confessions of an educationalist supremist

A few years ago I was at a dinner party, at which the host introduced me to a colleague. Said colleague was a great teacher (Killam I believe) and was finding their feet in educational research. I politely listened to their work, made a few toothless comments about how interesting it sounded. While I quietly seethed.

It’s true, I had–have, to a lesser extent–a chip on my shoulder about those not trained in educational research doing such research because of their subject matter expertise. I see this significantly differently now; reflecting about this has been rather useful to my practice as a researcher. Including a smidge of hypocrisy on my part…

Dedication, industriousness and planning are attributes of most excellent teachers…but not all teachers who are dedicated, industrious, and who plan well are excellent teachers. A minority probably are mediocre teachers–or worse. Of those that are good teachers–or great teachers–the ability to teach effectively doesn’t also make one a good educational researcher. In terms of staff development, too many subject matter experts are abandoned when they begin their teaching careers (“you’re an expert; you’re ready to teach”). So why would we encourage instructors to engage in SoTL work without an appropriate amount of training? Suffice to say Heather Kanuka’s (2011) article resonated with me.

Which speaks to the value of the FCP.

Ah but then…I have a PhD in education–but in adult education. My research areas of expertise are in health promotion, community education, and social justice education. You’ll notice there’s no mention of course design, pedagogical methods, evaluation or assessment. Because they were not part of my doctoral studies. They were, however, part of my practice as an educator–higher education most recently. My magistral studies included coursework on program planning (curriculum design) and learning theory though. And I’ve certainly planned, delivered, and evaluated all sorts of courses and programs.

But trained in SoTL research? No. Trained in social research methods? Oh yes: ethnography, surveys (correlational design), mixed methods, discourse analysis. Thus in terms of research paradigms, I’m not finding the materials of the FCP challenging–they’re the world I’ve lived in as a researcher for years. It’s the transfer of knowledge to its new application that presents the challenges for me.

On principle SoTL is important and of merit; it needs to be done well though: with rigour, using solid methods. Or, what Kreber (2007) calls “authentic practice”.

References

Kanuka, H. (2011). Keeping the Scholarship in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 5(1).

Kreber, C. (2007). What is it really all about? The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning as an Authentic Practice. nternational Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(1).

 

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