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Teaching as Community Property: Essays on Higher Education

reviewed by Connie J. S. Monroe - 2004

coverTitle: Teaching as Community Property: Essays on Higher Education
Author(s): Lee S. Shulman
Publisher: Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco
ISBN: 0787972010, Pages: 272, Year: 2004
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Lee Shulman’s new collection of essays, Teaching as Community Property:  Essays on Higher Education, should not be picked up lightly for a quick, solitary read.  Shulman argues his ideas clearly and creates an enjoyable reading experience, yet these essays provoke thought and deserve discussion with colleagues.  He turns our attention to the quality and value of teaching in higher education and challenges the academy as he has long challenged teacher education. 


This work presents selected essays and speeches by Shulman on teaching as a function of the professorate.  Through three sections of the book, he focuses our attention first on the importance of learning as a topic for consideration.  He then moves our attention to the importance of teaching in higher education as a skill that should be valued and developed.  He finishes the collection by focusing on practicalities and possibilities.  Although these essays were all written to stand alone, taken together they provide a coherent message demanding more of higher education.  


Learning is the theme of the first part of the book.  Keeping his audience in mind, Shulman builds an argument that student learning can be identified, analyzed, and consciously supported as a vital part of the professional duties of those working in higher education.  He undertakes to educate his reader with the understanding that many professors working in higher education have had little formal training in pedagogy and may not have been taught to value this aspect of their work. 


Shulman begins this unit with an essay titled “Professing the liberal arts” where he introduces readers to the principles that characterize professions.  He then applies each principle to the work of professors arguing that the ability to create learning is integral to building connections between theory and practice.  His second essay presents learning as a significant process which can be analyzed to identify successful learning versus partial learning.  He identifies common failures in learning as pedagogical pathologies that can and must be addressed by supporting scholars in their teaching. 


The first unit continues with practical suggestions to support learning.  The third chapter presents problem-based learning as a model for learning in higher education settings.  Shulman touches briefly on the theoretical underpinnings of this method but focuses more specifically on the advantages and applications it offers.   The final piece in this section provokes thought as Shulman presents his “table of learning” (pp. 66-79) as a taxonomy for considering the learning process.  He plays with this taxonomy demonstrating progressions and interrelationships between elements and stages of learning in order to focus reflection on the learning process. 


In the second section, The Profession of Teaching, Shulman argues that good teaching is not accidental and can consciously be mastered.  Recognizing that some faculty may not value education as a rigorous field, the first three chapters gently present education as a field of expertise with specific examples and scenarios.  The author is then able to proceed to his central thesis arguing for a shift in the role of teaching within higher education. 


The first task of this unit is tackled by three chapters attempting to convince readers that a science of teaching exists and can be transmitted.  Shulman begins by contending that teaching expertise does exist and has been strengthened by some of the reforms of recent years.  Essential to that expertise is the dual need for both content knowledge and knowledge of pedagogy.  Shulman acknowledges that the importance of content knowledge has not always been recognized in K-12 education.  In contrast, content knowledge reins supreme in higher education where attention to knowledge of pedagogy is often lacking.  This absence, however, is not necessary.  While most professors’ model of teaching is based on emulating their own professors, skills can be consciously acquired through observation and other structured exercises. 


A second theme of this unit relates to shifting the role of teaching within the professorate in ways that will create both increased rigor and increased respect.  Shulman insists that teaching should be seen as community property; it should be a shared, acknowledged activity rather than a silent, solitary practice.  Furthermore, higher education has a responsibility to create competent teachers.  A scholarship of teaching would include dissemination and peer review to gain greater recognition and respect.  To complete this section, Shulman addresses Scholarship Reconsidered (Boyer 1997), reiterating sections of its reform agenda while offering modifications to others.  He includes the suggestion that doctoral programs have a responsibility to consider teaching as a component of the graduate curriculum. 


The final part of the book centers on Practices and Policies.  After two units emphasizing the importance of teaching and learning as a function of higher education faculty, Shulman offers practical solutions to help both individual faculty members and institutions as a whole. 


Shulman begins by presenting three approaches to peer review and suggests practical exercises such as analysis of a syllabus.  His next chapter suggests that a system of pedagogical colloquiums for candidates would offer several benefits: demonstration to graduate students that teaching will be a valued qualification, the opportunity for search committees to evaluate pedagogical knowledge, and creation of discussion and reflection related to teaching.  This activity is followed by a description of how a course anatomy exercise can create productive results. 


Transitioning from individual improvement to a wider focus, Shulman addresses the various models used at different institutions to support teaching, ranging from interdisciplinary centers to teaching academies specialized within schools of a university.  The option of having teaching academies for graduate students is further developed in Shulman’s final chapter where he argues that the doctorate should also be seen as a teaching degree.  As stewards of knowledge, professors have a responsibility to be able to teach their knowledge to others. 


Lee Shulman has been a gentle prod to teachers and teacher educators challenging us to improved professionalism and better teaching.  Many of his essays related to the field of education have been presented in a companion collection titled The Wisdom of Practice:  Essays on Teaching, Learning, and Learning to Teach.   This collection presents an equally important facet of his work by turning our attention to the quality of teaching in higher education.  While Teaching as Community Property:  Essays on Higher Education is certainly appropriate for individual reading, it might be best used by reading groups.  Higher education discussion groups or new faculty mentoring groups would benefit from the opportunity to consider and discuss Shulman’s vision of teaching in higher education. It also creates an opportunity for those of us in education departments to reach out to our colleagues to create a dialogue about our own practice as teaching professors.




Boyer, E. (1997).  Scholarship reconsidered:  Priorities of the professorate.  San

Francisco:  Jossey-Bass. 


Shulman, L. S. (2004).  Teaching as community property:  Essays on higher education

San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Shulman, L. S. (2004).  The wisdom of practice:  Essays on teaching, learning, and learning to teach.  San Francisco:  Jossey Bass. 

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 106 Number 12, 2004, p. 2297-2300
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11325, Date Accessed: 1/25/2022 2:56:53 PM

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About the Author
  • Connie Monroe
    Mount Saint Mary’s College
    E-mail Author
    CONNIE J.S. MONROE is an assistant professor of Education at Mount Saint Mary’s College in Maryland where she serves as coordinator of secondary programs. Prior to entering the field of teacher education, she was a high school and middle school teacher of French and ESL. Her research interests include the lives of teachers, teacher development, and the role of schools in society.
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