We know a lot about teaching and learning, but our knowledge is scattered across three separate domains.
The first knowledge domain is centered on the world of educational research that’s been advancing what we know about teaching and learning for more than a hundred years. There’s hardly an educational issue that hasn’t been studied in education or its associated subfields, like educational psychology, adult learning, and higher education. On this large empirical foundation we could rest a more evidence-based instructional practice.
But educational research remains largely unexplored by those who teach, partly because there aren’t strong norms expecting college teachers to grow and develop their instructional knowledge, but mostly because the journal articles describing these studies and their findings aren’t written for practitioners. They’re written to inform the next round of research. That makes them tough for outsiders to read and often researchers aren’t focused on the practical implications of their work. Then there’s the disdain for educational research held by some faculty. “Why should we bother with those who theorize, hypothesize, and ‘study’ what we do every day in the classroom?” I was asked recently. So, there’s nothing we can learn from this work? How naïve is that? I admit that not all educational research is great scholarship, but is all the work done in any discipline flawless?
Then there’s the world of pedagogical knowledge that exists within our disciplines. An increasing amount of it is empirical, and it is practitioner scholarship that makes it more applied and with clearer implications. Some faculty read this type of scholarship (not many), and still fewer contribute to it. The work is based in the disciplines because that’s where it often gets counted. And although this scholarship still doesn’t get counted as often as it should, it’s valued and rewarded today way more often than it used to be.
by Maryellen Weimer, PhD.