Complete the Cycle: SoTL and the Teacher-Scholar

by Brian on May 14, 2010

One of my mentors in graduate school taught that research studies were incomplete until we published both a scholarly article and an applied article. She taught that the scholarly article reached few but furthered knowledge in our discipline (not to mention helped considerably towards tenure), while the applied article reached the “masses on the front line” in our field but did not earn a great deal of traction towards tenure. One of my other mentors warned, “Don’t get involved with the scholarship of teaching and learning; it will distract you and give your colleagues the sense that you cannot conduct ‘real’ research in your discipline.”

Now, several years removed from those days as a malleable doctoral candidate, I think about these pieces of advice often. The former provides a standard to help guide my research; the latter provides a constant reminder of the lack of respect (by some) afforded to the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) but also serves as a motivational tool for those of us who believe SoTL to be a core component of our daily existence as faculty. Whereas one might successfully stake a claim to SoTL being discounted at research intensive universities, that claim rings hollow at comprehensive universities such as Cal Poly where the teacher-scholar model forms the basis for our periodic review.

Pyramid depicting the teacher-scholar model

Graphic representation of the teacher-scholar model

Even research intensive universities have ascribed to the teacher-scholar tenets put forth by Boyer in his seminal book, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Boyer called for a more well-rounded approach where the full range of scholarly activity was considered rather than the more narrowly focused mentality associated with the popular creed of “publish-or-perish.” In addition to touting a more interdisciplinary approach as evident by one of the pillars, the scholarship of integration, Boyer provides support for my mentor’s words in pairing the scholarship of discovery with the scholarship of application. The final tenet completing the cycle is the scholarship of teaching.

We here at the Center for Teaching & Learning aim to support faculty in successfully becoming more effective and efficient teacher-scholars. Through our faculty learning communities, we try to promote the scholarship of teaching and the scholarship of integration in particular. We would love for more faculty at Cal Poly to fully embrace Boyer’s teacher-scholar model, and we believe that the CTL can help you “complete the cycle.”

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