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What a long, strange trip it's been: identity, integrity and the scholarship of teaching. (The scholarship of teaching and learning).


This essay traces a professor's journey from his first teaching experience to his active participation in the scholarship of teaching. The lack of preparation to teach is posited and the traditional yardstick by which effective faculty performance is measured is noted. Barriers affecting movement toward active scholarship in the field of teaching are introduced. The evolution of the scholarship of teaching is traced and influences on the thinking of the professor are cited. It is concluded that to be true to one's identity as a teacher requires a personal and professional obligation to teach we!l, to engage in scholarly teaching, and to participate in the scholarship of teaching.


It was September of 1972. Fresh out of graduate school, I was a 25-year old neophyte stepping into my first teaching position. I was reasonably well versed in the scholarship of my discipline but, if the truth were known, I had no experience teaching. I was about to walk into my first class.


Sound familiar? Let's be honest with each other. The world of graduate education focuses on preparing us to engage in scholarship in our field of specialization, but does little to prepare us to function as teachers of students. I was one of the fortunate few. When I walked in front of my first class, with fear gripping my very being, it was as if the hand of synchronicity had reached down from the heavens. While I really had "no clue" what I was doing, the students and I were very comfortable with each other and connected at a level much deeper than mere subject matter. I had found my calling. But who was I in terms of my profession? To my fellow professors I was an Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems. And if I were good enough to meet the yardstick as to what it meant to be an effective professor, then I would receive tenure. So the question quickly became, "what is the yardstick by which my effectiveness would be measured?"

The Collegial Environment

My college was like many others across this land. The stated mission of American higher education, and particularly its universities, has been to provide teaching, research and service. In most instances the three purposes have been listed with the implication of being equal in importance. Though the relationship among the purposes was never an overly comfortable one, balance was nevertheless maintained.

Following World War II, thanks in large part to the G.I. Bill, the country moved from elite to mass higher education. Enrollments boomed! Responding to this enrollment boom, newly minted Ph.D.'s were hired on college campuses, most of whom were determined to create an academic climate similar to that they experienced in graduate school. Thus, at the very moment the enrollment boom was felt and the mission of higher education was broadened from elite to mass education, the reward system for faculty performance was altered. Research, not teaching, became the primary criterion for success of the professoriate.

As Ernest Boyer (1987) so artfully acknowledged, by the late 1960's the great land-grant tradition of public service through teaching and applied research in American higher education had largely faded from the scene. In its place, most colleges were caught in the conflict of two great traditions. "On the one hand, there was the colonial tradition with its emphasis on the student, on general education, and on loyalty to the campus. On the other hand, there was the Germanic university tradition with its emphasis not on the student, but on the professoriate; not on loyalty to the campus, but on loyalty to the guild."

So evolved my college, and so evolved my yardstick. I focused primarily on teaching, but "covered my tail" with respect to research and service. Despite my real lack of interest, I "jumped through the hoops" of conference presentations and professional journal requirements. I made it a point to exhibit leadership on committee assignments, particularly those with governance implications, and so learned a great deal about how decisions were really being made in higher education.

I learned my lessons well. In 1977 I was granted tenure. Life was good! At this juncture that I made a conscious career decision: loyalty to the campus versus loyalty to the guild. Believing the two options were for all practical purposes mutually exclusive, I would heretofore become 'a teacher of students who happens to use the field of Computer Information Systems to teach his students as opposed to a computer professional who happens to teach.

The Wilderness Years

So I proceeded to "do my thing", year after year. I must be good; after all, my classes consistently filled up before those of the other faculty of my department. And I was the recipient of the Student Government Faculty Member of the Year Award (Couldn't have anything to do with the fact that I was faculty advisor to student government, could it?). But deep down inside, in that place where I still fear to go, the little voice kept asking me questions: "What if others on the faculty knew that I really do not know what I am doing?" "Are my students really learning what I am teaching? Am I teaching them the proper things?"

