Research tends to be the first criterion that comes to mind as a requirement for achieving promotion and tenure in academia. Traditionally, the kind of research necessary for promotion and tenure in many higher education institutions has been primary nursing research (e.g., nursing phenomena, nursing interventions, nursing administration). This can be particularly true of institutions classified as high or very high in research intensity according to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (2007b).
Educational research had previously been reserved for faculty who teach in schools of education; however, with growing internal and external demands for the demonstration of teaching efficacy, schools in the arts and sciences have become more engaged in studying the outcomes of pedagogies implemented in their respective disciplines. Nursing education, as a discipline, has been a leader in the study of educational strategies—this is evidenced by the proliferation of journals publishing nursing educational research over the past 2 decades.
Along with the emergence of nursing education research is the scholarship of teaching and learning initiative, also promoted by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (2007a). Defined (Thompson, 2001), the scholarship of teaching and learning refers to the engagement in systematic assessments and evidence gathering to investigate the effectiveness of specific teaching strategies. Key features of the scholarship of teaching and learning involve using data for informing future teaching, using peer review, and submitting scholarship of teaching and learning work in a public forum (Pace, 2004).
There are similarities between nursing education research and scholarship of teaching and learning initiatives—systematic inquiry and the intent to make work available for peer review. The key difference is that nursing education research obligates researchers to develop or contribute to a generalizable knowledge (Office of Human Subjects Research, National Institutes of Health, 2005). In this sense, the scholarship of teaching and learning serves as an umbrella term that includes a broad range of teaching inquiry methods, including nursing education research.
So how can a program of nursing educational research become a basis for promotion and tenure? For research-intensive universities, building a promotion and tenure case along the lines of nursing education research can be a tenuous process. Part of the reason nursing education research may not count as a program of research is the general lack of large grants for such research. Before a nursing education research program is presented as a case for promotion and tenure, faculty members must determine whether their peers, department, and university are agreeable to a promotion and tenure case on the basis of this kind of research. In some cases, a department may accept a nursing education research program as fully satisfying promotion and tenure requirements, whereas in other departments, educational research may be one part of the dossier that also contains another research program directly related to advancing nursing practice or clinical outcomes. Therefore, it is incumbent on the faculty member to determine the expectations of the department and university from the outset when building a promotion and tenure dossier related to nursing education research.
There are ways to extend a nursing education research program to one that advances either nursing practice or clinical outcomes in addition to student outcomes. Service-learning, which involves designing a mutually agreeable program that benefits both students and the community, is a key example. Because service-learning involves both student and community benefit, each benefit is amenable to a separate program of research. In another example, systematic investigation of clinical decision making models may be tested in student clinical settings, as well as in nursing practice settings.
Finding an institution that fits your passion is critical to your success. If an institution does not value nursing education research, it is unlikely that support (infrastructure) and reward systems will be available to you—clearly, this would result in an unfulfilling professional career. Using resources dedicated to the promotion of nursing education, such as the National League for Nursing and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, will help you find the right institution for you.
Deanna L. Reising, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC
Indiana University School of Nursing
- The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 2007a. CASTL: Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Retrieved March 17, 2008, from http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/programs/index.asp?key=21
- The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 2007b. Classification descriptions. Retrieved March 17, 2008, from http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications/index.asp?key=785
- Office of Human Subjects Research, National Institutes of Health. 2005. Regulations and ethical guidelines. Retrieved March 17, 2008, from http://ohsr.od.nih.gov/guidelines/45cfr46.html#46.102
- Pace, D2004. The amateur in the operating room: History and the scholarship of teaching and learning. American Historical Review, 1092, 1171–1232. doi:10.1086/530753 [CrossRef]
- Thompson, SB2001. A conceptualization of teaching related activities. Retrieved March 17, 2008, from the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Web site: http://www.issotl.org/tutorial/sotltutorial/u1a/u1a1.html