Author: Sam Angima, Extension Ag Program Leader –
Editor’s Note: Sam Angima shared with me his Scholarship of Engagement Summary, written January 25, 2016, and agreed to let me post it in its entirety on the O&E blog. As Communications and Marketing Manager for University Outreach and Engagement, I am immersing myself in community engagement information to gain a comprehensive understanding of what it is, the role it plays at OSU and other land-grant universities, and how OSU delivers on its outreach and engagement promise.
Sam’s summary clarified my understanding. Because engaged scholarship is integral to the work of the Division and the university, it is worth sharing with you. Thank you, Sam! [The emphasis is mine.]
Ann Marie Murphy, Communications & Marketing Manager, University Outreach and Engagement
Scholarship of Engagement Summary
Scholarship is all about creating, synthesizing, and apply knowledge to address community issues. Scholarship of engagement (also known as engaged scholarship) is as rigorous as traditional academic work, but it cuts across the categories of academic scholarship and outreach in a reciprocal, collaborative relationship with the public or a specific interest group or community. The scholarship of engagement incorporates reciprocal practices of civic engagement into the production of knowledge. Through instruction, discovery, and outreach, educators communicate and work with communities. This approach encourages public participation in the production of scholarship and creates scholarship that addresses public issues.
Here are different ways of looking at scholarship of engagement:
- It broadens access to information. The scholarship of engagement is a challenge to mainstream academic scholarship, which tends to favor specialization of academic knowledge into discrete disciplines, each of which produces highly complex and technical knowledge that is not effectively communicated to the public. Service learning and experiential learning are two well-known practices that incorporate civic involvement in teaching because they emphasize scholarship rather than just learning. These two practices as well as outreach and Extension work incorporate community involvement.
- It enhances research. By working with communities in the research process, engaged scholars can generate research questions, widen the field of potential data sources, and test findings as well as (and sometimes better than) colleagues practicing traditional academic work. Engagement requires not only communication to public audiences, but also collaboration with these communities in the production of knowledge. Instead of seeing the public as passive recipients of expert knowledge, engaged scholarship stresses that the public can contribute to knowledge creation.
- It’s integrated. Community engagement is not just charity or volunteer activities that educators do on their own time in addition to their work. Rather, collaboration with the public should constitute scholarly practices. These reciprocal and collaborative elements should be explicitly and consciously cultivated in the scholarship of engagement.
Engagement, especially for Extension educators, is easily recognized in many routine, ongoing practices and programs. The challenge is to be deliberate and intentional about developing a greater sense of rigor and clarity in the production of knowledge through engaged scholarship.
Here are some areas in which Extension educators can exemplify engaged scholarship:
- Public scholarship is academic work that incorporates deliberative practices such as forums and town meetings to enhance scholarship and address public problems. Public scholarship generally emphasizes deliberation over participation. An example is an open forum held to address an issue of wide concern to the community, such as regional development, environmental health, or race relations. This approach is used in situations where the public good is not well understood. By aggregating preexisting interests, solutions are generated through collective knowledge and action. Deliberative practices enable participants to gain a greater understanding of the complexity of public problems as they benefit from encounters with fellow citizens, professionals, and scholars. At the same time, public scholarship practices can help scholars generate new research questions, verify hypotheses, and generalize conclusions as knowledge is produced in the course of deliberation.
- Participatory research (participatory action research) stresses the active role members of communities can play in the production of knowledge. The emphasis here is on participation rather than deliberation. Participatory research tends to respond to problems of exclusion by reaching out to marginalized or previously excluded groups. An example is where an oppressed group of people or a community identifies a problem, collects information, analyzes, and acts upon the problem to solve it—therefore promoting public transformation. The educator’s role is to be a convener and trusted entity who can oversee the processes while developing scholarship that can be shared with others.
- Community partnerships, where partners are engaged as equals, tend to focus on power, resources, and social transformations. Community partnerships do not have to operate through deliberative forums or other direct contact with the public. Instead, scholars typically engage through contact with public agencies, local schools, activist groups, and community organizations. Engaged scholarship developed through this process helps strengthen the community as well as partners’ relationships with Extension and the university.
- Public information networks help communities identify resources and assets by providing comprehensive databases of locally available services. Although development of these networks is not as deliberative as other forms of engaged scholarship, the creation, maintenance and use always involves engagement with groups who are not fully aware of available resources. This is often due to a lack of organization or communication. Extension educators realize the importance of accessing and contributing to these networks.
- Civic literacy (civic skills) enables communities to make educated and informed decisions. Through teaching, research, and outreach, engaged scholars help enhance community processes by ensuring that their academic disciplines are providing the public with the knowledge necessary for reflective judgements on public issues and problems. This approach deepens engagement with the specific aim of reducing the separation between experts and the lay public. It also emphasizes skills that facilitate participation and democratic decision-making. Civic literacy approaches focus on relatively broad and long-term trends in public knowledge rather than specific, immediate problems.
“Outreach and engagement is that aspect of teaching that enables learning beyond the campus walls, research that makes what we discover useful beyond the academic community, and service that directly benefits the public.” – Ohio State University
Barker, D. (2004). The scholarship of engagement: A taxonomy of five emerging practices. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 9(2), 122-137.
Alter, T. R. (2003, December). “Where is Extension Scholarship Falling Short and What Can We Do about it?” Journal of Extension, 41(6).