Our Work as Teachers: Finding the 'Tune' with a
F. Bruner, Distinguished Professor of Business Administration and Executive
Director of the Batten Institute, Darden Graduate School of Business Administration
Twain barely contained his use of profanity, a problem his wife abhorred
and sought to cure. One evening, he and she were dressing for a formal
dinner when a button popped off his shirt. He launched a tirade against
buttons, formal shirts, and evening wear. After a few minutes, the profanity
subsided. Twain's wife decided to use the moment to remind her husband
to govern his language. Calmly, and in a flat voice, she repeated, word
for word, the entire tirade. Twain replied, "My dear, you have the words,
but you don't have the tune."
the same could be said of the way scholars describe their teaching. The
typical curriculum vitae emphasizes written work over teaching. Promotion
portfolios usually consist of a solid discussion of the candidate's intellectual
contribution as a researcher, combined with a simple list of courses taught
and perhaps some teaching ratings. The presentation has some words about
teaching, but none of the music: choices made in course design; risks
taken; successes (or learnings from failures); teaching philosophy and
style; interpretation of the teaching ratings; growth as a teacher and
plans for continued professional development. Absent these, the presentation
of one's teaching is like the language of Twain's wife, flat and tuneless.
teaching should be the hidden dimension in a summary of professional work
is curious. In virtually all business schools the quality of teaching
is a priority. Pressure from students, recruiters, donors, and among the
schools themselves has elevated teaching competence to a level higher
than ever. In addition, teaching in all its manifestations absorbs an
enormous part of professional time and energy. To ignore it is to deny
a large chunk of one's professional life. Ultimately, this kind of denial
can create a self-fulfilling prophecy; if one's teaching isn't important
enough to discuss richly, it can wither.
Finding the tune in teaching should be a matter for both individual candidates
and institutions. An excellent vehicle for this is the teaching portfolio,
a 5-10 page document that, along with appendices and supplements, describes
the teaching dimension of one's professional work. Specifically, it surveys
teaching assignments, philosophy, style, accomplishments, innovations,
and evidence of teaching effectiveness. Rather like the professional portfolio
of an artist, composer or writer, the teaching portfolio shows the person's
best work, and perhaps argues for better work to come. A note: "Introduction
to The Teaching Portfolio" (http://papers.ssrn.com/paper.taf?abstract_id=230099)
discusses the concept of the portfolio and offers some resources for further
consideration. The TRC also maintains a good library of reference materials
on the teaching portfolio concept.
The teaching portfolio can improve the way scholars present the teaching
component of their professional work. Here are some possibilities for
for employment, tenure, and promotion could prepare a teaching portfolio
as part of the presentation of their work. This is a nontrivial exercise
and will take perhaps 20 hours to complete. Take time to invite suggestions
from mentors and colleagues outside your area
- Deans could
incorporate teaching portfolios into their faculty development efforts.
Writing the portfolio stimulates self-evaluation and reflection, the
foundation of all teaching improvement. It affords an excellent opportunity
to discuss an instructor's ongoing development as well as the commitments
and resources needed. Once created, the portfolio is easily updated.
could create a mechanism, like an annual workshop, through which participants
can band together and create their portfolios in a confined space of
time. In time, these workshops can grow into conversations about development
of teachers. U.Va. offers an annual work-shop through the TRC, which
I recommend highly-it will be offered next May 15-24, 2001. The TRC
will begin considering applications March 1, 2001.
portfolios can become exemplars for new (and not-so-new) instructors.
Portfolios developed through past TRC workshops are available for review
at Hotel D, 24 East Range.
and promotion committees could counsel candidates toward a fuller presentation
of their teaching work through the portfolio concept. The reality is
that most promotion portfolios are highly idiosyncratic, perhaps justly
so. But with some examples and a few words of guidance, the submission
will be enriched considerably, usually to the candidate's benefit.
faculty could prepare teaching portfolios both as a legacy to the department
("Here's what worked for me; you might try this, too") and as an example
of how richly one can talk about teaching activities. From personal
experience I can report that though it seemed awkward and time-consuming
at first, developing a portfolio crystallized some important insights
for me. I'm glad I did it.
of all this effort are better decisions about employment, promotion and
tenure, better faculty development, better discourse within a faculty
about teaching, and finally, greater personal clarity about one's strengths
and goals. All of this has to do with finding the tune, not just the words,
note: an earlier version of this column was published in Educator
(Financial Economics Network), May 31, 2000.]