Just read Bruce Macfalane's article in the latest edition of Teaching in Higher Education. His opening paragraph gets to the heart of his argument, so I will quote it in full:
There is an increasing tendency for research to be divided into two types: ‘subjectbased’ research and ‘pedagogic’ research. Subject-based research is serious, scholarly and well-respected stuff. It is published in prestigious subject-based journals. This kind of research is what counts in the assessment of research quality in countries like the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Then there is ‘pedagogic’ research. This is where academics from various disciplines do research about their own teaching, that of others or focus on the way students learn. Sometimes, ‘research about learning and teaching’ is the phrase used to distinguish this type of scholarly endeavour from everything else in academic life. But apparently, unlike subject-based research, ‘pedagogic’ research is not ‘proper’ research (p.127).
I liked this article and can't really find anything to disagree with. I have long wondered what makes Boyer's Scholarship of Teaching and Learning a somewhat different type of scholarship to his other three scholarships --moreover why have so many pedagogic researcher accepted this? Why is pedagogic research seen as somehow second rate? Why is it seen as easier? Like most people who have done pedagogic research I have also done non-pedagogic research (or 'proper' research) as some might call it. Both use social science research methods. Neither is intrinsically more difficult or more scholarly than the other.
Bruce Macfarlane, “Prizes, pedagogic research and teaching professors: lowering the status of teaching and learning through bifurcation,” Teaching in Higher Education 16, no. 1 (2011): 127-130
Part of my job in teaching the the LLAS research methods workshops is to teach the sections on questionnaire design and quantitative methods. As the workshop is taught over just two days it is difficult to know what exactly to teach and how to present it. If I was teaching such a course in a regular classroom setting over the course of a semester I would probably do a short lecture followed by a two hour 'lab' exercise.
I feel I have quite a strange relationship with quantitative methods. I wasn't great at maths at school, but statistics were to become an inevitable part of my A-levels subjects (business studies in particular) and my undergraduate and master's studies in geography. Few of my fellow students seemed to enjoy these courses, but I quite enjoyed them. I even gained something of reputation for “liking stats”. If my memory serves me correctly my multiple regression model of UK population change was awarded a higher mark than anything else I studied on my master's course.
I remember Tony Moyes, the geography lecturer who taught statistics at Aberystwyth saying that the stats course may turn out to be the most useful thing we ever learn in a geography degree (I'm sure he said it something like that anyway!). Despite using qualitative methods in my PhD thesis, it has turned out to be a very useful skill, especially working a humanities department where few colleagues have experience of questionnaire design or statistical analysis packages. My teacher at the University of Bristol was the late Les Hepple. It was only in a tribute to him that I learnt that Les's A-level background was actually in arts type subjects. However, he not only become an expert user of statistics, but he also contributed to the theory of spatial statistics.
In all honesty, I still find stats quite hard and like everything else in life there is always more to learn. However, I have managed to find some good resources from the US which have given me lots of ideas about the best way to teach quantitative methods. If you would allow me to generalise the broader curriculum in the US means that teaching non-specialists is a normal part of the teacher's job. A couple of years ago whilst browsing my (Canadian) sister-in-law's bookshelves I found an old edition of David Moore's Statistics: Concept and Controversies which struck me as a book which was written for the exact audience I intended it for. His verbal reasoning approach to statistics seemed to be perfect for the humanities audience. Today I came across the lectures of Dan Judge on YouTube. So far I have only watched the first three parts of lecture 1, but I love the approach he takes. It's a lecture by a guy writing on a white board but he makes it so engaging using language to which his audience can relate. I will definitely be recommending these to our workshops participants.
Along with my colleague Kate Borthwick I will be presenting at the University of Southampton Higher Education Research Group on Tuesday.
Despite quality assurance and enhancement activities the act of classroom teaching and the assessment of student learning remains an essentially private endeavour, hidden from our academic colleagues outside the institution and to a large extent from our own colleagues locally. The resources used in teaching (e.g. slides, handouts, diagrams) and the outputs of students' learning (e.g. essays) are seldom shared outside the institution and are often only seen and used by the actual classroom teacher. We will report on two activities which disrupt this privacy - the Humbox, an online repository for sharing humanities teaching resources and Début, a reviewed academic journal for undergraduate students of languages and related studies.
An article by my colleague Angela Gallagher-Brett and I has just been published in the Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education.
"Building a bridge to pedagogic research: teaching social science research methods to humanities practitioners" is based on our experiences facilitating workshops as part of our work at the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies.