Oct 042004
 
Authors: William M. Timpson

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,

“Teaching Diversity.”

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

years.

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

gone.

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

teaching talents.

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

innovations.

* Provide a repository of expertise on postsecondary

instructional theory and practice for use across the

disciplines.

If we commit to the above, I believe that we will also position

ourselves to compete for external funding from various

agencies.

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

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