Re-examining scholarship : exploring the meanings of Boyer's Dimensions to the Professoriate
Since Boyer's (1990) seminal publication on scholarship there has been a steadily expanding body of knowledge concerned with reviewing the priorities of the professoriate in higher education (HE). This dissertation enters that discourse by exploring HE educators' perceptions of Boyer's (1990) multiple dimensions of scholarship. It also accepts the challenge offered by Schon (1996) that examination of the new dimensions of scholarship requires a new epistemology by designing and employing a spiral methodology. This twofold task forms the basis of this dissertation. This investigation is contextually located in an education department in a large university in the United States of America. It delves into the opinions of educators as they relate to scholarly practices, and the influence of the institutional ideology embedded in the structure of HE in today's modem universities. The study then focuses on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) and renders problematic the proposed assessment standard of reflective practice. The use of my spiral methodology in action opens up both the framework and the theoretical structure for critical examination. It reveals, through the praxis how the phased structure has allowed the research project to extend into using such diverse research methods as an email survey, interviews through conversations and autoethnography. This study offers contributions in two distinct areas. Firstly, the investigation into educators' perceptions of scholarship revealed four important issues: • a strong desire to see the definitions expanded • that the SoTL is a contested and poorly understood dimension • the rhetoric of reflective practice is often very different to the practice • the ideology and epistemology of the institution dictate the priorities Secondly, the spiral methodology which holds reflexivity as a central tenet proved capable of offering a sensitive, flexible, interconnected framework within which to conduct research in the complex and context bound environment of research in educational settings. There are a number of potential future directions that could be developed from my research some of which include: • investigating institutional commitment to implementing campus changes • the impact of proposed changes on the student population • examining the contested meaning of reflective practice in theory and practice • further development of a reflexive spiral methodology • expansion of the combination of critical analysis and boundary conversations This dissertation should be read both as a very personal sequential journey into researching, and as a growing understanding of the research topics. This evolution has led to altering some of my early methodological claims and demonstrates my commitment to an open and honest account.