Scholarship has been a core driver of my practice as an empowered educator for as long as I can remember. One of the earliest clearly defined influences on my career as an academic scholar was the late Pat Bailey from Laurentian University. She and Craig Duncan inspired me in the third year research courses. I entered the BScN program with the goal of being a Nursing Professor. Their enthusiasm for research, evidence-based approach to education and genuine care for their students made a lasting impression on me as a future educator. I strive to be as inspiring and passionate as they were. It is in their class that I knew I wanted to be a researcher. This passion for high-quality research translated well into my Masters at Laurentian and continues to fuel innovative and evidence-informed decision making in my daily practice. Students and faculty who know me will tell you that I am truly passionate about research and scholarship.

Defining Scholarship

Many definitions of scholarship exist. Honestly, the variety can be confusing sometimes. These definitions share a common thread: learning systematically and sharing findings publicly. (PS: I came up with this definition before watching the video in the extend module so it is encouraging to see that the experts in the video agreed.)

Some things that resonated with me from the module include:

The Purpose Drives the Methodology

I firmly believe that the research question or purpose needs to drive how it is answered. One statement that caught my attention was questioning how one decides on their methodology. I agree that expertise should play a role in how we determine what questions we will ask. However, we should not shy away from asking questions that we need to learn how to answer. When possible collaboration with people that complement your areas of expertise actually helps to grow your skills as a researcher. Refining the question so it is feasible is important. It is also critical that how it is being answered is congruent with the question. It really bothers me when I see people trying to use incongruent data to “prove” a point. Before even trying to answer a question a lot of thought needs to be put into the data being gathered. Will you get the kind of data you need to answer your question? If you don’t have the skills or resources to answer the question you wanted to – consider what component of that question you may be able to answer and start small. The video below expands on the need for a congruent and pragmatic research question.

This video is about constructing a clear purpose statement for a research study.

Impact is Important

Scholarly activities need to have an impact. I 100% agree. For educators it all comes back to the impact on student learning. Constantly gathering data and listening to student voices is important even in refining the formal question. There is often a fine line between gathering data for quality improvement purposes and public scholarship. I believe that starting with informal quality improvement helps to make sure we as researchers do not waste our time investigating something that makes no difference on student learning. Having said that, I also think that finding out that something we thought made a difference in our teaching actually is a waste of time is incredibly valuable. Constantly questioning the impact of what we do is important if we are going to improve the learning experience of students in our classes.

Common Language

Sometimes when people are talking about research and scholarship I am not sure if we share a common understanding of what that actually is. It is important that we accept diverse forms of scholarship, but also that we use the right terms to describe the activities we are engaged in. Transparency is important for people who are trying to make evidence-informed decisions about changing their practice.

Having a common framework is important for communication of different types of scholarship that we engage in. In my practice I use a definition informed by our accrediting body: The Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (2013). In the second part of this post I will organize scholarly activities that I am engaging in or plan to engage in according to Boyer’s model (Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, 2013). By organizing my work in this way it will help my department demonstrate how faculty are involved in these different domains of scholarship. Although I talk a lot about research, it is only one form of scholarship. It is important to remember that there are many forms of scholarship.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Where Do Scholarly Activities Fit?

Professional development opportunities may not be clearly classified as scholarship in Boyer’s model, but they are where a lot of my ideas are generated. Conversations at these events fuel collaborative innovation and inform scholarly activities. I am not 100% sure how I feel about the failure to include active engagement at a conference as scholarship. I could argue that said engagement meets the criteria of being public, critiqued, and disseminated but I know many would disagree. Perhaps there is a need to tweet or blog about these experiences to meet the criteria of dissemination. However, even conversations are disseminated to a small audience. Where does active engagement at conferences or in the Cambrian Teaching and Learning Innovation Hub fall?

Stay Tuned …

Sharing how scholarship informs my practice is not a small task. I have had time blocked in my calendar to complete this post since October. Every week it gets moved due to more pressing demands on my time. It is ironic to me that this badge will be the last one from the Ontario Extend set that I apply for. Maybe, like always, it is because I have big dreams for this blog post. For me, it is not enough to go through the motions and check things from a list to get this badge. I need this activity to be valuable, so I am going to use it to rework the scholarship section of my website, which is outdated. It has been about a year since I looked at it.


NurseKillam

Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit http://nursekillam.com/.

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