Scholarship rediscovered

There are some really interesting comments on a post from earlier this week on the relationship between teaching and research in universities. In thinking about the issue, I was reminded of an excellent book that I read more than a decade ago while studying for a Diploma in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

The book is ‘Scholarship reconsidered‘ by Ernest Boyer, published in the early 1990s. In a key section, Boyer considers the role of the university academic, and bemoans the hierarchy of functions within the academy:

What we now have is a more restricted view of scholarship, one that limits it to a hierarchy of functions. Basic research has come to be viewed as the first and most essential form of scholarly activity, with other functions flowing from it.

Instead, Boyer calls for change:

the time has come to move beyond the tired old “teaching vs research” debate and give the familiar and honorable term “scholarship” a more capacious meaning, one that brings legitimacy to the full scope of academic work.

He defines four aspects of scholarship, and argues that the well-rounded academic should be active in all four areas, and not view them as a hierarchy:

  • The scholarship of discovery is engaging in research, discovering new knowledge.
  • The scholarship of integration is about providing context and bringing together knowledge from one’s own research with other disciplines, or with the research of others.
  • The scholarship of application is what we might, these days, call ‘impact’. It is about bringing knowledge to bear on problem solving in the world. But Boyer is careful not to restrict this to one-way transfer – this area of scholarship is about engaging outside the academy so the other types of scholarship are themselves informed by the problems of the world.
  • The scholarship of teaching is about communicating knowledge to others, and also aspiring to do so at the highest standards. For Boyer this also involves engaging with and contributing to pedagogical research.

When I first read Boyer I found him incredibly inspiring, and I still do. But I do wonder whether we are now even further away from his vision of rounded scholarship, encompassing all four of the areas he defines. Perhaps it is time to rediscover scholarship.


Written on May 31, 2013

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