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Natural Scholarship Shifts of Academics

By Cynthia Jackson, PhD,  IOU Foundation

Key Note Presentation, Florida Memorial University Faculty Senate Conference

May 1, 2011

 

I was asked to talk about the “tension” between and among teaching, research, and scholarship. I am passionate about today’s topic. I consider it one concern in higher education that needs to be visited on a regular basis, given the rapid changing environment of producing and disseminating knowledge. I am going to share my thoughts and experiences, and will disclose parts of my journey in coming to where I am on what I consider to be a perceived tension between and among teaching, research and scholarship. What some see as tension, I see as natural shifts in scholarship.

 

I want to start by providing rudimentary definitions for two terms. The first term is “research.” Research is a systematic and planned investigation or inquiry of a topic based on the generation of data. The second term is “scholarship.” Scholarship is sharing or disseminating research with others for their scrutiny. Scholarship should provoke thought, dialogue, debate, action and additional research on the topic as building blocks of knowledge.

When I graduated from Ohio State, I was not interested in working in higher education, even though I graduated with one publication, two others that had been accepted for publication, and had done three presentations at national conferences. Perhaps this should have been encouragement enough to pursue positions in higher education. But it wasn’t.

I had several scholarly research interests. Two factors informed my hesitation about working in higher education. One was that the conventional definition of scholarship only being publications. The other was what I consider to be unnatural pressure to always publish as validation of being a scholar. The definition and the pressure seemed confining. The pressure was not wanted. Therefore, I worked in non-higher education settings, and continued to publish.

About five years after graduating from OSU, a colleague contacted me and asked if I would consider coming to the university where he was working to develop a doctoral research capstone module. My intention was to do the module and leave higher education. However, I never left.

During my last year as Dean of the Graduate College for Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at The Union Institute, the faculty renewed a conversation on a peer review system that they had before I came to Union. As I listened to their conversations, I realized that I was not the only one for whom the conventional mutually exclusive notion of teacher, researcher, and scholar did not work. As a research institution, the concern at Union was not with “scholarship” per se. The concern was with validating the uniqueness of Union’s mission and values in the context of the conventional definition of scholarship -- publications. At Union, interdisciplinary studies, being learner-centered, and social action and social responsibility of the academy were central parts of its mission, and they were core to its values and a focal point in its pedagogy.

My first year as a full-time faculty member at Union, I was asked to chair the faculty committee that was working on the development of a peer review system. The development of the system liberated us to have dialogues about the intertwined nature of “the teacher,” “the researcher,” and “the scholar.” The development of the system has us think out of the box about what could be considered is scholarship at Union. We developed and implemented a peer review system that we believed aligned with the mission, values, and pedagogy that were unique to Union.

Prior to leading the development of the faculty peer review system, I had been reading Ernest Boyer’s book titled, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching commissioned him to conduct a study on the definition of scholarship in higher education. The study was published in 1990. He provided a departure from the historical, singular view of scholarship as research and publications, and proposed four scholarship domains. Boyer argued that all scholarship is equal, important, and valid. Boyer’s scholarship domain model is being adopted and adapted by research and teaching institutions because it recognizes the various types of scholarly work in which faculty members engage. The model is accepted by accrediting agencies and professional associations.

The four domains of Boyer’s Scholarship Model are the following:

Domain 1: Scholarship of Discovery – The pursuit of inquiry and investigation in search of new knowledge. This is consistent with the traditional view of scholarship, which are publications.

Domain 2: Scholarship of Integration – Making connections across disciplines and advancing knowledge through a synthesis of knowledge.

Domain 3: Scholarship of Teaching – Transforming and extending the knowledge provided to students. This is the creation of new knowledge about teaching and the learning of students, including pedagogical research for the advancement of teaching and learning.

Domain 4: Scholarship of Application – Understanding and addressing pressing social, civic, ethical, and institutional problems. This is the participation of faculty in making contributions to the communities in which they are members by applying research to practical problems.

Notice that each domain begins with the word “scholarship.” What makes each a form of scholarship is that it is grounded in research, a systematic and planned investigation or inquiry of a topic based on the generation of data that is shared or disseminated to provoke thought, dialogue, debate, action, and additional research on the topic, as building blocks of knowledge.

Before I continue, I want to say more about Scholarship of Teaching. This scholarship domain is not concerned with how well a course is taught. Scholarship of Teaching is concerned with the generation of knowledge about teaching and learning. It could be designing a course where one attempts to understand and apply theories of learning to one’s teaching. It could be program reviews, assessments, and evaluations. It could be determining students’ gaps in knowledge and how to address it.

Let me give you a concrete example of Scholarship of Teaching. My most recent publication Demystifying Research began as Scholarship of Teaching and with my co-author shifted to Scholarship of Discovery. When I moved from dean to full-time faculty, I was asked to teach a research seminar. There were already four or five faculty teaching research methods seminars, and I did not see the need in duplicating that. One thing that I had always noticed over 10 years of dissertation advising was that students began talking about their research study from the perspective of the methodology they wanted to use. The biggest challenge for doctoral students was conceptualizing and framing a research study. I decided I wanted to focus on this aspect of the research process in the seminar.

