Last Wednesday several faculty members presented their work on
the scholarship of teaching, one viable way to bridge the historic
tensions between teaching and research. Under the auspices of our
now defunct Center for Teaching and Learning, 20 faculty and staff
at CSU spent three years collaborating on a new book titled,
In an editorial that appeared Sept. 21 in the Collegian,
Professor Steve Shulman criticized CSU President Larry Penley for
focusing his entire fall address on the promises of future research
while ignoring what is needed to support teaching and student
learning. On May 7, the “Chronicle of Higher Education” had
previously reported findings that support Shulman’s contention that
the public is much more concerned with quality instruction than
with research activity.
In a series of important, national reports in the 1990s, the
Carnegie Commission on Higher Education also indicted research
universities, in particular, for their neglect of undergraduate
education. One central recommendation to redress this imbalance,
they concluded, was to emphasize the scholarship of teaching where
faculty draw on their research skills to explore instructional
innovations and evaluate improvements.
It must be noted that beginning in 1997, CSU had made
considerable progress in addressing this imbalance between teaching
and research by creating its own Center for Teaching and Learning.
Staffed only by a half-time director and a half-time administrative
assistant, this small center averaged 50 faculty development events
each semester and somehow managed to lead the world in the
scholarship of teaching with five books published in seven
Yet, at the first sign of budget cutbacks, this Center was
eliminated while other units in the Provost’s office were only
trimmed. Sadly, if an instructor wants to write a grant, you look
in the CSU directory and you will find some 25 names. Look for help
for your teaching and there used to be two names but now both are
Recently I was invited to participate in the annual conference
of a major restaurant chain to talk about teaching and learning.
With 240 cafes in the United States and a few locations abroad,
this company is making real Peter Senge’s ideas about a “learning
organization.” They are creating their own Teaching and Learning
Centers for each of their regions. How ironic – and disheartening –
for me to come from a university that seems to be in full retreat
from any real commitment to professional development of its own
With new and reorganized leadership at CSU, however, I believe
that the timing is right to reestablish this commitment to teaching
and learning but with a slightly new emphasis. This is especially
important when reduced state funding means larger classes, fewer
regular faculty and more adjuncts.
I propose that we recommit to some minimal level of support for
a center to do the following:
* Use the scholarship of teaching to involve instructors, staff
and students in researching instructional improvements and
* Provide a repository of expertise on postsecondary
instructional theory and practice for use across the
If we commit to the above, I believe that we will also position
ourselves to compete for external funding from various
Shulman deserves our thanks for focusing our attention back to
our own basics.
William M. Timpson, Ph.D.
Professor, School of Education
Colorado State University