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October 21, 2002

Oxford College conference highlights teaching

By Eric Rangus

Oxford College will host the daylong conference “Cross-Disciplinary Inquiries into the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning,” Friday, Nov.1. Nearly a dozen scholars from across the country will get together with Oxford faculty for an intense conversation about the role teaching plays on college campuses.

Hosting conferences is old hat at Emory’s Atlanta campus, where it seems scholars check in and out of the Emory Conference Center every day. Next month’s scholarship of teaching conference, however, is the first of its kind to take place at Oxford.

And while that alone makes this event significant, according to Patti Owen-Smith, one of the conference organizers, it is the subject matter that truly sets the conference apart.

“I hope this will start a concentrated investigation on teaching and learning for both campuses,” said Owen-Smith, professor of psychology at Oxford. She, psychology Associate Professor Sharon Lewis, Oxford Dean of Academic Affairs Kent Linville, and Myra Frady, Oxford’s associate dean of finance, operations and information technology, are primarily responsible for putting the conference together.

“To my knowledge, there has never been this kind of conference on either campus,” Owen-Smith continued. “So it’s not new just to Oxford, it’s new to the University.”
Certainly one of the conference’s highlights will be the presence of the 11 Carnegie scholars from universities around the country. Two will give the opening and closing plenaries, and nine others will participate in panel discussions. Owen-Smith spent 2000–01 as a Carnegie scholar, and many of the conference presenters come from her class.

The Carnegie Scholars Program is administered by the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and it brings together university faculty committed to investigating and documenting issues and challenges in teaching. Less than 40 people each year are selected as fellows.

Sandwiched between the 9 a.m. opening plenary by Randy Bass, executive director of the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship at Georgetown University, and the
3 p.m. closing plenary by Daniel Bernstein, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, will be three panel discussions.
Bass’s speech is titled “Evidence of the Journey: Six Years in Search of the Scholarship of Teaching,” and Bernstein’s is “Representing Teaching: The Intellectual Work Behind the Performance.”

The subject matter touches on what long has been a tug-of-war between the two competing missions of higher education: teaching and research.

“We say we want to be good teachers and that we attend to teaching, but if you look around at the presentations and conferences that get a lot of attention, they’re not on teaching and learning,” Owen-Smith said. “It’s a great paradox, I think. We give lip service, but what gets the big bucks? It’s not the teachers.”

Each of the panels will feature three Carnegie scholars and be moderated by Lewis, Owen-Smith and Frady. Several Oxford faculty, staff and students will be giving poster presentations as well. All events will take place in Tarbutton Hall.

The scholarship of teaching, while a relatively new area of study, has a well-established history at Oxford. In 1992, faculty have been meeting about once a month during the academic year for “teaching luncheons” where they discuss their work among their peers. It was Lewis who spearheaded the effort to create the luncheons.

“The hope is to create new generations where people who are experience with the scholarship of teaching will help those who are less experienced, and we can keep this cycle going,” she said.

Funding for the conference is split primarily between Oxford and the University Teaching Fund (UTF). Lewis wrote an application to the fund, which provides resources for innovative and nontraditional teaching programs. UTF previously had funded the yearlong Oxford College Program of Teaching Excellence and Scholarship in 2001–02. The upcoming conference owes at least part of its existence to the success of that effort.

The conference is free for Emory and Oxford faculty, staff, students and alumni. For the public, registration is $25 for students and $55 for all others. For a full list of activities and speakers, refer to For more information contact Jennifer Danforth at 770-784-4715 or at