In my February editorial, I mentioned a new publication from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a policy center devoted to strengthening American education. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professorate is now available. It is a timely, thoughtful, and exciting report that recommends adjusting the weights attached to teaching and research. The dichotomous relation between the two activities - research, or the production of new knowledge and teaching, which is the dissemination of the old - must be banished.
This latest Carnegie Report accepts the proposition that all faculty are - or should be - scholars. The Report defines the work of faculty to reflect more realistically the full range of academic endeavors. Stating that "the time has come to move beyond the tired old teaching versus research debate," the honorable and traditional term scholarship gives a broader and more extensive meaning and legitimacy to the full scope of academic work. Given the diverse range of activities needed for our profession, this new and enlarged definition should have liberalizing effects on the activities of nursing faculty struggling to meet the criteria for survival in academia.
Without denigrating the importance of original research, the report concludes that looking for connections, building bridges between theory and practice, and communicating knowledge effectively to students should be honored and legitimate academic work. Specifically, four separate yet overlapping functions are identified: the scholarship of discovery, the scholarship of integration, the scholarship of application, and the scholarship of teaching.
The scholarship of discovery comes closest to what we mean when we speak of "research." Knowledge for its own sake, the freedom of inquiry, and disciplined investigation are central to the work of higher education. As the report asserts, the intellectual climate of a college or university depends on the outcomes, the process, and especially the passion of discovery for intellectual excitement and growth. In the health science disciplines, the research contribution of our universities has improved the human condition. But, as important as it is, discovery is not the only scholarship to hold in esteem.
The scholarship of integration has much relevance for nursing. It makes connections across the disciplines by integrating isolated facts and putting them into perspective. It requires serious, disciplined work to interpret, draw together, and bring new insights to bear on original research. It is through this connectedness that insights happen at the boundaries where fields converge. The scholarship of integration also fits research into larger intellectual patterns.
In the scholarship of application, scholars ask how knowledge can be applied responsibly to the problems of consequence. As a practice discipline, clinical nursing research must always assume considerable importance. There is danger in suggesting that knowledge is first discovered and later applied. The scholarship of application should be viewed as leading to new intellectual understandings, with theory and practice interacting and renewing one another.
Finally, the scholarship of teaching, the central focus of the work of academia, begins with what the teacher knows. Those who teach must be knowledgeable and comfortable in their field of endeavor. They must build bridges between what they understand and their students' learning. To teach in a scholarly manner means that courses and classes must be carefully planned, continuously examined, and directly related to the needs of the discipline and the students. Inspired teaching keeps the flame of scholarship alive.
Scholarship Reconsidered concludes that we need a more inclusive view of what it means to be a scholar. It points out that we must foster knowledge through research, through syntheses, through practice, and through teaching. This broadened view is paramount to create a new vision of scholarship that accepts the diversity of talent within the professorate.
As nursing education continues to mature as an academic discipline, this broad perspective must be nurtured and rewarded.