Spring Meeting 2019

At the Spring meeting we took forward our work by systematically examining the descriptors of ‘scholarship’ found in two different sets of role profiles: the UoR Academic and Research role profiles and those included in the Teaching and Scholarship career path of the national library of Academic role profiles. Critical reflection and discussion of these descriptors helped us to focus on what we see as key aspects of any possible definition of ‘scholarship’, not limited to Language Teaching and Learning.
 
It was generally agreed that scholarship activities should be considered essential at all stages of career development and should not be associated only with higher levels of teaching experience and expertise. Some colleagues identified three basic elements of scholarship which can be expected of all teachers from the outset of their careers: the ability to draw on relevant academic knowledge and research, a reflective approach towards one’s own pedagogic practice, and a responsible attitude towards one’s own learning. This led to considering:
1) the potential overlap of ‘Continuing Professional Development’ activities with ‘scholarship activities’ and 2) the opposition between ‘consulting’ and ‘producing’ scholarship and research to inform teaching.
 
The boundary between scholarship and research was discussed. It was pointed out that often the descriptors for scholarship are indistinguishable from those for research, for example, when they indicate the expectation to conduct pedagogic research, present findings at conferences and publish in academic journals. However, it was noted that pedagogic research that does not count towards the Research Excellence Framework is not usually incentivised and supported in the same way as disciplinary research, for example by providing mentoring schemes or by allocating adequate time in workloads.
 
Various ideas to facilitate the development of research skills were suggested. One option would be to offer teaching focused academics the chance to be part of a group aiming to develop knowledge of research methods and approaches; to provide information about opportunities for research funding; and to support the grant application process.
 
Another option suggested by some participants was to set up a ‘buddy system’, for example, pairing a research-intensive member of staff with a teaching-focused member of staff for a defined period of time. It was felt that this collaboration could help bridge the gap between ‘research’ and ‘practice’ and ‘theory’ and ‘application of theory’. A researcher in language learning and teaching would bring knowledge of current research trends, gaps and needs along with experience in securing grants. The teaching-focused academic would have a direct knowledge of learning dynamics and challenges in Higher Education classroom settings, with direct access to gathering data. They would also be in a good position to suggest potential research questions related to language learning in the HE context. However, the pairing of a researcher into a foreign culture with a language teaching-focused academic could also offer relevant and interesting collaborations.
 
Our discussion at the Spring meeting can be viewed as an effort to respond to the first of the ‘Recommendations for institutions seeking to recognise the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)’ in the HEA study, which we set as our point of departure at the Autumn Meeting 2018 (see previous post): ‘SoTL needs to be discussed and made explicit as a concept to generate some  institutional consensus on its usefulness to enhance practices’ (Definining and supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A sector-wide study. Executive summary, 2016: 8).

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