December 3, 2001
A postscript on Teaching at Emory
Susan Frost is vice president for strategic development.
On Oct. 23, Lee Shulman, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education and
Psychology at Stanford University and president of the Carnegie Foundation
for the Advancement of Teaching, gave a lecture at Emory titled, Inventing
the Future: A Conversation About Teaching in the Research University.
Shulman addressed the future role of teaching in research universities,
particularly the well-understood tension between teaching and research
that becomes all too clear when making high-stakes tenure decisions. When
Shulman was called upon at Stanford to evaluate for one committee the
importance of teaching, and simultaneously to serve as a tenure reviewer
for assistant professors, he began examining what it would take to reinforce
a teaching culture at research universities. These dueling roles, he stressed,
emphasized for him a significant tension for many leaders and scholars
As a result of this crisis, Shulman began to understand that one of the
major differences between teaching and research is that the products of
good teaching invariably become victims to intentional amnesia,
while research is enshrined and perceived in relentless memory.
As Shulman noted, Teaching is hardin part because students
resist what we have to teach them. The act of scholarship in and of teaching
can help overcome pedagogical amnesia and help young teachers with this
difficult work from generation to generation. This documentationthe
scholarship of teachingis an example of what could go on, might
go on, should go on, in the university.
According to Shulman, we must understand that scholarship and teaching
are inextricable, and we therefore must distinguish between scholarly
teaching and the scholarship of teaching; the scholarship of teaching
constructs a foundation for others to build upon. And while the distinct
categories of scholarship and teaching must be
honored, we need to create an interdisciplinary space where research and
teaching become so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them
inpromotion and tenure reviews.
Shulman urges that we diagnose the problem of teaching versus
research, understanding that what we value in the university is not research
over teaching, but rather scholarship as acts of mind, soul and
spirit that we make public for the scrutiny of our peers as [a body of
community property] to build upon in the future.
Footnotes, after all, are the thank-you notes of the
academy, he says.
When we teach, Shulman believes, theres no one to thank, unless
we implement a scholarship of teaching. The scholarship of teaching ought
to make it possible for faculty-scholars to build upon each others
worka signature activity of the next centurys research universities.
Shulman concluded his remarks on this increasingly important signature
by declaring that, If the research university is truly worthy of
its status, it must understand itself as an ongoing experiment.
The research university, in other words, must invent itself in a new tradition
of self-teaching and self-scrutiny, and also learn from what is found
After reflecting on these ideas by one of academias respected thinkers,
I thought that we at Emory might revisit some of our own scholarship
of teachingour own researched documents on teaching beginning
with Emorys current phase of teaching emphasis. In 1996, President
Bill Chace formed the Universitywide Commission on Teaching. In its subsequent
report, Teaching at Emory, the commission articulated seven principles
and put forward 10 recommendations for action.
Following the report, commission members held a series of conversations
with faculty to consider these recommendations in light of the teaching
improvements we intended to accomplish. Of the Universitys 1,722
faculty members in 1997, 485 were invited into these conversations and
To help the commission make sense of the conversations, the Office of
Institution-al Planning and Research made a record of the conversations
and analyzed the results. Those findings contributed to a study that appeared
in the Review of Higher Education last year.
Using qualitative analysis, we organized the conversations into 11 themes
ranging from improving the physical infrastructure to clarifying Emorys
educational mission and goals. Then we used theory about organizational
behavior to cluster the themes as they relate to behavioral, cultural
and structural change in the university.
I would like to emphasize two specific aspects of the study herefindings
that have some bearing on the scholarship of teaching Shulman has proposed.
First, five recurring themes in Emorys study relate directly to
cultural change. These themes are: clarifying institutional mission; making
teaching a priority; supporting intellectual community; recognizing that
teaching is multifaceted; and understanding the responsibility of students.
Further, these themes represent values we at Emory consistently support,
not simply the improvements we can construct and measure. To me they indicate
both the stability of Emorys allegiance to teaching and the constant
nurturing such values require.
Shulman eloquently discusses such values in an interview that appeared
in Educational Leadership earlier this year. In this interview
(about how we might evaluate teachers), Shulman noted that one problem
with faculty evaluation is the tendency for university leaders to prize
high standards, on the one hand, and the tendency to focus too closely
on high-stakes assessments of these standards, on the other. He recommends
that we disentangle these priorities by developing constantly evolving
standards without linking them to accountability. He cites the Ten Commandments
as an example of vivid, widely known standards. Their strength comes from
broad dissemination and discussionnot from high-stakes tests associated
Rather than attempting to use our five themes to measure change, then,
I would place them in the enduring Ten Commandments category. As Shulman
has recognized, and as our five cultural themes suggest, the most important
values of teaching are substantial and profound. As teachers at this university,
we feel them deeply and consistently allow them to guide us. While we
should not hope to reduce these values to a set of numbers, when we increase
our attention to themand when we make them public property for others
to build uponwe strengthen the improvements they can support. As
a result, our work as teachers, our University and our community gain
My second observation about the study concerns a more tangible aspect
of Emoryour structure. One concrete recommendation of the commission
concerned the proposal that Emory establish a Universitywide teaching
center, with a physical location and a professional staff, to serve all
of the schools. But in the teaching commissions follow-up conversations,
we learned that faculty did not favor such a center. This was an important
discovery, not only because it helped implement the advice of faculty
in this specific instance, but also because it advanced a new way of thinking
about teaching in general at Emory.
In our follow-up conversations, we discovered that faculty wanted teaching
resources closer to the groundthat is, resources organized informally
and used locally. Rather than establish a center, we formed the University
Advisory Council for Teaching (UACT), the origin of many important initiatives
for interdisciplinary teaching support.
I believe that the council is the appropriate form of teaching support
for Emory. Rather than requiring the schools and departments to adjust
to a center, the council is flexible, which is a critical characteristic
for support aimed primarily at the needs of the faculty where they work:
in the schools and departments. In addition to being flexible, the council
is organized to advance the cultural stability we need, and therefore
it is effective on the several levels we seem to require.
Our teaching council is less visible than a center, and its work is perhaps harder to see, yet the changes this group has advanced are grounded deeply. UACTs work, we might say, is carefully and deliberately inscribedboth in our culture and in our literaturefor the future of our self-scrutiny as a research university for the 21st century.