On the superficial surface I thought I was doing just fine. But in reality my work as a professor was clouded by two harmful but commonly held ideas. The first was that teaching and research were two counterforces fiercely contending for my time. I was an acrobat, juggling my teaching and research loads, and I refused to sacrifice the effectiveness of my teaching for the sake of research. The only way I could do effective research was to have release time from the classroom, and I refused to make such a sacrifice. After all, why did I enter the field of university teaching? Wasn't I here for the students?

The second idea was that I was alone in my classroom, that teaching was largely a self-directed event, a sequestered activity to which only the students were invited. My focus was on my teaching, not on the students' learning. I was a lecturer, and a darn good one; I really could control course content in an effective and entertaining top-down fashion. Similar in thought to many other professors, I assumed that what I did in my classroom was so individual and private that it could really not be evaluated or even fruitfully talked about. Talks about teaching at my university were largely informal in nature, and they tended to focus on anecdotes about that day's class or, more typically, on student unpreparedness for college in general. I rejected those conversations, especially those about lack of student preparedness. So I went on alone, somewhat disillusioned but not ready to give up hope. I believed that I was making a significant difference in the lives of my students, and I truly felt a calling to the vocation. To quote Jackson Brown from his rock classic Running on Empty, "I don't know when that road turned into the road I'm on." But, if necessary, I was willing to travel the road alone.


It was the spring of 1992; I was some 20 years into the profession and had been traveling on my self-described "teacher" journey for about 15 years. I was a popular professor, and largely through trial-and-error I had honed my craft quite well. But, as a very wise experienced professor told me, "I did not know what I did not know." To my credit, I acknowledged the truth to his observation. But I really did not know how "to get there from here." And there were few if any resources at my college to aid me in that journey.

The Dean of our School approached me with a call for conference presentations that he thought was ideal for me, a conference focusing on alternative effective teaching methods in higher education. He recommended that I explain to others how I used our introductory computer course to have students focus on why they were in college and how they could become more effective students. I had never before subjected my teaching ideas to public scrutiny, and I was hesitant to do so. But given that I was considered the "teacher's teacher" in our school, I could not admit my fear.

So off I went to develop my proposal. I labored over every word for fear that the proposal would not be accepted. Then what would I say to my dean? And would the word get out to my colleagues that my ideas regarding teaching had been rejected? How humiliating! I seriously considered telling the dean that I could not meet the proposal deadline because of some major (contrived) issue that had come up in my life. Deep down inside I had to admit that although I was popular with students, I really did not understand what I was doing in the classroom. I knew it worked, but for the life of me I did not know why. And what if the proposal review committee did not deem my idea worthy?

Summoning up what felt like all of the courage within me, I finally mailed my proposal and waited for the inevitable rejection letter. The wait seemed like an eternity. Finally, the letter arrived. Much to my surprise (and elation!) my proposal was accepted for presentation. Little did I know that attendance at that conference was about to significantly alter my professional career and my life.

In October of 1992, off I went to a joint conference of the International Society for Exploring Teaching Alternatives (ISETA) and the Network for Cooperative Learning in Higher Education. What a meeting! Voices of national acclaim! Invited addresses by Alexander Astin from the Higher Education Research Institute of the University of California, Los Angeles and David Johnson, cooperative learning guru from the University of Minnesota. The conference was a virtual "who's who" in cooperative learning with workshops conducted by leading practitioners of the method, and the presentations/workshops conducted by the members of ISETA exposed me to a wide variety of teaching methods that I did not even know existed. Additionally, I saw both scholarly books and journals on teaching, none that I knew about prior to this conference. A new world had opened up to me. I was overwhelmed, but I was reborn. The fire that had nearly burnt out due to years of neglect had been rekindled, and I was determined to return to the following year's conference to learn more about and from these people.

The Problem

So began my odyssey. My goal was to engage in what has come to be known as Scholarly Teaching; that is, to conduct my teaching consistent with the body of knowledge of my discipline and informed by teaching methods that are appropriate for maximum student learning. Along the way I have been exposed to many different teaching methods, each espoused by a practitioner who firmly believed in what s/he was doing.

