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Overcoming Some Threshold Concepts in Scholarly Teaching

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Abstract

Scholarly teaching, the act of systematically examining the links between one's teaching and student learning, remains a challenging idea for many faculty members. We argue that two threshold concepts - teaching as an inquiry-based process and teaching as a public act - serve as powerful hurdles to the more wide spread adoption of scholarly teaching approaches in higher education. In this article, we discuss why these pedagogical frameworks serve as threshold concepts, as well as methods that we have devised to support faculty members' development of a more scholarly approach to their teaching.
... In addition to considering threshold concepts that have been identified in online education contexts, it is also useful to consider the threshold concepts applied to teaching in general. Bunnell and Bernstein (2012) discuss two particular threshold concepts they see as being central to pedagogy: ...
... As a result, their view of knowledge was challenged, as was their view of learning. The findings of this project have implications for threshold concepts in curriculum design and scholarly teaching, the importance of which are expounded by Bunnell and Bernstein (2012). When discussing the attributes of scholarly teaching, Bunnell and Bernstein identify two interrelated threshold concepts that may conflict with traditional modes of teaching. ...
Article
The use of threshold concepts to define key points of curricula is a relatively recent development in educational research. Threshold concepts represent crucial stages of learning, the acquisition of which enables learners to progress from one level of achievement to another. In this context, the learner is described as passing through an unsettling liminal space in which they may encounter troublesome knowledge and experience uncertainty or anxiety. When applied to online pedagogy in higher education contexts, academic staff become the learners as they extend their on-campus teaching knowledge into the online realm. In this setting, the identification of threshold concepts has the potential to inform the content of professional development (PD) programmes for novice online teachers. Because little research has yet been reported on threshold concepts associated with online teaching, this study identified these threshold concepts and investigated their specific nature. Funded by an Office for Learning and Teaching Australia Grant, the project employed a mixed-methods research approach. A mixture of qualitative and quantitative data was gathered from responses to questionnaires and reflective journal entries provided by university educators who were teaching in online contexts. Also, experts in the fields of PD, online teaching and threshold concepts were consulted using a modified Delphi technique that incorporated two rounds of surveys. Results of this study are discussed in association with potential applications to PD design for novice online educators, informed by the most fundamental learning experiences encountered by their more experienced colleagues.
... Such comments about the value and rarity of conversations about disciplinary outcomes and concepts align with the findings of Anson's study in this volume and other writing studies scholarship, particularly that focused on faculty development and, more recently, threshold concepts (see, for instance, Adler-Kassner & Majewski, 2015; Bunnell & Bernstein, 2012;Malenczyk, 2016;Wardle & Scott, 2015). Sheriff tions and the not infrequent ah-ha moments are a result of, as Flash puts it, the fact that "the WEC model takes primary aim at faculty conceptions of writing and writing instruction" (2016, p. 10). ...
... Such comments about the value and rarity of conversations about disciplinary outcomes and concepts align with the findings of Anson's study in this volume and other writing studies scholarship, particularly that focused on faculty development and, more recently, threshold concepts (see, for instance, Adler-Kassner & Majewski, 2015; Bunnell & Bernstein, 2012;Carter, 2003;Malenczyk, 2016;Wardle & Scott, 2015). tions and the not infrequent ah-ha moments are a result of, as Flash puts it, the fact that "the WEC model takes primary aim at faculty conceptions of writing and writing instruction" (2016, p. 10). ...
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This chapter considers a paradox at the heart of WEC and, arguably, all WAC work: the disciplinary immersion that leads to expertise makes it difficult for faculty members to articulate and pass on their knowledge of writing in the disciplines. Drawing on research in WAC/WID, psychology, and education, the chapter offers tools for WEC facilitators. First, it outlines three socio-cognitive frameworks that can help faculty become aware of their blind spots and tacit expectations. Second, it offers a heuristic to describe faculty members’ key realizations about writing in their disciplines as they work to unearth disciplinary expertise. Finally, a case study from a computer science department in a small liberal arts college illustrates the application of these tools in the context of the WEC process. Implementing a WEC initiative increases faculty members’ awareness of and attention to their own expertise, expectations, and potential blind spots as they articulate the characteristics, values, conventions, and forms of writing and research in their majors.
... En este punto se rechaza la idea de la enseñanza universitaria como una ocupación solitaria, que se desarrolla "a puerta cerrada, en el aula". Atravesar este portal es concebir la docencia como un diálogo participativo con otros colegas, orientado a la revisión crítica de prácticas y productos (Bunnell y Bernstein, 2012). Es docencia de puertas abiertas, con revisión sistemática de las prácticas entre pares, que permite sistematizar y compartir lecciones aprendidas y mejores prácticas. ...
