Academic journal article SRA Journal

Faculty Attitudes toward Involvement in Grant-Related Activities at a Predominantly Undergraduate Institution (PUI)

Academic journal article SRA Journal

Faculty Attitudes toward Involvement in Grant-Related Activities at a Predominantly Undergraduate Institution (PUI)

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND

Research and Its Role in Higher Education

Academic disciplines use different terms to describe "those professional activities that contribute to our knowledge, or that lead to the creation of new understandings or experiences that alter our perspective on the human condition" (Williams, 1995, p.1). The traditional term used exclusively by large research/PhD granting institutions and within the fields of science and engineering is "research;" in other disciplines these professional endeavors are more generally referred to as "scholarship," "creative activities," or "applied research."

Ernest Boyer, in his 1990 book Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professorate, presented a compelling argument for institutions of higher education to expand their definition of research to "encompass activities that go far beyond traditional expectations of scientific research and publication in peer reviewed journals" (Williams, 1995, p.1). Master's (comprehensive) universities and colleges (Level I) generally have heeded this message. At these institutions, research is more broadly defined and includes not only the scholarship of discovery, but also integrative interdisciplinary activities, application (problem-solving) activities, and teaching activities.

As institutions of higher education have begun to redefine their missions and goals, the roles and responsibilities of college and university faculty members have also begun to change. Scholars have offered differing opinions on the direction that this change should take.

For example, in discussing the major forces causing change in our institutions and the resulting implications for changing faculty roles, Astin and Chang (1995) emphasized the need to pay more attention to the quality of teaching and to undergraduate learning. However, in an article published earlier that same year, Plater (1995) strongly advocated for continued faculty involvement in research as the primary force for strengthening and enhancing student learning and for the continued improvement of humankind through increased knowledge and understanding.

Plater (1995) listed four characteristics of the evolving role of research and its place in the academy:

1. Research will be widely recognized and accepted as a necessary part of student learning; the time faculty allocate to research will be guided by this standard.

2. Research will become more applied, focused, and tied to the mission of the institution instead of the discretion of individual faculty.

3. Research will become increasingly interdisciplinary.

4. Research increasingly will involve collaboration with the private sector with faculty time being purchased by external sponsors.

The Teaching/Research Balance

At large research institutions, teaching loads are generally lower, and faculty must engage in research and other scholarly activities to receive tenure and promotion. At PUIs, teaching is viewed as the primary mission of the faculty. While the instructional role of professors at research universities is subordinate to research, Williams (1995) concluded that the latter has been underdeveloped at master's (comprehensive) institutions (Level I).

Some authors have looked for ways to bridge the division between research and teaching. Rauckhorst (1988) noted that, although in the short run research can detract from teaching excellence because of the initial time and energy required, in the end faculty involvement in research or creative activities can have a direct and positive impact on the quality (substance) of teaching. Rauckhorst's observation suggests that a comprehensive evaluation of faculty teaching should consider both process (instruction) and substance (content).

In 1992, Owen articulated the link between teaching and research and moved the debate to the next level:

If research, the scholarly and systematic search for new and the testing of existing knowledge, and teaching; the systematic dissemination of knowledge, are two sides of one coin, the debate should not focus on whether faculty at small universities should participate in research, but on how to maintain and build up the research enterprise at small universities (p. …

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