Council Reports and Forms“Fostering the Teacher-Scholar Model”
A Planning Committee Discussion Paper
Distributed to Council April, 2000
In the Framework for Planning document which was published in 1998, four goals were identified as the basis for the planning process:
• improving the quality of instructional programsThough “fostering the teacher-scholar model” was the third goal on this list, it may be seen in some ways as a goal which overarches and links both “improving the quality of instructional programs” and “increasing research intensiveness.”
• increasing research intensiveness
• fostering the teacher-scholar model
• responding to the needs of aboriginal peoples
This goal of fostering the teacher-scholar model is one to which many members of the University community have given their hearty endorsement. At the same time, it is becoming clear that this endorsement was given without arriving at any consensus about the characteristics of the model which was being applauded, and without giving thorough consideration to the implications for the University environment of any particular model.
In the Framework for Planning, the teacher-scholar model was described in the following way:
Major universities, like the University of Saskatchewan, are not research institutes, degree factories, or simply storehouses of knowledge. They acquire their distinctive character by their capacity to unite scholarship with teaching. Scholarship involves the discovery of new knowledge, its integration and synthesis, and its application to new or persistent problems. Teaching requires not just the effective communication of this knowledge, but the creation of a capacity for criticism and self-examination. Given this University's strong commitment to research, and its equally strong commitment to a broad range of educational programs, it makes sense to place a high value on research that has an impact on the learning experience of students, and a high value on teaching that is informed by scholarly activities.Though faculty members may respond positively to the notion that the distinctive characteristic of universities lies in a commitment to both scholarship and teaching, there are many variants of the model which might reflect this basic premise. The purpose of this paper is to identify some of the characteristics which are common to most of the variants, and thus to come closer to an understanding of the nature of the teacher-scholar model.
The distinctive feature of a university is that each faculty member must embody the teacher-scholar model.
In a university, in contrast to a research institute or a community college, an obligation rests on every individual faculty member to embody the teacher-scholar by both participating in scholarly activity and engaging students through instruction. In the university, no one can opt out of either task; participation in scholarly inquiry ensures that faculty members remain intellectually curious and in touch with the current developments in their academic fields, and the interplay between instruction and scholarly activity enlivens the classroom and creates an environment in which the values associated with the pursuit and advancement of knowledge can be transmitted. It is the involvement of each individual in both aspects of the academic mission of the university which infuses the institution with the appropriate spirit of eager inquiry.
In a university, it is not enough to transmit to students a settled body of understood knowledge. Even at the undergraduate level, students must be introduced to concepts at the forward edge of knowledge, and encouraged to engage in their own critical pursuit of knowledge. It is not skills or particular pieces of information which are the distinguishing features of university graduates, but habits suited to addressing outstanding intellectual problems.
Instructors who are capable of creating an environment in which this result can be achieved must themselves be active participants in the pursuit of knowledge through their research and scholarly work.
The teacher-scholar model contemplates that the term "scholarship" will cover a spectrum of related activities.
Definition of a scholar: A scholar is an individual who contributes to the development and fostering of knowledge and whose scholarly activity is recognized by peers at the national and international level.
Though the term “scholarship” is often associated with the idea of pushing beyond the boundaries of what is currently known, activities such as interpreting, analyzing and criticizing knowledge are vital parts of the scholar’s challenge. Scholarly work of many different kinds should properly be included in the balance of responsibilities within the teacher-scholar model.
If the teacher-scholar is to be the prevailing model for all members of the institution, one of the implications of this broadened notion of scholarship would be a recognition that all those who are teachers, including sessional lecturers, must be engaged in scholarship. Though sessional lecturers need not pursue programs of research leading to publication, they must, like all faculty be engaged in the kind of scholarship which is necessary to remain current in their fields, and to cultivate critical and synthesizing abilities in students.
Two groups within the university community, research chair holders and sessional lecturers, represent the range of emphases along the continuum of teaching and scholarship. The implications of invoking the model as a goal for these groups will require particular attention at all levels, from the department to the college to the university.”
The teacher-scholar model has sufficient flexibility to be appropriate to all disciplines within the University.
It is difficult to formulate a description of the teacher-scholar model in detail, because the model must accommodate the distinctive characteristics of a wide range of disciplines. The balance of instruction and scholarship which is appropriate in different disciplines may depend on a variety of factors, including the nature of the research done in that discipline, the role of graduate students in that research, and the normal expectations of career progression. In some disciplines, it may be the norm that faculty members are especially productive researchers early in their careers, while in other disciplines research output may depend more on a long period of reflection and synthesis.
It is also important for the teacher-scholar model to be able to accommodate the value which some disciplines place on the practice of professional skills for faculty and students, and to be able to integrate that experience into teaching and scholarly work.
The balance between teacher and scholar may be different for different members of the University community.
We have said earlier that the teacher-scholar model requires that each faculty member make a commitment to both teaching and scholarship. This cannot be taken, however, as a requirement that all faculty members have identical workloads. Faculty members bring their own strengths and interests to their work within the institution, and the University should be able to recognize these strengths and interests in the assignment of duties to individuals, to the extent that it is consistent with the requirement of involvement in both teaching and scholarly activity.
The balance between teacher and scholar may vary at different points in an academic career.
Just as the balance of teacher and scholar in the work of an individual may reflect the particular strengths and interests of that person, the balance may vary over the course of a career. It may be appropriate for individual faculty members to pursue high-intensity research activity for some periods and other kinds of scholarly activity for others; to concentrate more on teaching at some points, or to take on administrative responsibilities which restrict their ability to focus on either teaching or scholarly work. The exigencies of an academic unit may intervene to alter the balance at certain times, as, for example, when a revised curriculum is put in place, or when a major reconfiguration of research activity is going on.
Ignoring either teaching or scholarship for protracted periods, however, is not in the spirit of the teacher-scholar model.
The teacher-scholar is sensitive to the demands and needs of the community outside the university.
The teacher-scholars who are the foundation of the university as an institution must be sensitive to the needs of the society within which that university exists. They must be prepared to respond to the information needs of that society, its demands for highly educated and highly skilled people to perform important social tasks, and its requirements for answers to questions of pressing public concern, such as the need to promote high quality education for Aboriginal students..
At the same time, the teacher-scholar cannot allow the agenda for teaching and scholarship to be entirely imposed by agencies outside the university, or permit the spirit of free and independent inquiry which characterizes universities to be undermined.
The teacher-scholar model should be taken into account in all university decision making.
A commitment to the teacher-scholar model should be evident in all decisions which are made within the University. These include decisions as to recruitment and hiring of new faculty, and decisions about renewal of probation, tenure, promotion, and salary review. They would also include decisions as to work assignments for faculty, and broader policy decisions about curriculum.
At this moment in the University’s history, and in the evolving new systems for educational funding, it is crucial that we link increased scholarly activity together with improved instruction for our students through the teacher-scholar model.
This discussion paper has been developed by the Planning Committee of Council.
Jene Porter, Chair
R.P. MacKinnon, President
M. Atkinson, Vice-President (Academic)
A.J. Whitworth, Vice-President (Finance and Administration)
M. Corcoran, Vice-President (Research)
S. Junor (USSU)
S. Pinder (GSA)
R. Thompson (Sessional Lecturer)
B.L. Dubray, University Studies Group
P.M. Melis, Office of the Vice-President (Academic)
C. Fornssler, Committee Coordinator