What is Scholarship in the Academy?


Scholarship can be defined as creative, intellectual work that is validated by peers and communicated broadly (Weiser, 1996). Scholarship can include various forms of inquiry and result in different outcomes, but all scholarly work achieves stated goals, is documented and evaluated, and is communicated or made public in appropriate ways so as to have an impact on the discipline and significance within the field. Scholarship in the design fields may focus on physical, aesthetic, socio-cultural and psychological issues concerned with the interface between humans and building environment, as well as design education in all its facets.

Ernest L. Boyer (1997) provides a framework for considering four models of scholarship that are widely considered applicable in higher education and are commonly used as a basis for evaluating faculty on tenure-track appointments.  These four areas are especially relevant to the diverse scholarship conducted by design educators:

  • Scholarship of DiscoveryThe identification of new knowledge and/or investigation of situations and/or phenomena with empirically-based outcomes. The design scholar, as observer and interpreter, promotes the understanding of human experience and design, adding to cultural understanding and meaning, to historical understanding and meaning, and/or to scientific (social, psychological, technical and physical) understanding of human-environment interaction within a given context (Dohr, 2007). Work generates and communicates new knowledge and understanding; develops and refines methods (Weiser, 1996; Boyer 1997)
     
  • Scholarship of Integration - Interpretation of existing scholarly work with alternative theoretical perspectives and/or placing existing research within a wider context. The design scholar seeks to make others see, experience, and understand through new visual experiential structures or through forms unto themselves (Dohr, 2007).  Work that interprets the human spirit; creates and communicates new insights and beauty; develops and refines methods (Weiser, 1996). Work gives meaning to isolated facts, putting them in perspective and making connections across the disciplines (Boyer, 1997)
     
  • Scholarship of Application - Application and/or engagement of theoretical frameworks or existing knowledge often through practice or other creative works. The design scholar, as practitioner and interpreter, seeks to change human conditions, to approach planning and design from a holistic perspective, which includes understanding values and applying design theories and research findings in an innovative manner (Dohr, 2007).
     
  • Scholarship of TeachingAdvancing learning theory through classroom research, and transmitting and/or extending knowledge and theory of pedagogy beyond the classroom. In design education there are multiple areas of pedagogy that can be explored to better understand the dimensions of learning and creative theory, especially in studio-based educational settings (e.g. see UNSW, 2015).

Outcomes and Measures of Scholarship: Each institution establishes its own culture for recognizing and measuring the value of scholarly work; there are no “uniform expectations.” A peer-reviewed process is typically deemed as critical in giving merit to the outcomes.  Documented acceptance/rejection rates, and the rigor of the review process all contribute to the relative “value” of the scholarly work. Depending on the institutional guidelines, outcomes of scholarship and methods of dissemination may include, but are not limited to:

  1. Published manuscripts in peer-reviewed, professional journals and proceedings.
  2. Published books (including textbooks, research-based monographs, and edited volumes).
  3. Publications in editor-reviewed outlets (including book chapters, editorials published in a journal, etc.).
  4. Presented papers at juried international, national, and regional conferences and meetings.
  5. Exhibitions of creative scholarship in juried international, national, and regional exhibitions, conferences, and meetings.
  6. Invited presentations and exhibitions at the international, national, and regional level.
  7. Awards/recognition received for scholarship, including student work performed under the faculty member’s supervision.
  8. External and internal competitive funding (including grants and contracts) to support scholarly activities.
  9. Professional practice that requires specialized knowledge related to the faculty member’s scholarly expertise – including designing interiors, buildings, and products; and earning patents and copyrights for intellectual property.
  10. Post-occupancy evaluations of work produced as professional practice indicating excellence in design to meet user needs.
  11. Citations by other scholars, use of work in other publications or standards.
  12. Featured articles or reviews of faculty/student scholarship in the media.