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Pedagogy 4.3 (2004) 498-503

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Enacting the Scholarship of Teaching

The Literature Workshop: Teaching Texts and Their Readers. By Sheridan Blau. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003.

A little more than a decade ago, Ernest Boyer (1990), then president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, challenged those of us in higher education to move beyond the "teaching versus research debate" by reconsidering scholarship in terms of four separate but overlapping kinds of academic work: the scholarships of discovery, integration, application, and teaching.1 For the most part, those who have taken up Boyer's challenge systematically have done so in an effort to translate the concept of a scholarship of teaching into forums and forms in which such a scholarship may be conducted and made available for peer review and community use.

Signaling what he considers to be essential prerequisites for the development of a scholarship of teaching, Lee Shulman (1993), professor of education at Stanford University and current president of the Carnegie Foundation, recalls that as a new PhD he had it "backwards" when he anticipated a future in which he would work as a solitary scholar, alone in library stacks, the laboratory, or the field; and as a social scholar, teaching in classrooms and similar settings. Instead, Shulman observes, it is the teacher in the classroom, with the closed door, who experiences pedagogical isolation, and the researcher in the discipline who participates in interactive communities of conversation about problems, methods of investigation, and findings. Describing scholarship as community property, Shulman argues that the construction of a [End Page 498] scholarship of teaching depends on the establishment of discipline-based communities of teacher-scholars who exchange problems of practice, methods of investigation, and findings for peer review and community use. Just as Pedagogy is a forum established to foster the kind of discipline-based conversation that Shulman claims is necessary for the development of a scholarship of teaching, Sheridan Blau's The Literacy Workshop is a contribution to that conversation about which I believe Shulman would say, "Here's what I'm talking about."

In the opening pages of The Literature Workshop, Blau tells us that the instructional genre that is the subject of his book began with a paradoxical irony that he experienced in the first years of his teaching career, one that he formulated into the following problem for investigation ten years later: "As long as teachers are teaching, students are not going to learn, because the kind of experience teachers have that enables them to learn what they have to teach is the experience that students need to have, if they are to be the ones who learn" (2-3). Blau also tells us that he was able to study and develop work-in-progress solutions to the problem because he was a member of three overlapping professional communities—English education, composition studies, and, most especially, the National Writing Project—where "the struggle to resolve such paradoxes and problems in teaching [is] . . . a respected intellectual enterprise and a focus for professional inquiry, experimentation, and research" (3). Grounding the literature workshop in issues discussed and teaching practices developed in these communities, Blau revised his teaching of literature to make it more consistent with process-oriented, collaborative, and learning-centered practices developed by teacher-scholars in composition studies and in the National Writing Project; he wrote the book, drawing on insights and practices of contemporary critical theory and the work of teacher-scholars in English education, to counteract "the limitations of many response-based classrooms by reclaiming some traditional critical values" in the teaching of literature (5).

Although the professional communities Blau credits with nurturing his work are ones that existed prior to Shulman's call for the establishment of such communities, Shulman knew it was unlikely that academics in English or other studies who face new scholarly challenges would look for guidance to the corners of their fields where academics like English educators, compositionists, or writing project specialists are located, even—as in this case—when it makes sense to do so. The richness of Blau's...


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