by Robert M. Diamond Ph.D.

In 1990 Earnest Boyer, building on the work of Eugene Rice, proposed that colleges and universities move beyond the debate of teaching versus research and that the definition of scholarship be expanded to include not only original research but the synthesizing and reintegration of knowledge, professional practice, and the transformation of knowledge through teaching. At the same time, projects were begun at Syracuse University that were to involve over thirty disciplinary associations in an effort to describe the range of faculty work in their field and to conduct a series of national studies to determine the perceptions of faculty and administrators of the quality of the tenure and promotion systems at their institutions and of the balance between teaching and research. When completed, these studies were to include data from over 50,000 faculty and administrators at over 150 institutions. In the years that followed, the American Association for Higher Education established its highly successful Forum on Faculty Roles and Rewards and supported a number of related initiatives.

Unfortunately today, despite the active involvement of academic leaders and faculty at institutions throughout the country, many of the problems identified over a decade ago still prevail. On many campuses there still exists a significant disconnection between what institutions say is important and what they reward. Research and publication remain the primary criteria used in promotion and tenure decisions with far less importance still being given to teaching and community service activities. (For a useful overview of the perceptions of Chief Academic Officers see the Appendix in Faculty Priorities Reconsidered: Rewarding Multiple Forms of Scholarship by KerryAnn O’Meara and Eugene Rice)   In addition many faculty are still being caught between the definition of appropriate scholarship being used in their academic unit and the definition being applied by faculty from other disciplines serving on campus-wide tenure and promotion committees.

Why has change in the tenure and promotion system been so difficult?

Although significant change is never an easy process in colleges and universities, there have been a number of factors that have compounded the process even further when scholarship or tenure and promotion is the focus of the initiative.

  • The system on most campuses is controlled, to a great degree, by the group who are perceived to be most resistant to the entire initiative and are most comfortable with the status-quo, the senior faculty.
  • Faculty from different disciplines often use different terminology to describe the same activity and often do not understand the issues or the nature of faculty work in other academic units.
  • By focusing on categories of scholarship rather than on the qualities of quality scholarly work, Boyer’s definitions created major implementation problems. Whereas some disciplines were comfortable with this approach others were not. In reviewing the statements in the AAHE publication The Disciplines Speak II (Diamond and Adam) you will note that several disciplines retained this four part structure, while others modified it or avoided it entirely.
  • For those disciplines in which traditional research is the major component of faculty work, any movement to expand the scope of scholarship was viewed by many as a direct threat to their prestige and power on campus. Interestingly, the disciplinary statements and our data from even the most research focused departments agreed that activities vital to the health of the discipline were being short- changed under the existing reward system and needed to be addressed.

Moving beyond Boyer: The next iteration.

In  my Chapter 3 and KerryAnn O’Meara’s Chapter 14 in Faculty Priorities Reconsidered you will find a number of specific recommendations on actions you can take to implement significant changes in the faculty reward system at your institution. I would, however, like to add one more strong recommendation to our lists. Although the work of Earnest Boyer has been instrumental in bringing the issues of faculty rewards and scholarship to the agendas of many institutions, using this approach as the structure for change can create major implementation problems. From our work with the disciplines, one major finding has been generally overlooked. Although faculty from different disciplines cannot agree on terminology, in large measure, they do agree, on those characteristics that combine to make an activity scholarly. Therefore, once you have a campus consensus that your faculty reward system requires major revision, if you focus your efforts on identifying those common characteristics and processes that that are needed for any activity to be considered scholarship, you can effectively eliminate or reduce many of the problems that you would encounter if you focused elsewhere. Where the scholarship takes place or the nature of the work itself is no longer an issue, it could be in the laboratory, the classroom,  the community, or elsewhere.  The focus is now on quality, significance and process.

