It appears that there is an increasing, ERA driven trend within Australian universities for placing greater emphasis on teaching scholars. These are academics who are no longer expected to do research, apart from engage scholarly with their own teaching practice.

Why is ERA driving this? Well, from a distance, it appears that teaching scholars reduce the number of “research active” staff at a university. The reduction of this pool apparently helps prevent the dilution of ERA “scores” by those academics who have never really gotten into research.

I have significant problems with university management that are pushing this through for the wrong reasons, but I’ll leave those aside. This post from Mark Guzdial highlights the other category of problems. i.e. creating and pushing hard for people to become “teaching scholars” is a significant change. A significant change that is going to require re-thinking various policies and processes within an institution. I doubt very much that university management are engaging in that re-thinking, yet.

Guzdial raises/suggests two points, there are almost certainly many more

  1. Testing ideas in your own classroom is not convincing.
    If any of these “teaching scholars” actually engage scholarly with their own teaching it will almost certain take this form. Try something in my class, run a survey, write an ASCILITE/AACE paper. (The fact that they are being pushed into the teaching scholar role because they aren’t research active does not bode well for the level of scholarly engagement in their own teaching).
  2. Ethics issues around studying your own course.
    For some times, there has been complaints from folk researching their own teaching that the human ethics constraints are too heavyweight. In part, this appears to be due to the “one size fits all” approach to ethics approval. But Guzdial reports on MIT’s much stricter perspective. Researching our own class is an inherent conflict-of-interest, you can’t do it.

It’s going to be interesting watching the law of unintended consequences play its part as the ERA band wagon roles on and what shape Australian higher education will be in at the end of it.

Amplify’d from
My colleague Amy Bruckman told me that, at MIT, the Human Subjects Review Board will not allow a researcher to gather data on his or her own classroom.  There is an inherent conflict-of-interest, if you are studying your class and teaching your class.
Your classroom is a great place to get ideas.  It’s never a great place to test your ideas. You should test your ideas so as to convince others — testing in your class is akin to saying, “See! It worked for me!”  That’s not convincing.