The Value System of a University - Rethinking Scholarship

Conrad J. Weiser

College of Agricultural Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.

Revised promotion and tenure criteria that evolved from extensive faculty deliberations were adopted recently by a research-oriented state university. Scholarship was defined as creative intellectual work that is validated by peers and communicated. Discovery, development, integration, and artistry were each identified as forms of scholarship. This definition provides opportunity for creative scholarly achievement across a university's missions and functions and provides common conceptual ground for evaluating scholarly achievement across the sciences, arts, and technologies. It also affirms that scholarship takes place throughout society - not just at universities. Changes in promotion and tenure criteria at universities are rare. The process and outcomes described here may be relevant to other institutions.
Many universities are re-examining their values as public confidence in and support for higher education ha waned. A university's values are most clearly described by its promotion and tenure policies, and by the criteria used to evaluate faculty performance. In American universities all professors are expected to engage in scholarship, and each is also expected to perform other responsibilities assigned to his or her position. These assigned responsibilities typically include specific teaching, research, advising, extension, or administrative assignments.

The balance of emphasis between scholarship and other assigned duties varies from one faculty position to another - ranging from faculty whose primary responsibility is to engage in scholarship, to faculty with extensive assigned duties who devote a limited but significant effort to scholarly achievement.

All faculty members are also encouraged to provide service relevant to their assignment and of value to their institution or profession, but tenure and promotion decisions are typically based on evidence of significant scholarly contributions and effective performance of assigned duties - not on outstanding service. Scholarship and performance of assigned duties are valued highly at most universities, and faculty members are denied tenure if accomplishment is inadequate in either area. Excellence, not adequacy, is the performance goal for university faculties.

Oregon State University is a research-oriented Land Grant university, designated as a Research University I by the Carnegie Foundation. The University has three primary missions and its faculty members have three fundamental responsibilities as shown.

University Missions Faculty Member Responsibilities
assigned duties scholarship service
Extended Education
(Specific duties and the balance of effort among these three areas of responsibility are described for each faculty position.)

FIG. 1. The relationship between University missions and faculty responsibilities.

Effective organizations routinely develop systems for evaluating and rewarding employee performance as it relates to institutional missions. In universities, evaluating a faculty member's scholarly contributions and assessing how well he or she has performed the specific duties assigned to the position seems simple and straightforward. Unfortunately it is often neither, in part because: Discussions are underway at many American universities seeking ways to improve evaluations of faculty and promotion and tenure processes. These discussions are prompted, in part, by the limitations mentioned above, but also by growing public dissatisfaction and distrust of universities' values, which are perceived to be: The effectiveness of universities' education and research programs, faculty morale, and public confidence will likely be enhanced as universities refine and clearly articulate their fundamental values, and identify criteria for evaluating faculty achievement that are congruent with those values.

The late Ernest L. Boyer's 1990 book Scholarship Reconsidered--Priorities of the Professoriate**superscript 1** stimulated much of the discussion of scholarship currently taking place within universities and scholarly and scientific societies. In his book, and in frequent public talks, Dr. Boyer made an eloquent case for valuing teaching more highly in assessing faculty performance. He posed the question "Is it possible to define the work of faculty in ways that reflect more realistically the full range of academic and civic mandates?" He answered the question by proposing "that the work of the professoriate might be thought of as having four separate, yet overlapping, functions. These are: the scholarship of discovery; the scholarship of integration; the scholarship of application; and the scholarship of teaching."

At Oregon State University, Boyer's book Scholarship Reconsidered provided the impetus for discussion by a faculty discussion group in the College of Agricultural Sciences whose primary assignments included teaching, research, extension, and international programs. Their objectives were to develop a collective understanding of what scholarship implies, and to describe the nature of scholarship at a university in concise terms that would be understood by faculty in all disciplines, and by nonacademics as well.

In the course of a year this faculty group defined scholarship simply: scholarship creates something new that is validated and communicated. They described five forms of scholarship which were similar to the four proposed by Boyer, except that creative artistry was added as a fifth form of scholarship, and learning was added to describe the scholarship of teaching and learning. Fig. 2 illustrates the format used to describe scholarship in a matrix that fits on a single sheet of paper. This definition and these concepts were subsequently improved upon, as described later.

