Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Making Evidence-Based Practice an Essential Aspect of Teaching

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Making Evidence-Based Practice an Essential Aspect of Teaching

Article excerpt

Persuasive leaders in higher education have advocated using evidence to support teaching under the guise of scholarship of teaching and learning without much success. This article explains why scholarship of teaching and learning has not been accepted as the standard practice in higher education. Instead, faculty may accept the concept of evidence-based teaching more readily since many disciplines use evidence-based approaches. Evidence-based teaching means that teaching should be based on pedagogical literature or a systematic investigation of what is working and why. This article describes practical ways faculty members can use evidence to teach more effectively and document their teaching.

Boyer (1990) argued that teaching should be characterized by the same habits of the mind that are associated with other types of scholarly work. When faculty members think about their courses as scholarly projects, they design their teaching using similar processes as they do with their research. When teaching is connected with scholarship the quality of teaching improves (Weimer, 2006). This type of teaching is a serious pursuit and is distinguished from the more common, "seat of the pants" approach to teaching. The common approach often involves decisions about what content to deliver and not how to maximize student learning of this content. Because most faculty members do not consider teaching as a perpetual experiment, teaching in higher education is not as good as it could be (Edgerton, 2004).

Using the common approach, faculty members may teach without knowing how to do it properly or even that there is literature to support how to teach to maximize learning. Further, especially more senior faculty have not been trained how to teach. When faculty members do not know the relevant pedagogical literature they can make naïve decisions about teaching. Often they teach how were they were taught, using largely passive lectures. These methods are increasingly less effective with the new generation and the greater diversity of college students (Howe & Strauss, 2007). In addition, many teachers in higher education use methods that are not aligned with their learning outcomes (Weimer, 2006). Because teaching is not as valued as research at many institutions, such ineffective and inappropriate teaching practices continue. These practices conflict with how professionals in other fields are required to function and may even conflict with what the faculty members expect of their students.

The purpose of this manuscript is to show that when faculty members use evidence-based approaches to teaching, their teaching is enhanced. This manuscript reviews the rationale for using a scholarly approach supported by evidence in teaching. The main premise of this rationale is that all faculty in higher education should base their teaching on pedagogical literature or a systematic investigation of what is working and why (Shulman, 2004). Although this rationale has been in the literature for decades, many faculty members do not use it in their teaching. This manuscript discusses hypothesized barriers to employing scholarly teaching and offers practical, evidence-based suggestions for adopting a scholarly approach to teaching.

Why Teaching that Uses Pedagogical Literature and Scholarship Leads to Better Teaching

The use of evidence upon which to base teaching is not a new idea. It has been discussed for twenty years under the guise of pedagogy and scholarship of teaching and learning (Boyer, 1990; Kreber, 2002; Shulman, 2004; and Weimer, 2006). G? essence they are calling for the use of evidence to be the foundation of teaching. Shulman (2004) distinguished scholarly teaching from the scholarship of teaching. He defined a scholarly approach to teaching as teaching that is systematically designed based upon the literature of higher education and of the discipline. This is analogous to health care professionals using their clinical literature to inform clinical decisions. …

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