Peer Collaboration and Review of Teaching: A Major New Project

October 31, 1998

Several years ago, this newsletter carried an essay by John Buccheri inviting involvement by music faculty in a new national project on peer collaboration and review of teaching. Coordinated by the American Association for Higher Education, the project (which I directed and which John joined as a member of the faculty team from Northwestern University) entailed work with multiple disciplines on sixteen campuses; it also entailed collaborations with a number of scholarly societies, including, as Buccheri's piece made clear, CMS, one consequence of which was a series of articles by faculty engaged (through the AAHE project or otherwise) in peer collaboration and review activities.

This piece continues the theme, but I am pleased to be able to use my space to describe a related new venture that I hope will be of interest to music faculty: the Carnegie Teaching Academy. This is a five-year effort, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts ($4.76 million) and The Carnegie Foundation ($1.24 million). The Academy is designed to create "a scholarship of teaching and learning."

Like the previous AAHE effort, the Carnegie Teaching Academy is predicated on the idea that teaching should, like other scholarly work, be shared, community property. The problem driving the project is not, in this regard, that teaching is bad or somehow deficient, but that it is so often invisible, "disappearing like dry ice," as Carnegie Foundation president Lee Shulman puts it.

This invisibility is not hard to understand. It reflects, on the one hand, faculty discomfort with the idea that others might somehow be privy to the traditionally private, even sacred space of the classroom (or music practice room or wherever one's teaching occurs). It also reflects the fact that the conventions and vehicles for communicating about our teaching are underdeveloped, few, and far between, although peer review efforts reported in this newsletter over the last several years are signs of important progress.

Whatever its causes, the invisibility of teaching is too costly to be continued. What's lost is what we take for granted in other forms of scholarly work: the chance, and indeed the responsibility, to document what we do, share our work with our scholarly peers, seek out critique and feedback, and contribute to the advancement of thinking and practice in our field. The goal of the Carnegie Teaching Academy is to develop a scholarship of teaching and learning that will make this kind of exchange and progress possible, in order to:

  • Foster significant, long-lasting learning for all students
  • Enhance the practice and profession of teaching
  • Bring to faculty's work as teachers the recognition and stature afforded to other forms of scholarly work in higher education.

Toward these ends, the Carnegie Teaching Academy integrates the following three components:

  • The Teaching Academy Campus Program is for campuses prepared to enact a view of teaching as scholarly work (see below for further information about this program).
  • A line of work with the scholarly societies will, we hope, help get the word and work of the Teaching Academy out into communities like that of CMS-and this essay is a first step in that direction.
  • The Pew Scholars Program, open to faculty from all sectors of higher educa- tion, brings together diverse faculty-122 of them over the five years of the project-committed to investigating and documenting significant issues and challenges in the teaching of their fields. It is not, I should say, an award for teaching excellence; nor it is a teaching-improvement workshop (though of course we seek excellent teachers and though we expect that participants will refine their own teaching practice). Its purpose is to create a community of scholars whose work will advance the profession of teaching and deepen the learning of students.

Serving initially for one-year terms, the Pew Scholars spend two ten-day summer periods together as well as additional time during the academic year. Each Scholar undertakes a project intended to contribute to a body of knowledge and practice in the teaching of his or her field. In our first pilot-year group of fifteen Pew Scholars, for instance, a faculty member from chemistry is looking at how (and how deeply) students learn from hands-on experience-be it in the lab or in service-learning settings in the community. A faculty member in psychology is looking at how students' prior conceptions about the learning process itself shape (and sometimes mis-shape) their new learning about cognition. A faculty member in English is investigating the effects of his efforts to "slow down the reading process" in order to make students more attentive to the nuances of language.

Our aim in these efforts is not, I should hasten to say, to turn these faculty into traditional educational researchers; on the contrary, the program aims to help them-and all of us-develop methods and epistemologies appropriate to our respective fields in order to investigate and document significant issues in the teaching and learning in the field.

In keeping with the philosophy of the project-that faculty need scholarly peers in teaching as in research-the Pew Scholars Program focuses on selected disciplines each year. The fifteen members of the pilot-year group represent four fields of study: chemistry, English, management, and psychology. These four fields will continue to be represented in the second year of the program, but new fields will be added each year as well. And here we come to the punchline. For the l999-2000 year of the Pew Scholars Program (and indeed for the subsequent year as well) one of the areas we will focus on is the performing arts, including music performance.

This brings us to the tricky part, which is that the first deadline for this next year is right around the corner: applications are due on December 15. The quickest way to find out more about the selection process is to go to The Carnegie Foundation web site at , where you will find the appropriate materials (a 16- page booklet) visibly noted if you scroll down the home-page. The booklet provides not only information for faculty who may be considering participation but a fuller account of the core ideas, purposes, and activities of the program, along with a discussion and five examples of an emergent scholarship of teaching and learning.

If you would like a paper copy of the Pew Scholars Program booklet, please contact Jacki Calvert at The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 555 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025; phone: 650-566-5139; email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Jacki can also send you the booklet on the Academy Campus Program, so please be sure to specify which you wantùone or both. You can reach me at: Phone 307-766-4825 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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