The central question, then, is how to separate "the wheat from the chaff." Rather than work and develop my methods in isolation, how do I know if what I am doing really is effective and well grounded in current learning theory? And how do I know if the ideas others are telling me in workshops on teaching methods are worthy of trying out in my own classrooms? Parker Palmer (1998) postulates, "If we want to improve the quality of college teaching, a million workshops on methodology will not be enough. Good teaching does not come from technique. It comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher." But how can I discover my identity and integrity? And what does it mean for me to apply my identity and integrity to my role as a teacher?

Towards a Solution: The Journey Home

The two most influential works in my evolution as a teacher in solving this problem have been Alexander Astin's (1985) Achieving Educational Excellence, and Ernest Boyer's (1987) College: The Undergraduate Experience in America. Taken together, they call for a "talent development" or "student improvement" model of higher education for our undergraduates. In their view, our primary raison d'etre was to improve the talents and abilities of our students. I was not alone! I subscribe unconditionally to their approach to undergraduate education. I soon became less concerned with my destination that the process by which I was traveling.

Chickering and Gamson's (1987) classic "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education" was one of the earliest documents I encountered along my journey toward the process/practice of scholarly teaching. The significance of their work lies not just in the fact that the Principles constitute sound educational practice. Rather, as Chickering and Gamson state, "They (the Principles) rest on 50 years of research on the way teachers teach and the way students learn, how students work and play, and how students and faculty talk to one another." Thus, I discovered that there existed a research base for effective teaching. But was this research base merely confined to professional Schools of Education, or did it apply to all disciplines and to my professional life? And did I have the professional time/ability to answer this question?

Ernest Boyer (1990) suggests changing the role of faculty activity, to synthesize faculty roles by using research to inform teaching. Boyer implores us as faculty to change our role definitions to "move beyond the `teaching vs. research' debate and give the familiar and honorable term `scholarship' a broader meaning." Boyer's definition of scholarship includes four distinct yet interrelated dimensions: discovery, integration, application, and teaching. Boyer thus seeks to bring greater recognition to and reward for teaching excellence, suggesting that excellent teaching is by its very nature a scholarly activity. Thus was born the phrase, for which Boyer is credited, the "scholarship of teaching." It was through Boyer's influence that I was able to conclude that it was legitimate research to study/apply teaching methods in my discipline.

The Wingspread Group's (1993) An American Imperative: Higher Expectations for Higher Education and Eugene Rice's (March 9, 1994) Chronicle of Higher Education article, "Creating the New American College," echoed Astin's and Boyer's calls for a new role for American higher education and thus for a new role for the professioriate. Both works called for a "return" of the higher education mission to that of a focus on student learning. And both works reinforced Boyer's call to "move beyond the tired old "teaching versus research" debate and give the familiar and honorable term "scholarship" a `broader, more capacious meaning" that includes Boyer's four dimensions of scholarship. In issuing such a call all three works suggested that excellent teaching is characterized by the same behaviors that characterize other types of scholarly work, and thus legitimize scholarly teaching as integrated and applied scholarship.

What Boyer and others did not do was draw a sharp distinction between excellent and/or scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching. To my thinking, that distinction was initially made clear by Cross and Steadman (1996) who provided a collaborative process for investigating teaching and learning issues by engaging teachers in problem-based discussions. The distinction was further elaborated upon by Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff (1997) who provided standards for assessing scholarship in teaching by proposing methods for documenting effective scholarship in this relatively new area. Finally, Hutchings & Schulman's (September/October 1999) Change article titled simply "The Scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments" helped me to clearly see the distinction by providing substantive distinctions between teaching well, scholarly teaching, and the scholarship of teaching.

Integrity Reclaimed

As the Grateful Dead sang to us in the late 60's and early 70's, "What a long, strange trip it has been." Finding one's personal and professional integrity is to me a bit like being an expert on humility: If you think you have found it, you probably are in a lot of trouble. Parker Palmer (2000) builds on his theme of personal integrity, urging each of us to find our life's true calling by listening to our inner voice, our inner teacher if you will, and following its teachings to a sense of meaning and purpose. He posits that "every journey, honestly undertaken, stands a chance of taking us toward the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need." Palmer feels that cultivating that truth is the authentic vocation of every human being. So, as I have traveled The Way, what has my inner teacher taught me?