There were no books or articles that delved pragmatically into the topic of defining the research study. So, I began with what I believed students needed to know based on my prior experiences. The first time I conducted the seminar, I focused specifically on conceptualizing and framing a study. I found that there were gaps in the students’ knowledge about many things that would inform their abilities to conceptualize and frame a study. I needed to address those gaps if I were to get them to the point where they could conceptualize and frame a study. I began with my conceptual vision of the seminar that it needed to be dialogic in nature. I designed and redesigned the activities and format of the seminar. The seminar was conducted three times a year. I had exchanges with students and their doctoral advisors between sessions to get feedback and views on the progress students were making. I kept a journal of these exchanges. I developed seminar evaluations and end activities to measure learning outcomes. I analyzed the journal notes, the evaluations and the end activities to help me refine the seminar content, activities and format for the next seminar session.

I adapted Shulman’s (1999) process of vision, design, exchange, outcomes, and analysis for four years until I concluded that given the length of a seminar at Union, this seminar encompassed the content needed by beginner researchers to embark on initial conceptualization and framing of a research study. My evidence of scholarship for the work on the seminar was a portfolio that showed the evolution of materials, formats, and student outcomes, based on my written analysis and interpretations of my journal notes, seminar evaluations, and end activities.

At Union, we adopted the principles of the four scholarship domains and adapted the domains to the mission, values, and pedagogy of the University. As a result, Union’s four scholarship domains were Discovery, Interdisciplinary (Boyer’s Scholarship of Integration), Engagement, Service and Social Action (Boyer's Scholarship of Application), and Teaching and Learner Guidance (Boyer’s Scholarship of Teaching). Because it was a graduate college for interdisciplinary studies, it was decided that all faculty must give evidence of engaging in Interdisciplinary Scholarship either specifically or in context to one of the other three domains. Based on his study, Boyer provided two strategic recommendations. The first recommendation was that all higher education institutions should reconsider the priorities of the Professoriate and broaden the definition of scholarly work. The second recommendation, and related to the first, was that if the definition of scholarship is broaden then the reward system for tenure, promotion, and salary decisions has to change to include the domains with equal consideration.

Movement from one domain to another is what I call scholarship shifts. The domains recognize and legitimize the reality that during an academic’s career, there can be shifts in one’s scholarship focus. These shifts will occur because of individual interests, skills and knowledge, and or the mission, values and needs of the institutions in which one is employed.

Some of you might remember the book Passages by Gail Sheehy. It was written during the 1970s, and described the inevitable changes individuals will pass through during their adult life from their 20s through their 60s. What made the book groundbreaking was that no one had systemically examined and attempted to explain the adult life cycle before. She described how with each decade people have different expectations for themselves.

I mention Passages because I believe that faculty members go through passages or shifts in their scholarship. I have found that there are many faculty members who are living stunted academic lives because the current reward system maintains and sanctions a singular view of scholarship. Moreover, with a singular view of scholarship, it is safe to say that scholarship shifts would not be considered something that is valued.

After studying Boyer’s domains, I once charted my scholarship shifts. I realized that during my career I have had eight scholarship shifts, spending more time in some than others, and sometimes overlapping. Each of my shifts occurred because my interests, skills and knowledge, and circumstances evolved and or changed. No one will have the same pattern of scholarship shifts. The nature of your academic life will give rise to your shifts.

Boyer’s domains ease the tensions with teaching, research, and scholarship. Scholarship takes a broader view; it takes a realistic view of the sharing and dissemination of research and the building blocks of knowledge. Scholarship no longer means something that goes on out there. Scholarship can be something that goes on in here. It could mean that papers presented in the concurrent sessions today is considered scholarship. It could mean that the development of new programs and courses is considered scholarship. It could even mean that the person or persons responsible for the institution’s self-study are engaged in scholarship. It all depends on how scholarship is defined and the rubric of scholastic evidence that is accepted at a given institution.

In closing, I want to leave you with these thoughts. I cannot imagine a 10, 20, 30 or 40-year career where faculty members can only be recognized as engaging in scholarship if they published. It is natural that over the course of a career interests, knowledge and skills, experiences and circumstances change. As these changes occur, it is also natural that one moves from one type of scholarship to another. The definition of scholarship should be linked to the mission and values of the institution. That definition should acknowledge that a faculty member participates in dynamic scholarly activities that ebb and flow for a variety of reasons.

It seems to me that institutions and academic units, attempting to answer the question, “How does scholarship relate to teaching versus research?” are not asking the right question. It would be more appropriate to answer the question, “How should scholarship be defined at an institution or in an academic unit so it aligns with and reflects its mission and values?”

 

References

Boyer, Ernest L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate, a special report. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Sheehy, G. (1976). Passages: Predictable Crises in Adult Life. New York: E.P. Dutton.

Shulman, L. S. (1999). Course anatomy: The dissertation and Analysis of

knowledge through teaching. In P.Hutchngs (Ed.) The course portfolio: How

instructors can examine their teaching to advance practice and improve

student learning. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher

Education.