... SoTL scholars are often betwixt and between; they identify with their disciplinary background, but have also developed a new identity as a SoTL scholar (Kensington-Miller, Renc-Roe, & Moron-Garcia, 2015;Miller-Young et al., 2018;Simmons et al., 2013). Ingrained disciplinary cultures often slow scholars' enculturation into SoTL and often leave some academics unable or unwilling to let go of specific disciplinary ways of thinking (Bunnell & Bernstein, 2012). There is a tension between their responsibility to the discipline and their personal responsibility to scholarly curiosity and the students they teach (Webb, 2019). ...
Chapter
The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is an important international movement in higher education. It is a continuously developing field that is traced back to Ernest Boyer's 1990 report, “Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate,” which outlines his argument for an understanding of scholarship that includes a scholarship of teaching. This chapter traces the history and development of SoTL as a research domain since 1990. It includes specific attention to the rationale and dimensions, the debates and critiques of the field, as well as the potential future directions
... But to learn from this, we must remain open. Bunnell and Bernstein (2012) suggest that encouraging faculty to cross the threshold to scholarly teaching is best approached through drawing on their disciplinary ways of knowing and of action. How might we use what we do know well to help us find the courage to develop our scholarly teaching? ...
... While threshold concepts have been applied to assist the design of student learning (Boyd & Lonsbury, 2016;Bunnell & Bernstein, 2012;Carmichael, 2012;Mills & Wilson, 2012), the innovation of the research reported here has been its focus on how to improve the skill set of novice online teachers who, in the context of online delivery, were themselves learners. Recognising that novice teachers and novice learners faced similar hurdles was a conceptual breakthrough that permitted significant progress in identifying the issues facing these novice teachers during professional learning programs, and the processes best adapted to overcoming the threshold conceptual challenges. ...
Article
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The professional development of online teachers is now commonplace in most universities. Alongside the relatively straightforward decision to provide professional learning support for novice and experienced online educators within universities, decisions about the nature and content of such support are not always as clear cut. The study aimed to gather evidence about the experiences and views of current students and staff which, in turn, informed a set of pedagogical guidelines that could be used as the basis of professional learning programs for novice online teachers. Using a mixed methods research design, data were gathered using questionnaires, reflective journals and focus groups to determine the threshold concepts about online teaching, and perceptions of ideal online learning contexts. As well as identifying threshold concepts about online teaching and perceptions of teachers’ and students’ ideal views of online learning contexts (reported elsewhere), the study produced curricular guidelines to inform the design of professional development outputs for online teachers in higher education contexts. This article reports on an example of how these professional development guidelines were implemented at one higher education institution to provide wide-scale implementation of a professional development program for academic staff engaged in online teaching.
... Shared culture. Ingrained disciplinary cultures (Bunnell & Bernstein, 2012) slowed participants' enculturation into SoTL and left some participants unable or unwilling to let go of specific disciplinary ways of thinking or to connect their SoTL practice with their professional responsibilities. While participants were able to connect with the educational literature of their field as a jumping off point to engage in SoTL, that same disciplinary literature and culture also constrained participants as they struggled to move beyond discipline based educational research. ...
Article
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Novice Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) leaders making the transition from scholarly teaching to SoTL to SoTL Leadership face many challenges within higher education. Not only does traditional academic culture confine most academics to disciplinary silos, but promotion and tenure requirements encourage faculty members to conduct SoTL work “off the side of their desk,” if at all (Boyer, 1990; Dobbins, 2008; Webb, Wong, & Hubball, 2013). This paper shares some of the findings from a recent study that investigated what constrained educational leaders’ understanding of SoTL while enrolled in a SoTL Leadership program at a Canadian research-intensive university. The paper will also explore implications for the support and enrichment of educational leadership.
... The local level of institutional culture is key in determining what research is done and how it proceeds. While this research corroborates what Bunnell and Bernstein (2012) have suggested as threshold concepts for faculty members who engage in scholarly teaching, it also adds specific examples that document the perceived and real institutional challenges. There are so many barriers to change (Hubball & Pearson, 2010;Webb, Wong, & Hubball, 2013) including entrenched systems of credit hours, scheduling, methods of teaching and assessment, departmental or disciplinary silos, administration systems, and reward systems that value research over pedagogical or curricular leadership. ...
Article
In this paper, we focus on the experience of faculty learning to do the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). Our two studies uncovered similar threshold concepts in SoTL in two contrasting contexts; one study done in the United Kingdom with teaching-focused academics while the other study, done in North America, focussed on educational leaders at a research-intensive university. Both studies revealed similar ontological and epistemological transformations of learning and doing SoTL. Underpinning the results of these studies is the reality that educational leaders are situated within a complex cultural network of personal, professional, and financial tensions. There are two levels of institutional culture: university level and departmental level. But, institutional policies are only useful if also supported locally. This paper is of interest to those developing their expertise in supporting SoTL, as well as faculty on a teaching and scholarship career route.
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