Modeling Best Professional Practices in Scholarship
Professional education faculty are actively involved in scholarly activity related to teaching, learning, and assessment and are committed to generating new knowledge based on research and disseminating that knowledge to their professional peers. Employing Boyer’s (1999) term, the scholarship of discovery, service, and pedagogy is contractually mandated at St. Cloud State University. While some effort has been made to move scholarship in the unit toward non-traditional activities (such as development of curricular materials or design of educational technology), publication in scholarly journals, presentations at state and national conferences, participation in regional and state conferences and local training sessions are a university-wide expectation. Certainly, promotion past the assistant professor level requires publications in peer-reviewed journals.
“Scholarly or creative achievement or research” is specifically named in the Master Contract as one of five domains to be evaluated yearly for fixed-term non-probationary and non-tenured probationary faculty members and every four years for faculty members already having attained tenure in the unit. Scholarship is considered for both tenure and promotion at St. Cloud State University.
Since St. Cloud State University is designated as a regional comprehensive university, the expectation in the unit is that scholarly work will reflect application more than basic research. However, faculty members in the unit have also undertaken theoretical and basic research in domains such as the following:
- Teacher dispositions: Envisioning their role in education
- The social justice, peace, and environmental education standards project
- Death and grief as experienced by adults with developmental disabilities: Initial explorations
- Redesigning schools for success: Implementing small learning communities and teacher collaboration
- Boys talk about boys: Voices from fiction on the behavior of boys
An investigation was completed for this self-study wherein vitae submitted in spring 2007 were subjected to text analysis. The analysis provides a summary of the number of nationally reviewed publications, number of first authored peer reviewed publications, book chapters, and other publications (typically conference proceedings, book reviews, curricular reviews). In addition, presentations at national/ international conferences and state and local presentations and training sessions are illustrated. Faculty members are also involved in professional associations and often take on leadership roles at the state, national, or international levels.
In analyzing scholarship, it must be emphasized that the unit is rapidly becoming younger. This is important in understanding scholarship because many junior faculty members have not had time to establish a record of scholarship at St. Cloud State University. The mean number of years of service for faculty in the unit (since 2001) is 5.58 (SD = 2.3). Fully 22.6 percent of unit faculty members serve in their first, second, or third years.
As illustrated in the vita analysis, unit faculty members are very involved in professional writing, presentations at the national, state, or local levels, and grant activities. The unit supports professional writing via a writing group, COE Scribes, that has met over the past two years. The Special Projects and Applied Research Center (SPARC) in the College of Education and the Office of Sponsored Programs at the institutional level support faculty efforts to procure outside grant funding for research. In addition, scholarship at the institution is supported through a variety of resources and units.
In the past half-decade, a healthy push toward involving candidates in research, presentations, and publications both in the unit and campus-wide has been in evidence. Funds have been made available to support hands-on research on the part of candidates, including candidates at the initial level.
Finally, evidence of extraordinary scholarship is the fact that St. Cloud State University received the 2007 American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Teacher Education and the 2008 American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) Award for Research on Teacher Education Quality and Accountability. These two national awards were given for the exemplary work and research conducted over the past three years on co-teaching during clinical experiences and the impact on student learning.
Summary: Unit faculty members are highly engaged in a variety of scholarly activities at the local, state, national, and international levels consistent with the mission of the institution and the conceptual framework. The engagement in scholarly activity provides a strong foundation for faculty members to enhance their teaching effectiveness and provides an opportunity to model the application of theory to practice. The scholarship within the unit has received national attention through the two recent national awards for best practice for research in teacher education.