Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Scholar Development: A Conceptual Guide for Outreach and Teaching 1

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Scholar Development: A Conceptual Guide for Outreach and Teaching 1

Article excerpt

Introduction

Graduate education draws heavily on an apprenticeship model of adult learning which views the graduate student experience as a process of professional socialization into academia (Buck et al., 2006; Christ-odoulou et al., 2009; Collins, 2011; Crone et al., 2011). Preparation for entry into scholarly professional communities is facilitated through authentic experience with all aspects of future work, including outreach, teaching and research for developing university faculty (Austin, 2002). Within the process of socialization into academia it is likely that different programs of study will place varying degrees of emphasis on the outreach and teaching aspects of the authentic experience process (Blickenstaff et al., 2015). While it is likely that the competencies associated with outreach and teaching will be valued by faculty guiding the scholarly development of graduate students, it is commonly the case that those aspects receive less attention and are outside of the guiding faculty's primary skillset (Smith et al., 2014). Currently, there is a dearth of literature that describes or assesses the design or implementation of an outreach program geared towards assisting graduate students to develop outreach and teaching competencies through an experiential learning process. It will be useful, therefore, to offer a conceptual description of how an outreach program could be utilized to build the outreach and teaching knowledge and skills of graduate students through just-in-time instruction and authentic outreach experience.

Just as the public has become increasingly more disconnected from agriculture, its connection to science seems to be thinning as well. It is critical that budding faculty scholars build outreach and teaching competencies so that they can effectively and efficiently share new knowledge in ways that are conducive for building the public's understanding and support for science (Blickenstaff et al., 2015). In fact, as Wellnitz et al. (2002) point out, programs of study should help graduate students recognize that part of their professional practice will include communicating to people outside of the science and academic enterprise system their understandings, discoveries and new directions for inquiry. As an extension, it then follows that, graduate students should be engaged in outreach and teaching experiences with the hope of instilling within them competencies such as effective cooperation, communication and pedagogical expertise early in their budding careers (Bruce et al., 1997; Burrows et al., 2009; Collins, 2011; Crone et al., 2011; Montano, 2012; Nilsen, 2013).

However, one of the central challenges for science based graduate programs of study is authoring and enacting experiential opportunities which guide graduate students through a process of constructing understandings and meanings around high quality outreach and teaching. Further, if authentic guided experience doing science serves to build the research and scientific problem solving capacity of graduate students, then authentic experiences with communicating and teaching about science are critical for developing their thinking about and ability to enact high quality outreach and teaching. When working to engage graduate students in a process of developing their outreach and teaching abilities, there is merit in working with faculty and resource persons with expertise in those areas (Smith et al., 2014; Stedman and Adams, 2012). Faculty with expertise in teaching and learning can be engaged in order to help graduate programs of study design and enact efficient pathways that can guide graduate students through an experiential process of developing their outreach and teaching abilities. It is the expert guidance from knowledgeable teaching and learning faculty and resource persons and the time to engage in actual practice, just as in learning about the process of science, that can help graduate students construct a deeper understanding of goal setting, instructional planning, and assessment through ongoing expert feedback and self-reflection (Fenwick, 2003; Kolb, 1984). …

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