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Seminar 1 - What is scholarship?

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Roma Malik
18 September 2014

Information about this event has been move to the Scholarship Exchange website (OU staff login only)

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Laura Hills
1:16pm 22 September 2014

Although Lin Norton's (2009) definition relates specifically to pedagogic action research, I think it summarises really well the three essential components of scholarship (of teaching and learning) in that it involves:

  • Systematic investigation into (one’s own) teaching/learning facilitation practice.
  • Modification or improvement of practice (to support student learning).
  • Contribution to theoretical knowledge.

If there was one word I would pick out to examplify what I mean by scholarship it is systematic. Many academics are involved in relfecting on their practice but scholarship involves them doing so in a more formal and objective way, so that what they have learnt can be shared with colleagues. This is where theoretical knowledge comes in. If scholarship is not linked to the broader research and educational context, it is hard to demonstrate its relevance to others.

Although now quite old, the six areas common to all forms of scholarship, identified by Trigwell et al (2000) are quite helpful in getting academics to think about how they are investigating their own teaching or student learning. These are:  clear goals, adequate preparation, appropriate methods, significant results, clear presentataion and reflective critique. Theory isn't perhaps explicit here, but forms part of reflective critique.

For me, sharing scholarship can take place at many levels. Sharing the outcomes and results can happen at the level of the scholarship platform, in conferences and articles, but sharing the process of scholarship is also really important. There could be better ways at the OU of identifying what projects are being undertaken and in what areas, and using which methods. Some of this information is collected already, such as through the Student Research Project Panel (SRPP), but a more systematic method of collecting and disseminating this information would be really useful to both experienced and novice scholars.

Norton, L.S. (2009), Action Research in Teaching and Learning. A practical guide to conducting pedagogical research in universities, London/ New York: Routledge.

Trigwell, K., Martin, E, and Benjamin, J. (2000), ‘Scholarship of Teaching: a model’, Higher Education Research & Development, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 155-168.

Tim Hunt
2:07pm 24 September 2014

What we are talking about here is very much the "Scholarship of Teaching and Learning", and it is unhelpful that we seem to be using the more generic term Scholarship to mean this at the OU.

I thought Boyer's model of scholarship as comprising 4 elements: discovery, integration, application, and teaching was helpful, and I think all four are relevant here.


I think new research into how people learn, and how new technologies can help with learning and teaching is something that the OU should be doing, and that is relevant to this community.

Integration & Application

This seems to be the agenda we are being handed: bringing together existing knowledge to improve OU practice. Absolutely.


Learning and teaching should not be something we just do to students. We should (and do) encourage them to take ownership of their studies, and teach them about things like reflection. If our scholarship of teaching and learning does not impart any new understanding to students, then we are not doing a complete job.

Sally Jordan
6:03pm 12 October 2014

I'm going to start from the definition of scholarship on the flyer for the Scholarship Seminar Series: "Scholarship at The Open University is defined as research which facilitates and focuses on learning and teaching, open and distance education and the institutional performance of The Open University itself."

I agree with Tim that this is a really just referring to one type of scholarship, SOTL.

However I was struck by the point in Linda's presentation at which she discussed the difference between research and scholarship. Research is research for the sake of research; scholarship is applied to teaching and learning. So scholarship has impact. Wow!

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