Forms of Scholarship

Scholarship creates something that did not exist before that is validated and communicated to others: new understanding in the minds of students, new knowledge about ourselves and our universe, new beauty that stimulates the senses, new insights, and new technologies and applications of knowledge that can benefit humankind.
    Teaching and Learning Discovery Artistic Creativity Integration Application
Nature of the Scholarship
With learners, develops and communicates new understanding and insights; develops and refines new teaching content and methods; fosters lifelong learning behavior.
Generated and communicates new knowledge and understanding; develops and refines methods.
Interprets the human spirit, creates and communicates new insights and beauty; develops and refines methods.
Synthesizes and communicates new or different understandings of knowledge or technology and its relevance; develops and refines methods.
Develops and communicates new technologies, materials or uses; fosters inquiry ad invention; develops and refines new methods.
Primary audiences for scholarship
Educator peers.
Supporters of research; Educators; Students; Publics.
Various publics;
Peers; Patrons; Students.
Educators; Students; Peers.
Customers; Educators; Peers.
Primary means of communicating scholarship
Teaching materials and methods; Classes; Curricula; Publications and presentations to educator peers and broader publics.
Peer-reviewed publications and presentations; Patents; Public reports and presentations.
Shows, performances and distribution of products, reviews, news reports; copyrights; peer presentations and juries, publications.
Presentations, publications, demonstrations, and patents.
Demonstrations and presentations to audiences; Patents; Publications for users; Periodicals and reports; Peer presentations and publications.
Primary criteria for validating scholarship
Originality and significance of new contributions to learning; depth, duration and usefulness of what is learned; lifelong benefits to learners and adoption by peers.
Originality, scope, and significance of new knowledge; applicability and benefits to society.
Beauty, originally, impact, and duration of public value; scope and persistence of influence and public appreciation.
Usefulness and originality of new or different understandings, applications, and insights.
Breadth, value, and persistence of use and impact.
How scholarship is documented
Teaching portfolio: summaries of primary new contributions, impacts on students and learning; acceptance and adoption by peers; evidence of leadership and team contributions.
Summaries of primary contributions, significance and impact in advancing knowledge, new methods, public benefits; communication and validation by peers; evidence of leadership and team contributions.
Summaries of primary contributions, public interest, and impact; communication to publics, peer recognition and adoption; evidence of leadership and team contributions.
Summaries of primary contributions, communication to users, scope of adoption and application, impact and benefits; acceptance and adoption by peers; evidence of leadership and team contribution.
Summaries of primary contributions, communication to users, significance and scope of use and benefits; commercial and social value; acceptance and adoption by peers; evidence of leadership and team contributions.
C.J. Weiser College of Agricultural Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis February 3, 1994

FIG. 2. Forms of scholarship matrix.

Prior to University-wide deliberations, five iterations of discussion and review were focused on completing the cells in this matrix to characterize various forms of scholarship. Subsequent evolution of the matrix into a simpler definition and description of scholarship emphasizes similarities among various forms of scholarship (Fig.3).

The definition and description of scholarship provided the basis for widespread faculty discussion at Oregon State University beginning in the College of Agricultural Sciences. These discussions resulted in five cycles of review and revision of the Forms of Scholarship matrix (Fig. 2). The matrix format provided a useful initial focus for discussion of the several forms of scholarship. As discussions progressed, however, the taxonomy tended to focus discussion on differences among forms of scholarship rather than on unifying characteristics of all types of scholarship. Over a two-year period the faculty discussions in the College evolved into: During this period of discussion and revision the deans of all other colleges also participated in describing and defining scholarship, and in recommending University-wide consideration.

Faculty understanding and acceptance of this concept of scholarship were remarkably widespread and enthusiastic. Faculty members and college deans who considered the matter were very comfortable and with the simple definition of scholarship proposed, and with the idea that discovery, application, integration, and creative artistry are fundamental forms of scholarship. An issue that troubled a substantial number of faculty was the inclusion of teaching as a form of scholarship. Faculty members who expressed the greatest reservations included many effective teachers in agriculture, faculty members in education, and in departments such as English and Chemistry that have substantial undergraduate teaching responsibilities. Subsequent university-wide adoption of an improved definition and description of scholarship resolved these reservations by considering teaching, research, and extended education as vital university missions and activities - not forms of scholarship.

Some faculty members were concerned that defining scholarship and identifying discovery, development, integration, and artistry as forms of scholarship somehow lowered standards and diminished the value placed on research. Most faculty members, including distinguished researchers, understood that standards of performance were likely being raised rather than lowered, and that research would continue to be highly valued by the University. In a similar vein, one person expressed concern during a Faculty Senate discussion that recognition of faculty contributions to collaborative team efforts somehow diminish the importance and value place on individual achievements. These examples of zero-sum game thinking were relatively rare.

The scholarship definition and promotion and tenure policies adopted by the College were subsequently considered by and Extended Education Transition Committee appointed and chaired by the Provost. The committee's assignment was to advise the President on implementation of a major new initiative that reaffirmed extended education as the University's third mission**superscript 2**. This initiative required each college and department to develop and extended education plan for delivering educational programs beyond campus. In addition, extension faculty (agents and specialists) are now tenured in colleges and departments rather than in Cooperative Extension, as was previously the case.

The Extended Education Transition Committee reviewed, refined, and endorsed the College's promotion and tenure policies which were viewed as supportive of the University's extended education mission, and of the tenuring of extension faculty members in academic colleges and departments. The Committee recommended University-wide consideration of these policies. In response, the Provost appointed a Faculty Senate Committee to review and propose revisions, if appropriate, in University Promotion and Tenure Guidelines.

A campus-wide Faculty Senate committee devoted a year to intensive, almost weekly meetings to develop revisions in the guidelines. Revised guidelines were presented to and approved unanimously by the Faculty Senate as a whole, and officially adopted by the university president in June 1995. The revised guidelines drew from concepts developed initially by the College of Agricultural Sciences and the Extended Education Transition Committee, but the Faculty Senate committee improved on several points including a definition of scholarship that does not propose teaching as a form of scholarship.

