Sharing Teaching Practice as Research

Posted on: January 13th, 2017 by Carol Scheidenhelm

A routine component of most academics’ professional lives includes attending conferences for the purpose of learning new strategies and contemporary ideas about disciplinary research studies and practice. This sharing of research is prevalent even within academic departments at the university. Yet when we ask faculty what venues they have for sharing ideas about teaching or learning contemporary instructional theory and practice, they too often draw a blank. This thought is not original with me but certainly is something that I have noted in my many decades of teaching in higher education: while we are eager to talk about our research and even have colleagues read a paper and offer critique, we are less likely to talk with colleagues about issues related to the teaching mission of the university. This is not to say that faculty don’t strive to learn new teaching strategies or incorporate new materials and technologies into their courses. What I am suggesting, however, is that they are less likely to look at their teaching development as research to share with others.

In an editorial published in Chemical Education Today, John W. Moore writes that “[T]eaching can be research if a teacher applies the methods of research to the practice of teaching . . . Observing students, working in the learning environments we provide, interviewing students about their experiences in our courses, devising other methods for finding out how well students are learning and how they react to what we do to help them, and intelligently studying and reflecting on the data so obtained are powerful tools that enable us to improve what we do and transfer such improvements to other teachers and institutions” (535). Treating teaching as research opens opportunities to talk with colleagues about teaching strategies, successes and things that need modification, and openly sharing techniques that benefit our colleagues and, as a result, our students.

As educators, we need to continuously seek out venues for talking with our colleagues—within and outside our own disciplines—about how they are dealing with such things as large classes, using technology effectively, dealing with political and ethical discussions, and many topics we deal with on a daily basis.  We learn from each other and our teaching evolves with the every-changing nature of the students who come to our university. Treating teaching as research informs us of what is working, what is changing and what our students are responding to and learning from.  But don’t try to do this independently; invite a colleague to share your ideas and offer input. Include students in the research process by explaining why you are doing something in your class that may be new or different. Evaluate your performance and that of your students as you prepare for the next term.

Teaching and research are intrinsically tied. Exploring that connection intentionally provides a wealth of material to share with your colleagues.

Moore, John W. Editorial. Journal of Chemical Education. vol. 79, no. 5, May 2002, p. 535.


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