When college teachers’ experience of teaching and their experience of the subject matter they are teaching are analysed in terms of parts and wholes, an underlying relational structure is found. Where the teachers’ subject matter focus is on wholes (or wholes made up of parts), their teaching approaches are more strongly related to high quality student learning. When the subject matter focus is more on parts (or parts making up wholes) teacher-focused transmission approaches to teaching are more likely. If the scholarship of teaching involves making more visible what teachers do to make learning possible (so that it may become the subject of public discourse and assessment) then an awareness of the relations between subject matter understanding and learning becomes a part of the scholarship of teaching. This essay presents an overview of the research that leads to these conclusions.

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