Continuing Professional Development in Higher Education – the role of the scholarship of teaching and learning

Lewis Elton


The article argues for appropriate links between the continuing development of academic teachers (CPD in HE) and the decisive role in this of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), going back to Humboldt’s famous prescription of 1809 for the future University of Berlin. However – and in contrast to his fundamental dichotomy between university and school – over the past 200 years a quite different dichotomy has become dominant, the dichotomy between research and teaching, wholly in conflict with Humboldt’s beliefs who saw them as a unity. It is argued that the changes in universities since then and particularly over the past twenty years do not challenge the fundamental Humboldtian principle of a university as a community of scholars – teachers and students – although this community may have to adapt more radically to the 21st century than it might like. On the other hand, recent managerial changes are totally against the spirit of the Humboldtian university and potentially endanger the future of universities, not only in England but worldwide. The paper finally argues that the professionalisation of university teaching on the basis of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) could give universities a freedom in the 21st century, similar to that which Humboldt gave them in the 19th and illustrates this point through an extensive case study.

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