What kinds of human beings are they becoming —intellectually, morally, in terms of civic responsibility? How does our teaching affect that learning, and how might it do so more effectively? These are, in fact, questions that the assessment movement (at its best a kind of cousin to the scholarship of teaching) put into the picture on some campuses, but they're hardly questions we've finished with. If we reconceived "institutional research" to be about such questions, in the service of its faculties, led by faculty members, then the scholarship of teaching would not be some newly conceived arena of work, or a new route to tenure, but a characteristic of the institution that took learning seriously.