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Editor's Corner: The Scholarship of Extension and Engagement: What Does It Mean in the Promotion

May 2003, Vol. 8, No. 2
ISSN 1540 5273

Carol A. Schwab

Summary

A university dedicated to becoming an engaged institution must give academic rewards to faculty who participate in extension and engagement (E&E) activities. The reforms needed to adequately reward faculty for E&E activities will not occur unilaterally, but will require a collaborative effort among the faculty RPT candidates, extension administrators, and the RPT decision-makers. Faculty RPT candidates must document and submit their scholarly E&E accomplishments to review processes that are as rigorous, reliable, and consistent as the traditional review processes for scholarly research activities. Extension administrators must help identify, and if necessary create, procedures that provide appropriate reviews. Finally, RPT decision-makers must accept new yardsticks for measuring excellence in the different forms of scholarship.


Since the Kellogg Commission issued its report in 1999 on the engaged institution, universities have welcomed the concept of their faculty members working in partnership with outside constituencies. But, while universities are encouraging their faculties to become engaged with the community, faculty members are wondering how these efforts will be rewarded. Only two years before the Kellogg Commission's report, Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff (1997, 8) noted that

Many colleges and universities have been loath to bestow academic rewards on faculty members who concentrate on applying knowledge instead of discovering it. Such resistance to an enlarged vision of faculty work limits the services that college and university faculty provide by means of outreach and extension activities.

We believe institutions of higher education that fail to recognize the need for good teaching and for engagement in society are falling out of step with the expectations of parents, students, politicians, and the larger public, as well as with their own stated goals. Indeed, we hope that the voices now questioning the reward system will soon rise to a crescendo to argue for a better way of setting expectations for faculty.

As the concept of the engaged university gains prestige, will universities count extension and engagement (E&E) activities toward reappointment, promotion and tenure (RPT)? Or, will they treat E&E activities like service and administrative tasks and relegate them to full professors, non-tenure track faculty, and terminal associate professors? [1] It is noteworthy that many faculty members who are hired with extension appointments are frequently non-tenure track, and many who are on the tenure track do not attain the rank of full professor.

Promotion and tenure decisions, generally, are based upon the number of refereed journal publications, the number of competitive grant dollars, and the number of graduate students supported by the candidate's research. Using these rules of thumb, RPT becomes a numbers game, often valuing quantity over quality. Typical research activities are well suited to be judged by these criteria. Typical extension and engagement activities are not. Thus, faculty members who heed the call of their institutions to engage the community have little hope of being substantively rewarded until new yard sticks are found to measure the quality of extension and engagement activities.

Why do RPT decision-makers insist on using these rules of thumb? Perhaps because it is the way things have always been done. Perhaps because they are reluctant to acknowledge any scholarly activity other than the discovery of new knowledge. Perhaps because it is easy. The numbers game provides fairly reliable indicators of excellence to use in judging a candidate's credentials, particularly for people who have no expertise in the candidate's field of study. Because there are no universally recognized, established ways to measure excellence of other forms of scholarship, scholarly activities other than research are all too often ignored by RPT decision-makers because they have no easy way to judge the candidate's scholarship.

During the past several years, universities have struggled to define "the scholarship of extension and engagement." But, defining the activities that comprise this form of scholarship is only the first step. Until reliable yardsticks of excellence are identified, and accepted, RPT decision-makers will continue to "be loath to bestow academic rewards on faculty members who concentrate on applying knowledge instead of discovering it." (Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff 1997, 8).

In the mid-nineties, NC State addressed the issue of evaluating E&E activities (called extension and outreach activities at that time). NC State adopted Regulation 05.20.8 to assist faculty members in reporting E&E activities on their annual activity reports and for purposes of RPT. Regulation 05.20.8 defines E&E activities, describes evidence of excellence, and identifies mechanisms for evaluating E&E activities (NC State University 1994).[2] Unfortunately, few faculty members or administrators are familiar with this regulation, and thus, it has little impact on RPT decisions.

