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The Scholarship of Engagement: What Is It?

Tomorrow's Academy

Message Number: 
726

In sum, the scholarship or engagement, therefore, is a set of activities. At its core are four dimensions of scholarship-discovery, integration, application, and teaching. It becomes the scholarship of engagement through its active and interactive connection with people and places outside of the university in the activities of scholarship, setting goals, selecting means and methods, applying means and methods, reflecting on results, and dissemination of the results.

Folks:

The posting below looks at what are the criteria for the scholarship of engagement. It is from Chapter 8 The How and Why of the Scholarship of Engagement, by David N. Cox, executive assistant to the president of The University of Memphis., in Creating a New Kind of University ; Institutionalizing Community-University Engagement, edited by Stephen L. Percy, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Nancy L. Zimpher, University of Cincinnati and Mary Jane Brukardt, Eastern Washington University. Published by Anker Publishing Company, Inc., 563 Main Street, P.O. Box 249, Bolton, MA 01740-0249 USA. ISBN 1-882982-88-6. Copyright © 2006 by Anker Publishing Company, Inc. [www.ankerpub.com]. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

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The Scholarship of Engagement: What Is It?

David N. Cox

Central to a discussion of a "new kind of university" is the meaning of scholarship. As Boyer (1990) observed in discussing the role of undergraduate higher education in society, "One of the most crucial issues-the one that goes to the core of academic life-relates to the meaning of scholarship itself. Scholarship is not an esoteric appendage; it is at the heart of what the profession is all about" (p.1). If something is "new" about universities, that newness has to include changes in the understanding of scholarship.

As the title of this chapter suggests, a form of that newness may be found in the concept of the scholarship of engagement: what it is, how it is different, and what issues it raises for engaging faculty in meaningful scholarship across all disciplines.

The American Heritage Dictionary (2000) identifies scholarship as the methods, discipline, or attainments of a scholar; knowledge resulting from study and research; or financial aid for education. Focusing on its meaning related to contributions to knowledge, Boyer's (1990) Scholarship Reconsidered has broadened the understanding of the term to include four dimensions-discovery, integration, application, and teaching. Discovery involves adding to the stock of human knowledge. Integration involves making connections across disciplines that lead to new understandings. Application involves the work of the academy toward more humane ends. Contact, of course, can take many forms. It can be incidental and passive, or it can be regular and active. It can be one-directional or interactive, formal or informal. More recently, the notion of the scholarship of engagement builds on Boyer's definition by including active and interactive contact between people inside and external to the academy across the range of actions involved in scholarship-from setting goals, and selecting and applying means and methods, to reflection and dissemination. It is that interaction across the range of scholarship activities that distinguishes the contact involved in the scholarship of engagement.

Using the definition of the dynamic interaction inherent in the scholarship of engagement, it is possible to determine what is engagement and what is not. So, for example, Louis Pasteur making the connection between sewage and disease while walking city streets in the 1800s led to scholarship in the form of discovery and application. His resulting search for an intervention to treat a real-world problem shaped the questions he asked leading to the discovery of the germ theory of disease (Strokes, 1997). There is also a long history of contact with persons and places outside the academy in the form of dissemination through the transfer of technical expertise by agricultural agents connected to land-grant universities. In neither of these cases, however, were persons outside of the academy actively involved in any of the scholarship activities. They were not involved in shaping the questions, choosing or executing the means, or reflecting on the results. Moreover, dissemination was one-directional, knowledge transferred from expert to client. Thus while connected in one sense of the term, absent interaction in the processes of scholarship, these examples do not represent the scholarship of engagement.

In contrast, Chicago residents of the Renacer West Side neighborhood and faculty and students a the University of Illinois-Chicago worked together in designing the means to increase employment opportunities for the residents. They did not accomplish their short-term goal of increased employment by residents at the university, but collective reflection by residents, faculty, and students led to discovery and development of a longer-term application that expanded employment opportunities beyond the neighborhood (Mayfield & Lucas, 2000). Residents of colonias in south Texas-rural communities and neighborhoods bordering Mexico, which require sufficient infrastructure and other basic services (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2000)-participated as partners with faculty members and students at the University of Texas-Austin in implementing and reflecting on the impact of a plan for enhancing public service infrastructure for colonias in the area (Wilson & Guajardo, 2000). Community residents in East Saint Louis, Illinois, in the 1990s were instrumental in reframing discovery and application questions being pursued by faculty members and students at the University Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The result was the creation of knowledge more relevant to the problems of the community (Reardon, 2000), And in a West Philadelphia neighborhood, community residents, public school and city officials, and faculty members and students at the University of Pennsylvania worked together to redesign K-12 school curricula, pedagogy, and social service programming, improving student outcomes and adding to knowledge about advancing urban school systems (Harkavy, 1999).

In sum, the scholarship or engagement, therefore, is a set of activities. At its core are four dimensions of scholarship-discovery, integration, application, and teaching. It becomes the scholarship of engagement through its active and interactive connection with people and places outside of the university in the activities of scholarship, setting goals, selecting means and methods, applying means and methods, reflecting on results, and dissemination of the results. Given the range of these dimensions and activities, the depth of connections may vary. At a less engaged level, the interaction may involve only one dimension of scholarship or one of a limited set of scholarship activities. At the deepest level, the interactions carry through multiple dimensions and across all of the scholarship activities. In each case, however, it is the presence of that interaction that distinguishes the scholarship engagement.