This approach has a number of additional advantages:

  • Individual academic units can be given the responsibility of determining if a specific activity falls within the work of the discipline and the priorities of the institution, school/college, and department.
  • All-campus review committees can now focus on whether or not the activity actually meets the agreed upon criteria for scholarly or creative work. It is not the role of a committee external to the academic area to determine if the activity is appropriate for the discipline.
  • The criteria being used can be relatively clear, easy to understand, and consistent across all disciplines. Although some discipline- specific items may be added at the school or college level, a single basic statement serves your entire institution.
  • It can facilitate the goals of a number national project that are focusing on expanding the scope to scholarship such as The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and the Community-Campus Partnership for Health initiatives by applying the same standards for scholarship to all disciplines throughout the institution placing these efforts on a par with research in any other academic area.
  • The system is fair and recognizes individual and disciplinary differences. No one academic perspective or group of disciplines determines what scholarship should be for another.
  • By focusing in depth on the candidates most significant scholarly efforts the process actively discourages equating scholarship with the number of publications.
  • The process is cost-effective. Faculty preparing for review will know what is expected of them and of the documentation that is required. The role of faculty review committees in clarified, focusing on the quality of the product and the process.
  • This approach can easily be incorporated into the descriptions of scholarly work developed by Boyer, Rice, Hutchings and Shulman.
  • The process will be relatively easy to implement without many of the hassles and frustrations common to efforts in this area.

Where should you begin

Fortunately, you do not have to start your work to describe faculty scholarship from scratch. To do this we build on two previous publications. The first, Recognizing Faculty Work, by Robert Diamond and Bronwyn Adam (1993), identifies six characteristics that typify scholarly work:

  • The activity requires a high level of discipline expertise.
  • The activity breaks new ground or is innovative.
  • The activity can be replicated and elaborated.
  • The work and its results can be documented.
  • The work and its results can be peer reviewed.
  • The activity has significance or impact.

In the second, Scholarship Assessed, Charles Glassick, Mary Taylor Huber and Gene Maeroff (1997), building on the earlier work of Earnest Boyer and Eugene Rice, suggest that six qualitative standards can be applied to scholarly work:

  • Clear Goals
  • Adequate preparation
  • Appropriate methods
  • Significant results
  • Effective presentation
  • Reflective critique

While there is some overlap between the two, the Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff work tends to focus on the process of scholarship, whereas Recognizing Faculty Work describes more the product of scholarly, professional or creative faculty work. It is a combination of these two aspects, process and product, that provides you with a framework on which you can start your effort to develop for your institution a practical and functional way of describing the scholarly work of faculty. (See Table 1.)

Table 1What Makes it Scholarship

An activity will be considered scholarly if it meets the following criteria:

  1. The activity or work requires a high level of discipline-related expertise.
  2. The activity or work is conducted in a scholarly manner with:
    1. · Clear goals
    2. · Adequate preparation
    3. · Appropriate methodology
  3. The activity or work and its results are appropriately documented and disseminated. This reporting should include a reflective component that addresses the significance of the work, the process that was followed, and the outcomes of the research, inquiry, or activity.
  4. The activity or work has significance beyond the individual context. It:
    1. · Breaks new ground
    2. · Can be replicated or elaborated.
  5. The activity or work, both process and product or results, is reviewed and judged to be meritorious and significant by a panel of the candidate’s peers.

It will be the responsibility of the candidate’s academic unit to determine if the activity or work itself falls within the priorities of the department, school/college, discipline, and institution. It will be the candidate’s responsibility to prove substantiation of the significance and quality of his or her work.

Based on Diamond, R.M. (2002). The mission-driven faculty reward system. in R.M. Diamond (Ed.) Field guide to academic leadership (p.280). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

It should be noted, that although this approach will be appropriate for the scholarly work of most faculty in most academic areas, additional statements may be required for some faculty in the creative and performing arts and for others assigned to some clinical or professional areas. In the creative arts, for example, we found that although the faculty involved most often followed scholarly process in developing a work of art, producing a play or writing a piece of music or novel, they rarely provided review committees with a description of the process they followed, any statement as to the product’s significance or information as to the importance of the work in the context of the discipline.

The approach we are suggesting has the potential of speeding up the change and implementation process, improving the result, while at the same time being fairer to the faculty, the institution, the academic unit and the discipline. The faculty reward system can at long last be in alignment with the mission and priorities of the institution, school/college and department.


Portions of this essay are based on materials in Preparing for Promotion, Tenure and Annual Review 2e(2004) by Robert M. Diamond Ph.D., Bolton, MA, Anker Publishing.