Because a teacher is a manager of a communication environment, investigation into the teaching process analyzes the complexity of the communication situation and the specifics of student–teacher communication. The specificity of a distinct “scholarship of teaching,” suggested by Ernest Boyer (1990), argues that studying those topics emanating from the teaching process is worthy of scholarly recognition. While Boyer started discussing an individual teacher reflecting on the teaching process, the study of instructional communication added a structured approach, with evidence-based conclusions, to the broader dimension of teaching communication. For Boyer, scholarship existed in systematic examination and sharing with others about teaching.
In Boyer’s perspective, this sharing may range from the course level, with syllabi and assignments, to teaching portfolios (now often used for evaluation of teaching excellence by many universities), to published articles and books. What made Boyer’s perspective distinct was the emphasis on teaching materials, approaches, and theories in contrast to the teaching done by what was previously seen as the “teaching of colleagues by publication.” Now a teacher might collect all the topics used in public speaking classes to discover to what extent international topics are reflected by the students after special emphasis was made by using international topics in all the examples in the handouts and lectures.
The scholarship of teaching may range from the rhetorical (Gronbeck 1989), to the social science approaches (Teven & McCroskey 1997), to the philosophical (Sprague 1990; and to the critical (Fassett & Warren 2005). Each approach uses a systematic way to discover good practices of teaching. Investigating teaching becomes scholarly and consequential only as it is understood by others. It becomes significant by transforming and extending the knowledge gained, in the same way that the scholarship of discovery, application, and integration – Boyer’s three additional forms of scholarship – do. Friedrich and Nussbaum (2005) concluded that most of the work in communication has been based upon the logical empiricism of the social science methodology. In 2000, Feezel and Welsh argued that the ambiguity of the concept has led to considerable confusion. They observed that it is not just reflecting upon the act of teaching, but the sharing of what is discovered about teaching that is the essential part of the scholarship.
The importance of audience to all communication applies creatively to this area. If the teacher is the locus, then the audiences of students, peers, administration, parents, and public are key relationships. If one switches the focus to any of these other variables, then new relationships develop. While a considerable amount of work in the field focuses on either the teacher or the students, the other audiences tend to be studied more by other approaches, and as such the focus of such studies tends not to be questions of teaching.
The criterion of what is being measured has led to a recent emphasis in the scholarship of teaching on the ultimate measure of learning. During the 1990s, a national emphasis on adding “learning” to the concept was also evident in communication. These approaches switch the emphasis from teachers’ communication behaviors to structural choices in teaching and their correlation with learning. For investigative ease, learning is often measured by direct quantitative measures (e.g., test scores, multiple choice tests). Yet, much of communication is context based, so that research on teaching is often challenged by using and developing measures of situations allowing such generalizations that are supportive of the learning process. Some studies are actually using qualitative measures of performance for public speaking classes. The lines of such research about teaching have become blurred as researchers are now applying different insights and a combination of methods.
Much of the research has relied upon students in basic speech courses for subjects. A major line of research by McCroskey and Richmond and their colleagues and students has used teachers enrolled in courses throughout West Virginia taught by department members. This perspective from K-12 classrooms has enriched the field by examining a greater variety of situations, subject matter, and classrooms than is possible on the college campus.
The primary outlet for social science methodology has been the journal Communication Education, while the publication Communication Teacher has focused on the actually teaching practices. Both types of sharing about the teaching process are consistent with Boyer’s concern for a scholarship of teaching. A blend of these two approaches appears in the Basic course annual, which focuses on the teaching of the basic courses. The Handbook of Instructional Communication (Mottet et al. 2006) and the chapters on instructional communication in the International Communication Association’s Communication yearbooks have all added a high level of investigation into questions about teaching. These publications allow the scholarship of teaching to be evaluated and shared by people in the field.
- Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
- Fassett, D. L., & Warren, J. T. (2005). The strategic rhetoric of an educational identity: Interviewing Jane. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 2, 238–256.
- Feezel, J., & Welch, S.-A. (2000). What is new or different about the scholarship of teaching. Journal of Communication Administration, 29, 250–256.
- Friedrich, G., & Nussbaum, J. (2005). Instructional/developmental communication: Current theory, research, and future trends. Journal of Communication, 55, 578–593.
- Gronbeck, B. E. (1989). Rhetorical criticism in the liberal arts curriculum. Communication Education, 38, 184–190.
- Mottet, T., Richmond, V., & McCroskey, J. C. (eds.) (2006). The handbook of instructional communication. Boston, MA: Pearson.
- Sprague, J. (1990). The goals of communication. In J. A. Day, G. W. Friedrich, & A. L. Vangelisti (eds.), Teaching communication: Theory, research and methods. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 10–38.
- Teven, J. J., & McCroskey, J. C. (1997). The relationship of perceived teacher caring with student learning and teacher evaluation. Communication Education, 46, 1–10.
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