Research and Development in Teaching Improvement

Are you curious about what the research agenda is for the improvement of teaching? The Carnegie Institute  is a leader in setting the agenda for R & D. In 2011 Carnegie invited a group of nationally recognized teaching and learning experts together to discuss the research and development agenda.

First the team drew a clear distinction between teacher “evaluation” and teacher “development.” Teacher evaluation, is a specific accountability process (often an event) of data collection,analysis and comparison that requires inter-rater reliability and static criteria to determine award merit pay, promotion, etc.  Teacher development, on the other hand, is a process of supporting teachers in improving their ability determine what action to take, with which audience, at what time.  Not surprisingly, teacher evaluation can occur in any situation; it’s goal is not to IMPROVE teaching practice, but rather to evaluate it (compare it to other faculty members’ performance).  Teacher development though, is different.  It does NOT occur in every environment.  In fact, teacher development, like any other kind of learning, requires a CONTEXT that facilitates growth.  In other words: where we work, matters.  Work environments characterized by trust, rapport, humor and inquiry are more likely to have faculty who are engaged in ongoing professional development.  Competitive environments in which workers feel isolated and unsupported are less likely to grow and develop.  Sound familiar?  The first step to effective teaching, is creating a “climate conducive to learning.”  People learn when they feel supported, capable, encouraged and valued.

The research agenda for the Scholarship of Teaching, therefore, is now focused not just on teacher development, but also on the development of the work context.  In what way might a department, program or college be structured to facilitate the learning of the faculty?  How are trust and rapport communicated and rewarded?  It turns out, faculty, are not unlike all the other phenomena we study: we are affected by our surroundings.  For further information and food for thought, check out this essay written by Anthony S. Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and his colleagues, to get a quick overview of the R & D agenda for the scholarship of teaching.


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