Research, teaching and scholarship come together for InstituteTweet
“Researching and teaching, teaching and research.” In many ways that’s why Wayne Jones chose Binghamton University 20 years ago, he told the more than 50 faculty members as he welcomed them to the May Institute for Student-Centered Learning. Early in his time at Binghamton, the interim dean of Harpur College and professor of chemistry said he learned two things: “You can be excited about teaching and you can use the literature − and there is integration between the two.”
The day-and-a-half institute, focused on “The Synergy of Research, Teaching and Scholarship,” included small group discussions on curriculum, instruction and assessment; faculty and student panels; brainstorming sessions – and even homework.
Overall, the conference was about “a conceptual matrix of the intersections of how we do research, how we bring it into the classroom, what the research is about teaching and where people fit into that,” said Peter Knuepfer, associate professor of geological sciences and environmental studies and conference organizer. “Where do they see themselves fit? Where would they like to? Where don’t they want to fit?”
To get participants thinking about where they fit, Professor of Education Tom O’Brien put on his “Stay in School” cap and reminded them that, as professors, they are paid to think and learn – and to teach.
With puzzles, brainstorming and humor, O’Brien challenged the group to think about how their teaching and research might intersect. To start, he passed out slips of paper that had the words research and teaching printed on opposite sides. “The basic mission of a university is to advance the generation of knowledge and the application of it (research and teaching),” he said. “But they’re on opposite sides. What do we do to make it one side? It’s a slip of paper.”
O’Brien then explained the Rip Van Winkle effect: “If you fell asleep in 1978, at the peak of your field as a researcher, and woke up today, you would be hopelessly lost. But if as a teacher you did the same, you would be good to go − and it shouldn’t be that way.
“In research, having interesting, tough problems is what propels your career,” said O’Brien. “In teaching, if we do have problems, we don’t want anyone else to know about it. Research advances but for teaching, it’s the Rip Van Winkle effect. Is teaching an invitation to inquiry or something to be embarrassed about?
Scholarship has four domains, O’Brien said:
• research (the discovery of new information)
• engagement (the translation of scholarship into some real-world application)
• teaching and learning (also a form of scholarship that should be validated with some of the same measures as is research, such as through publications)
“Research and scholarship are interactive and cumulative and spiral back on themselves,” he said. “Does teaching do that? It spirals where assessment informs curriculum and instruction, and then it spirals back.
“Teaching and research can connect, and should,” O’Brien said, “so take an action!” And with that, he showed participants that it is possible to connect teaching and research. With a half twist of the slips of paper he had handed out at the beginning of his presentation, the ends joined together to form a loop – a Mobius strip – putting the words teaching and research on the same side.
During the institute there was a pretty clear indication that participants wanted to understand the pedagogy in their field, Knuepfer said, and one topic in particular generated a great deal of discussion and was eye-opening for many. “We had the leadership of the IRB (Institutional Review Board/Human Subjects Research Review Committee) come talk to us about when you need to contact them for research involving students and students going out to do research,” Knuepfer said. “Some felt that ‘Now I know what to do and what human subjects is about’ and the guidelines and federal requirements were not as scary as they originally thought.”
And finally, Knuepfer said, wrapping up the semi-annual institute, there was good discussion with Jim Pitarresi, executive director of the enhanced Center for Learning and Teaching, “about where he’s going to take the CLT, what he’s going to bring to it and where he’ll be looking at trying to develop things.”
View O’Brien’s PowerPoint at http://www2.binghamton.edu/clt/pdf-files/TeachingAsResearch.pdf.