Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

Sabbaticals for Counselor Educators: Purposes, Benefits, and Outcomes. (Professional Development)

Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

Sabbaticals for Counselor Educators: Purposes, Benefits, and Outcomes. (Professional Development)

Article excerpt

The authors investigated the purposes, benefits, and outcomes of sabbaticals for counselor educators. Forty-five counselor educators who had taken sabbaticals within the previous 5 years completed an on-line survey about aspects of their sabbatical leave. Sabbaticals were overwhelmingly reported to be positive and productive experiences that yielded personal and professional benefits.


One aspect of working in academia, particularly for faculty members, has been the opportunity to take a sabbatical leave every few years. The concept of the sabbatical has its roots in the Old Testament prescription for a sabbatical year (or year of rest) every 7th year; the word sabbatical derives from the Hebrew Shenath shabbathon or year of rest (Bechtel, 1912). Sabbaticals were first introduced at Harvard in 1880 (Miller & Kang, 1997) and since then have become an integral part of higher education in the United States. A 1982 study by Anderson and Atelsek found that these types of leaves were offered by nearly all U.S. universities, more than 80% of 4-year colleges, and 60% of 2-year colleges. Despite the long tradition of sabbaticals in academia, studies on sabbatical leaves have been limited, with most refereed publications appearing in the higher education literature. Because very few studies of sabbaticals exist and because of the lack of attention to this topic in counselor education, we decided to investigate the purposes, benefits, and outcomes of sabbaticals, using a national sample of counselor educators.

In higher education, sabbaticals are commonly defined as "paid leaves of absence for a faculty member ... for personal and professional improvement or development ... [typically lasting] either a half-year with full compensation or a full academic year with somewhat reduced compensation" (Miller & Kang, 1997, p. 11). Viewing the sabbatical from its historical origins, Sima and Denton (1995) concluded that increasing scholarly productivity has been the primary purpose of sabbaticals. More recently, the definition of sabbatical has been broadened to include opportunities for "personal and professional development with the assumption that the value of the faculty member will be enhanced through the experience" (Sima & Denton, 1995, p. 8). Thus, sabbaticals serve as a reward for faculty members who have accomplished tenure and given good service to the university as well as a way to create incentive, motivate, energize, and improve faculty performance (Baldwin & Krotseng, 1985).

Sabbaticals are one type of released time provided to faculty members to relieve them of specific responsibilities so that they can concentrate time and energies in one or more areas, typically in the categories of scholarship, teaching, or service. A unique feature of sabbaticals is that they usually are characterized by a complete disengagement from regular university responsibilities. The term research leave may also be used to describe experiences (typically research focused) similar to sabbaticals. For our study, research leave and sabbatical leave were considered to be essentially the same.

Although sabbatical leaves most often are described in terms of benefits to faculty members, eligibility requirements for sabbatical leaves are determined by universities and colleges. An administrative definition of a sabbatical includes a leave of absence with full or partial compensation following a specific minimum number of years of consecutive service at one institution (Good, 1959). University policies typically require formal application and approval for the sabbatical, at least I year of service at the institution following the sabbatical, and a report on sabbatical accomplishments (Zahorski, 1994).

The rationale for the need for sabbatical leaves as an important part of academic life is stated well in the sabbatical leave policy of the University of New Brunswick (n. …

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