The Growth of the Scholarship of Teaching in Doctoral Programs

Article excerpt

"Much of what constitutes the typical approach to formal teacher professional development is antithetical to what promotes teacher learning," a report from the National Research Council concluded as a decade of concern about undergraduate teaching and learning came to a close.1 While educational reformers such as Ernest Boyer, Pat Hutchings, Gene Rice, and Lee Shulman called for teaching-based scholarship, critics from the academy and the political stump suggested it was time to question not only learning outcomes, but faculty professionalism as well.2 A survey of graduate programs conducted just after the decade's mid-point found little that would contradict the National Research Council finding3 regarding the formal training teachers received in communication doctoral programs or later in regular departmental activities.

A decade has passed since Ernest Boyer's call-to-arms, Scholarship Reconsidered, sculpted a conceptual mosaic of university life constructed of many tiles - some reflective ofresearch, others a vision of teaching and service. "Surely," Boyer wrote, "American higher education is imaginative and creative enough to support and reward not only those scholars uniquely gifted in research but also those who excel in the integration and application of knowledge, as well as those especially adept in the scholarship of teaching. Such a mosaic, if acknowledged, would bring renewed vitality to higher learning and the nation."4

A significant literature that integrates scholarship with teaching and learning is emerging. Menges's and Weimer's publication of Teaching On Solid Ground: Using Scholarship to Improve Practice draws compelling links between a body of research on student development and learning theory and improved, more effective teaching practices. Explicitly rejecting the notion of teaching scholarship as simply the compilation of "teaching tips" or discussions of how to write a syllabus, Menges and Weimer call for a disciplined approach grounded in the "various domains of knowledge ... relevant to teaching and learning."5

Recognizing a need for teaching informed by scholarship is one thing. Creating the practice of scholarly teaching grounded in domains of knowledge relevant to teaching is another. "'Scholarship of teaching' has become part of our educational jargon," Menges and Weimer caution. "It has become an amorphous term, equated more with a commitment to teaching than with any concrete, substantive sense of ... how this scholarship might be recognized. " It is time, they conclude, for higher education to "join research and practice [as] different arcs of the same circle" noting that "only as we correctly define and illustrate scholarship as related to teaching can we hope to sustain and further its cause."6

There is evidence of a scholarship about teaching that goes beyond a simple commitment to teaching. Refereed journals such as Journal of General Education, The Review of Higher Education, and the quarterly New Directions for Teaching and Learning series are providing a groundswell of response to Boyer's clarion. These journals make available a significant body of research supportive of teaching scholarship. Is there also evidence, however, those faculties are applying the domain of knowledge available in this scholarship to support their teaching practices?7

Research questions

The national ferment generated by Boyer and the challenge from Menges' and Weimer to bring scholarly rigor to the practice of teaching make it appropriate to ask fundamental questions about the application of the "various domains of knowledge" relevant to teaching and learning within our own discipline, mass communication. The inquiry that follows considers two questions: Is there evidence of a commitment to a scholarship of teaching in doctoral level mass communication education? If so, does this scholarship of teaching reflect a mass communication disciplinary orientation? …