First, I have a genuine calling to be a teacher. It is a role consistent with who I am. There are some roles as a professor in which I thrive and some in which I merely whither on the vine. When I try to do something that is not in my nature, my life in general does not go well, and this adversely affects my role as a teacher.

Secondly, I have an obligation to teach well. This is no easy task. It involves engaging students in both the process of learning and in the content of my discipline. I believe in educating the whole person. Education is not the mere transmission of a content body of knowledge. I believe that such a form of teaching is sufficient unto itself for some, but for me it is not sufficient to maintain my integrity as a teacher.

Thirdly, I have a professional and personal obligation to engage in scholarly teaching. Others may use the terms "reflective" or "informed" to characterize the same attributes. Such teaching necessitates the employment of sound classroom practices and assessment techniques. It must be informed by both current ideas in my field and current ideas about both teaching in general and teaching in my field. Therefore, in addition to maintaining currency in my field of appointment, I must maintain currency in teaching and learning practices in both my field of appointment and in general. I find it easiest to maintain currency in educational practices by attending conferences that focus on educational issues. Hearing the presentations of others, presenting my ideas, and obtaining feedback regarding my methods serves to both enrich my teaching methods and provide the positive reinforcement I need to maintain my quest. I have found many excellent conferences for this dialogue, and have chosen to become professionally active in several organizations to both expand my contacts (and therefore my peers who will review my work) and provide a substantive contribution to my field.

Fourthly, I have a professional and personal obligation to engage in the scholarship of teaching. Such work moves beyond scholarly teaching by employing three additional characteristics. First, my work must be placed in a public forum and thus become community property, available to all that may find it useful. Secondly, I must open my work up to critique and evaluation, thus receiving the peer feedback so necessary for my continued growth as a teacher. Thirdly, I must place my work in a form that others can replicate and, hopefully, build upon. Of necessity, such scholarly work must involve questioning, inquiry, and investigation, particularly around issues of student learning. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recently established, the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning to promote such inquiry.

This has not been an easy path to travel. Self-reflection is a difficult process, one that requires much work and introspection. Many times I felt lost in the wilderness, and at times I still do. But I believe that Socrates was correct when he stated, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Fear still grips me whenever I submit a proposal for a presentation or an article for review and possible publication. But as many have said, true courage is not the absence of fear, but walking though our fears.

So I continue on my journey, traveling my path along The Way. I invite you to join me by traveling your own path. May our paths cross as we meet each other along the way, and may our students ultimately gain as we discover our authentic selves and what it means to be a teacher.


Astin, A. (1985). Achieving Educational Excellence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Boyer, E. (1987). College: The Undergraduate Experience in America. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Brookfield, S. (1996). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.

Chickering, A. & Gamson, Z. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. AAHE Bulletin, Vol. 39 (7), pp. 3-7.

Cross, K.P. & Steadman, M.H. (1996). Classroom Research: Implementing the Scholarship of Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Glassick, C., Huber, M. & Maeroff, G. (1997). Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professiorate. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass & The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Hutchings, P. & Shulman, L. (1999). The Scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments. Change, Vol. 31 (5), pp. 10-15.

Palmer, P. (1998). The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a teacher's Life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Palmer, P. (2000). Let Your Life Speak: Listening to the Inner Voice of Vocation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rice, E. (1994). Creating the New American College. The Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 60 (26), March 9, 1994.

Schon, D. (1984). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. New York: Basic Books.

Schon, D. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner: Toward a New Design for Teaching and Learning in the Professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wingspread Group on Higher Education (1993). An American Imperative: Higher Expectations For Higher Education. Racine, WI: The Johnson Foundation.

Bruce Saulnier, Quinnipiac University, CT

Bruce is Associate Professor of Computer Information Systems. His research agenda includes the Scholarship of Teaching, Teaching as a Spiritual Activity, and the Seven Principles in Cyberspace.
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Title Annotation:teaching methods
Author:Saulnier, Bruce
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2002
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