Enhancing Scholarly Work in Teaching and Learning:
Professional Literature that Makes a Difference
(San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006)
Maryellen Weimer--a name long familiar to readers of The Teaching Professor, the national newsletter that for the last few decades has helped harried faculty members acquire quick teaching tips they can put to immediate use in their classrooms--continues in this book to help busy academics sort through the burgeoning literature devoted to “the scholarship of teaching and learning.” Indeed, as Weimer writes in her introduction, this phase is so ubiquitous it has “come to mean everything, anything, and nothing” (xviii). What precisely is meant by this term? What are its defining features? And more importantly, what is considered to be, or should be considered to be, credible scholarship in the field? Anyone who is involved in its publishing or has a stake in promotion or tenure decisions should read this book.
Weimer begins her analysis of past and current teaching and learning literature by dividing it into two categories—the “wisdom of practice” and “research scholarship.” As she explains fully and persuasively, both kinds of scholarship are valuable. “Wisdom of practice” literature--often based on personal accounts of change and advice-giving in nature--has the power to transform us through uplifting narratives of commitment and new understandings. The other category, research literature, has left an indelible mark in the field and constitutes the bulk of new scholarship. Held in high esteem by academics whose training and academic proclivities are grounded in disciplinary-specific methodologies, such literature already carries with it the aura of academic legitimacy. In the on-going battle over qualitative versus quantitative research, the latter wins, even in this volume. Although personal narratives can be uplifting, because of their compelling emotional tug and the writers’ often clear, effective prose styles, the money is still on the research literature. It remains the gold standard for most promotion and tenure committees.
Weimer’s book is extraordinarily helpful in its classification and analysis of the sub varieties of teaching and learning literature(s). For example, in Chapter Three: The Lens of Experience, readers get descriptions and critical assessments of other varieties of “wisdom” literature: “personal accounts of change,” “recommended practice reports,” “recommended content reports,” and “personal narratives.” In Chapter Four: The Lens of Objectivity, Weimer delineates not only qualitative and quantitative studies, but also varieties of “descriptive research.” Readers of this book will come away with a clear understanding of the field, a renewed commitment to publishing within it, and a concrete understanding of where the field is heading. Maryanne Weimer proves herself to be a valuable and trustworthy guide.
Patrice K. Gray
Fitchburg Sate College