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Thursday, July 4 • 10:45am - 11:25am
From cornfield to forest: becoming scholars of teaching in science

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There have been increased calls for a more scholarly approach to curriculum design and pedagogy in Higher Education. The importance of developing pedagogical competence in fields with poor retention and success rates, such as science, has been highlighted in a recent review paper (Winberg et. al., 2018). Stellenbosch University’s teaching and learning policy and strategy also links the professional development of teachers with scholarship and scholarly approaches, suggesting that quality teaching and learning should be informed by scholarship (SU, 2018) and urging academics to engage in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SU, 2017), one of the chosen vehicles for foregrounding a more critical approach to teaching and learning (Tight, 2018). Yet, academics from natural science fields often report struggling to cross the divide into the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). This paper follows on an earlier paper (Adendorff, 2011) that looked at the experience of nine academics from science and related fields trying to make sense of the SoTL space.

In this earlier study, those who were interviewed, reported finding the new field of study and its methods of enquiry inaccessible. The findings of that study highlighted three obstacles: making sense of the Discourse, becoming legitimate participants in the SoTL Community of Practice and negotiating troublesome identity concerns. Whilst the study managed to shed some light on these struggles, it failed to explain the underlying reasons for the findings: why the new Discourse caused such difficulty, what the barriers to entering the Community of Practice were as well as why this led to identity concerns. It also failed to offer suggestions for overcoming these barriers.

This paper will report on a study that used Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) to explore the nature of the issues highlighted in the previous work. The data sources comprised of interviews with academics from science who (1) had completed or were completing teaching portfolios or (2) were attempting to do SoTL type research as well as (3) selected examples from teaching and learning literature. The focus of this study was on unpacking what counts as legitimate knowledge and how meaning is made in science and teaching and learning literature, respectively. Two dimensions of LCT were employed to explore these questions: Semantics and Specialization. Semantics offered a means of looking at how meaning is made in the two different Discourse practices whilst Specialization was utilised to explore the organising principles underpinning access to the SoTL community of practice, given its focus on membership, authority and achievement (Maton, 2013).

During the first stage of interpretation, the interview data was compared with the previous findings. During the second stage, the interviews and literature were analysed with translation devices designed for the purpose of this study. Whilst the findings of the earlier study were confirmed by the new data, the two dimensions of LCT helped to explain how and why the knowledge practices in the Discourses and Communities of Practices differ, not just that they differ. Findings indicate that moving from the knowledge code practices of science to the knower code practices of SoTL constitutes a code clash. Unfamiliar with what is valued, and trained to value different things, scientists fail to see the rules of the game in SoTL practice, with some even equating it to a relativist code. The different foci in the two communities can be seen, amongst others, in different referencing practices and different meaning making practices. The technical language of science is strewn with epistemically condensed terms, such as lipopolysaccharide, but terms such as these can be understood through grasping the meaning of the terms that they are condensed from, i.e. lipid and saccharide. Teaching and learning literature, on the other hand, employs terms that are axiologically condensed. These terms, some which might remind us of everyday language, are packed with axiological meaning. However, grasping the meaning of these terms, i.e. knowledge transfer or hegemony or epistemic violence, and understanding the axiological constellations they form part of, is a very different process to that employed in Science, a process that requires lengthy immersion into the ways of being, doing and acting of that community.

Finally, identity is impacted by the fact that science and SoTL value different things and set up different hierarchies, with the knower code practices related to SoTL placing far greater value on the attributes of the knower.

Understanding the differences between the fields, and the barriers this set up, can help academic developers identify how to better help scientists make sense of the SoTL terrain.

Thursday July 4, 2019 10:45am - 11:25am SAST
Room B47

Attendees (5)