At this past Wednesday's workshop of the Dewey Society's Commission on Social Issues, A.G. Rud (Purdue University, and editor of the Dewey Society's scholarly journal Education and Culture) brought our attention to recent work on 'the scholarship of engagement'. This notion owes its recent popularity and prestige to the work of Ernest Boyer and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
In Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate (New York: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990) Boyer argued for a broad understanding of scholarship. He offered ways of balancing four general areas of scholarship: discovery, integration of knowledge, teaching, and service.
As Boyer explained in "The scholarship of engagement" in the Journal of Public Outreach 1,1,11-20, 1996), this kind of scholarship fits primarily into the service category; professors draw upon their own discoveries and syntheses of knowledge, as well as those of their peers, in addressing community issues.
In the Commission's Workshop we discussed the problem of providing incentives for members of the Dewey Society to join in working on the Society's explicit social engagement mission. We agreed that one way would be to frame up their contributions (for example, White Papers on Issues) as 'proper' scholarship subject to peer review.
It turns out that we were re-inventing the wheel! The National Review Board for the Scholarship of Engagement exists to assist colleges and universities in providing peer review and quality assessment of engaged scholarship for tenure and promotion decisions. Universities have to request this service from the National Review Board in a timely fashion, and the Board will locate appropriate peer reviewers and provide them with guidelines for evaluation.
Purdue has actively embraced the engagement mission. It would be great to see every prestigious institution of higher education do this as well. Speak to your department chairs and deans, and ask them to make the case for this sort of scholarship with the provosts, presidents and trustees. The guidelines and services of the National Board eliminate many of the clouds of uncertainty surrounding this practice.
The Review Board can be found at http://schoe.coe.uga.edu
and a very good bibliography on the scholarship of engagement is presented at: