I began teaching in 1986 I reinvented the model I was educated with.
It was, after all, the only one I knew. But at some level I recognized
that this model worked for me neither as a learner nor a teacher.
My students were performing well on exams, but it was increasingly
clear to me that they did not have the conceptual clarity or the
ability to "uncover" material that would serve them well
as learners. Ironically, as I became more discontent with the climate
of my classroom and my behavior as a teacher, a rich literature
on feminist pedagogy was developing. By the mid-1990s I was mesmerized
with the works of such feminists as bell hooks (1989, 1990, 1994a,
1994b, 1996, 1998), Nel Noddings (1984, 1992), Mary Belenky, et
al. (1997), and Carol Gilligan (1993). This literature turned out
to be just what I was looking for as a teacher. In the wake of these
influences, the world of teaching and learning forever changed for
me÷and, as one colleague said, I created a "real mess"
on campus, was undisciplined, and a "loose cannon."
aspect of the change in my attitude was that I looked at my students
and myself differently, and realized that I had to leave the lectern,
figuratively and literally. I abandoned essentialist assumptions
about pedagogy÷that some universal template of the teaching
transaction existed÷and began to introduce multiple pedagogical
methods into my work to accommodate the multiple styles of learning
expressed by my students.
stopped lecturing on a routine basis. When I did lecture, I made
two assumptions about the place and quality of lectures in my classes.
I believed that my students could read and comprehend the basic
facts presented in the text, and I believed that maximum content
coverage by me in lecture did not necessarily maximize student conceptual
understanding .Therefore, my lectures were directed, more times
than not, toward the philosophical issues and dilemmas surrounding
the factual material (i.e., the why and how and the unexamined assumptions
I also began
sending students out into the community to experience the connection
between theory and praxis. Many educational psychologists remind
us that the absence of experience might explain why students misunderstand.
Through theory/practice or service learning opportunities students
were challenged to negotiate the tension between their strongly
held beliefs and the discrepant images and information gained from
their actual experiences in social service agency work. They were
compelled to reflect on the limitations of theories and assumptions
in making sense out of and reconciling real world problems.
I also abandoned
the use of tests and examinations in the service of projects, critical
analysis papers, group discussions, and journals. Both formal and
informal writing was the common denominator in virtually all of
these methods. I found that writing allowed for thinking and understanding
to become explicit and helped students synthesize the material studied.
Similarly, I found myself in a better position to evaluate students'
struggles and hurdles through this explicit material. I arranged
student desks in a circle so that they could actually converse with
and see one another rather than the back of one another's heads.
I supported students in their questioning of the traditional curriculum
and affirmed their anger in not seeing themselves reflected in it.
most of these changes in my teaching-though I saw gratifying changes
in my own classroom-I felt alienated and alone. Like most colleagues,
I closed my classroom door and made my journey of transformation
alone-or so I thought. I would soon learn, however, that I was not
standing on a desert island but rather on a busy terrain with very
good company. Last year I was chosen as a Carnegie Scholar and would
soon experience this good company on a national level. At the same
time many colleagues in my own institution were beginning to talk
about the scholarship of teaching and learning, and I began to feel
less alienated and alone on my own campus as well. Colleagues from
virtually all of the disciplines on my campus began to meet over
coffee and brown bag lunches for the sole purpose of discussing
teaching. We began to have lively conversation around issues of
pedagogy, our own learning as teachers, our students' paths toward
understanding, and approaches to the assessment of such learning
and understanding. For the first time in my teaching experience,
I began to share with others, both on a local and national level,
a common vocabulary, a vision, and a commitment to inquiry about
teaching and learning. What we also shared was pleasure at breaking
out of our previous isolation and alienation. Not surprisingly,
many of our students have also been alienated. They have little
confidence in their own native intelligence, and they often distrust
one another's knowledge and experiences. They dismiss both their
own and their peers' sense of authority, and they have learned to
seek answers from very specific types of external sources. And in
many ways, we, as teachers, have also been active participants in
alienating them from us.
Insight into Insight
was reminded of the profound ramifications of this alienation when
I began my current research. Funded by my own institution and the
Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, I
am examining the moments that students experience as breakthroughs
and insights. Although educational and cognitive psychologists are
quick to define and write about insight, little research is available
to assess its occurrence in the classroom. The research that is
available often employs a methodology that estranges the learner
from the researcher and privileges the teacher's perception of insight
over the learner's. Very little emphasis has been placed on the
voices of learners and the interactions between learners and teachers
as important and necessary assessment tools. A focus on the student's
voice is still considered by many to be subjective, unscientific
research; it sometimes appears as if alienation is an imperative
for scholarly research. Students also demonstrated this estrangement
in their insight descriptions. I was stunned to find that one third
of my student sample described their insights using passive voice
and in a vocabulary that implied a received knowledge. It was as
if they too were alienated from their intuitive selves; they appeared
unable to conceive of owning their knowledge or claiming their own
voice. In partnering with my students and listening to their own
experiences with and descriptions of insight I have been able to
construct a two dimensional model of insight development. The categories
and dimensions of insight that emerged from student descriptions
and the documentation of these categories and dimensions reflect
our voices and our realities.
what does all this have to do with my vision for the scholarship
of teaching and learning and the changes I hope to see in my own
institution, my professional and scholarly organizations, and society
at large? It seems to me that the scholarship of teaching and learning
has the potential to alter dramatically our sense of alienation
in both the academy and the greater society. In making our private
academic lives public (Lee Shulman's eloquent phrase), in listening
carefully to our students, encouraging their voices, and in speaking
clearly and loudly with one another about our teaching questions,problems,
and successes, we "crack open" this sense of alienation
and we find support for what we have perhaps always known about
ourselves and our students as teachers and learners. This is not
easy in a society that eroticizes individualism and often pathologizes
community and collaboration. But, as teachers in the privileged
world of the academy, it seems to me that we have a moral mandate
to join with our students and colleagues rather than disconnect
from them, and in so doing we are positioned to serve our communities
with honor and intelligence. I believe we have great power as scholars
who care deeply about our practice. I believe that the scholarship
of teaching and learning not only recognizes teaching as critical
intellectual work, but also as work that can do enormous good for
humankind. Finally, I believe that the scholarship of teaching and
learning is much greater than the scholarship of teaching and learning.
For me, it has become a paradigm for an academic life and a pedagogy
M. Clinchy, B., Goldberger, N., and Tarule, J. 1997. Women's Ways
of Knowing: The Development of Self Voice, and Mind. Basic Books.
C. 1993. In a Different Voice:Psychological Theory and Women's Development.
B. 1989. Talking Back: Thinking Black, Thinking Feminist. South
------ 1990. Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics. South
------ 1994a. Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representation. Routledge.
------ 1994b. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice
of Freedom. Routledge.
------ 1996. Killing Rage: Ending Racism. Owlet.
------ 1998. Talk about a Revolution. South End Press.
N. 1984. Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education.
University of California Press.
------ 1992. The Challenge to Care in Schools: An Alternative Approach
to Education. Teachers College Press.
article above examines how one professor took some risks to make
her teaching and student learning more effective. It is number 14
in a series of selected excerpts from the National Teaching and
Learning Forum newsletter. NT&LF has a wealth of information
on all aspects of teaching and learning. National Teaching and Learning
Forum Newsletter, 2001, Volume 11, Number 1. © Copyright 1996-2002.
Published by Oryx Press in conjunction with James Rhem & Associates,
Inc. (ISSN 1057-2880) All rights reserved worldwide. Reprinted with