Jun 10, 2011

Book Review of the morning: "Scholarship Reconsidered"

Boyer asks the following question: How can the faculty reward system be modified to best meet the challenges of 1) a diverse student body which desires excellence in teaching, 2) a faculty which is not satisfied with the criteria by which it is being assessed, 3) a system of higher learning whose confusion over goals diminishes the sense of community on its campuses, and 4) a changing world with its social, ethical, and environmental issues. He proposes abandoning the old paradigm of research versus teaching for the following new paradigm: faculty should be engaged in the scholarship of discovery, integration, application, and teaching. By embracing these four general views of scholarship, Boyer is challenging us to enlarge our perspective of the priorities of the professoriate.
The scholarship of discovery, says Boyer, "contributes not only to the stock of human knowledge but also to the intellectual climate of a college or university." This tenet of scholarship is very close to what we would otherwise call "research." The scholarship of integration involves conducting research on the boundaries of various converging fields, placing research (your own or others) in its appropriate interdisciplinary context, and interpreting research (your own or others) into "the larger intellectual patterns." Discovery and integration represent the "investigative and synthesizing traditions of academic life." The scholarship of application, which is closely related to what we would call "service", must be closely related to one's own field of expertise and relates acquired knowledge to the larger community. Boyer contends that application need not always follow discovery- the act of application can and should initiate new discovery. Last, but not least, is the scholarship of teaching. Scholarly teaching, says Boyer, "both educates and entices future scholars." The faculty member engaged in this scholarly enterprise must be thoroughly knowledgeable in his given field. Boyer asserts that "teaching, at its best, means not only transmitting knowledge, but transforming and extending it as well." He claims that these four categories of scholarship are inseparable and rest upon the "recognition that knowledge is acquired through research, synthesis, practice, and teaching." Boyer concludes: "We need scholars who not only skillfully explore the frontiers of knowledge, but also integrate ideas, connect thought to action, and inspire students."Source
If there were a Laffer Curve of traditional academic research vs. student performance, I would say the argument of this book makes sense. Probably The US, in general, should reduce the traditional way of doing research (a focus on peer reviewed publications) and increase alternative approaches - although there must be exceptions. In developing countries, however, we are not in that side of the "Laffer curve" yet (in many countries it is almost zero), and much more of the traditional way of doing academic research  is urgently needed. 

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