Specifically, Oregon State University's new promotion and tenure guidelines define scholarship more broadly, recognize the value of team efforts, and require that position descriptions provide the basis for evaluating faculty performance. The new guidelines**superscript 3** have eliminated need for separate supplemental promotion and tenure guidelines previously used in library and information services, extension, international development, veterinary medicine, and several other specialized areas. The new guidelines also helped alleviate concerns of extension faculty who wondered whether their work and creative scholarly achievements would be understood and valued by teaching and research colleagues in academic departments.

Key elements of newly adopted Oregon State University promotion and tenure guidelines, as interpreted and modified by the author, including the following:

The definition of scholarship developed and adopted by Oregon State University (OSU) differs from that proposed by Ernest Boyer. Specifically, Boyer described characteristics of scholarship, but did not define scholarship per se. He proposed "four separate but overlapping functions" of the professoriate as: "the scholarship of discovery; the scholarship of integration; the scholarship of application; and the scholarship of teaching." In proposing these four functions as forms of scholarship Boyer in effect classified virtually all important faculty activities as scholarship.

In contrast the OSU guidelines consider that a university, and it faculty, performs essential and valuable activities that are not scholarship. Scholarship is considered to be creative intellectual work that is validated by peers and communicated including: discovery of new knowledge; development of new technologies, methods, materials, or uses; integration of knowledge leading to new understandings; and artistry that creates new insights and understandings. Fig. 3 illustrates the nature of scholarship as described here.

The Nature of Scholarship Scholarship is creative intellectual work that is validated by peers and communicated. Forms of scholarship include discovery, development, integration and artistry.
Forms Discovery Development Integration Artistry
Character of scholarship Generates, synthesizes, interprets and communicates new knowledge, methods, understandings, technologies, materials, uses, insights, beauty...
Audiences for scholarship Peers, students, users, patrons, publics...
Means of communicating scholarship Publications, presentations, exhibits, performances, patents, copyrights, distributions of materials or programs...
Criteria for validating scholarship Accuracy, replicability, originality, scope, significance, breadth; depth and duration of influence, impact or public benefit...
Means of documenting scholarship Present evidence that creative intellectual work was validated by peers; communicated to peers and broader audiences; recognized, accepted, cited, adopted or used by others; ...that it made a difference.

FIG. 3. The nature of scholarship.

This description of scholarship does not assume that most activities engaged in or originated by faculty are scholarship in and of themselves. It recognizes, in fact, that scholarship can be carried out by knowledgeable creative people throughout society - not only be university faculty. It emphasizes the importance of ensuring validity, and of communicating to broader audiences to ensure that results of scholarship will be accessible and useful to others. Recognition of creative intellectual work in the arts, sciences and technologies as scholarship emphasizes similarities in scholarly achievement across disciplines. Nonacademics who have reviewed and discussed the new OSU guidelines understand and value this concept of scholarship.

The OSU and Boyer approaches are similar in that both achieve tha aim of broadening the view of scholarship beyond research, and both articulate, advocate, and provide a mechanism for recognition of scholarship areas such as teaching, learning, and education. Boyer does so by proposing that teaching is scholarship. The OSU model does so by recognizing that scholarship in teaching can occur in the areas of discovery, development, integration, or artistry - whenever creative intellectual work in teaching is validated by peers and communicated.

Ingredients that contributed to achieving these changes at OSU were: ann institutional atmosphere that encouraged change at a time the University was experiencing budget cuts and reaffirming its primary missions; Ernest Boyer's Scholarship Reconsidered that provided a starting point for deliberation; a sequence of open, thoughtful, and thought-provoking discussions that were faculty-driven and administratively supported; faculty champions who provided continuing responsiveness and advocacy; and adequate time and opportunity for faculty across the campus to understand and help shape the new guidelines as they evolved.

The process at OSU that led to adoption of new promotion and tenure guidelines, and the new concepts about scholarships and faculty performance that crystallized out of those faculty deliberations may prove useful to others. Responses to these concepts by faculty in various disciplines from several universities suggests that faculty members are far more inclined to view scholarship more broadly than is generally recognized.
1.   Ernest L. Boyer. Scholarship Reconsidered, Priorities of the Professoriate. A special report. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Princeton, New Jersey, pp 1-147 (1990.
2.   Emery N. Castle. On the University's Third Mission: Extended Education, Report to the President of Oregon State University on the placement of the OSU Extension Service within the University, and including Statement of Decisions by President John V. Byrne (June 1993). Copies available from Office of the Director, OSU Extension Service, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.
3.   Promotion and Tenure Guidelines, Oregon State University. (June 1995). Copies available from the Office of the Provost, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.


The author thanks the faculty of Oregon State University for their vision and good ideas; Gwil Evans for his advice, editorial insight; Ernest Boyer for his critique and encouragement; Michael Oriard for his effective chairmanship of the Faculty Senate Committee; and Provost Roy Arnold and President John Byrne for their leadership.