Even if RPT decision-makers were familiar with Regulation 05.20.8, it still may have little or no impact on RPT decisions because it falls short of providing reliable yardsticks of excellence. The burden of assessing excellence remains with the RPT decision-makers, many of whom, and perhaps all, may have little or no expertise in the candidate's field of study or with the scholarship of E&E. Understandably, they fall back on the old reliable numbers game because it provides an organized, formal assessment of a faculty member's scholarship by experts in the same field of study. Refereed journal articles and competitive grants have been evaluated by a panel of experts under controlled and consistent conditions. Thus, RPT decision-makers are comfortable judging an RPT candidate's dossier because others who are experts in the candidate's field of study have already made the difficult assessment of excellence.

Regulation 05.20.8 suggests two primary mechanisms for evaluating excellence of E&E activities, and while helpful, neither measures excellence with the same reliability or consistency of a refereed journal article or the award of a competitive grant.

The challenge to universities is to find mechanisms for evaluating E&E activities that provide the same reliability and consistency as the mechanisms for evaluating research activities.

This is not to suggest developing another set of criteria for judging the scholarship of extension and engagement. To do so runs the risk of creating (or perhaps reinforcing) a second class citizenship status for extension faculty. Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff (1997, 23-24) noted "evaluation that uses different standards for research, teaching, and professional service has outlived its day. Academia needs a single standard, but it cannot implement that standard simply by applying to other forms of scholarship the traditional criteria that have usually been used for judging research." They developed six standards that can be used to evaluate all forms of scholarship.

The Glassick standards were adopted by NC State as the standards by which to judge scholarship. Again, few faculty members or administrators are familiar with the Glassick standards or have a clear grasp of what they mean in the RPT process. Glassick and his colleagues identified these six standards as common elements in evaluating all forms of scholarship. A refereed journal article accepted for publication is likely to have been evaluated, consciously or unconsciously, using the Glassick standards. Likewise, competitive grants are awarded based upon proposals that follow these standards. The Glassick standards also easily lend themselves to evaluate E&E activities, such as program activity, relevance, and delivery.

Before the Glassick standards can have a meaningful impact on the RPT process for faculty members who engage in E&E activities, two goals must be achieved:

Significant steps have already been made to achieve the first goal. The National Review Board for the Scholarship of Engagement was created to review and evaluate the scholarship of engagement of faculty who are preparing for annual review or for promotion and tenure. On-line: http://www.scholarshipofengagement.org. The National Review Board uses a modified version of the Glassick standards to evaluate the scholarship of engagement. The complete text of the Glassick standards are set forth below, with the National Review Board's modifications shown in italics.

Glassick standards of scholarly work

Clear Goals

Adequate Preparation

Appropriate Methods

Significant Results

Effective Presentation

Reflective Critique

Few faculty members or administrators at NC State are familiar with the National Review Board for the Scholarship of Engagement. Educating faculty and administration about the Board's existence and taking advantage of its services, however, are exercises in futility if a university does not also achieve the second goal -- acceptance by RPT decision-makers that the identified reviewers and Review Boards are reliable sources for evaluating an excellent extension and engagement program. Recognition and acceptance of such evaluations are critical if a university is going to reward faculty members who engage in E&E activities. Recognition and acceptance must occur at all levels of the RPT process, from the departmental voting faculty to the chancellor.

The reforms needed to adequately reward faculty for E&E activities will not occur unilaterally, but will require a collaborative effort among the faculty RPT candidates, extension administrators, and the RPT decision-makers. Faculty RPT candidates must document and submit their scholarly E&E accomplishments to review processes that are as rigorous, reliable, and consistent as the traditional review processes for scholarly research activities.[3] Extension administrators must help identify, and if necessary create, procedures that provide appropriate reviews. Finally, RPT decision-makers must accept new yardsticks for measuring excellence in the different forms of scholarship.

To become an "engaged institution," a university must give academic rewards to faculty who engage in E&E activities. To do so requires an adjustment of old attitudes, a new vision of scholarship, and a willingness to accept new yardsticks to measure excellence. A good university that rewards excellence in all of its stated missions, instead of just one, can become a great university.

Footnotes
1. The term "terminal associate professor" is used to describe a faculty member who has achieved tenure but who has no realistic expectation of promotion to full professor, for reasons such as taking on substantial administrative responsibilities, or engaging in E&E activities in a department where they are not valued. [Return to text.]

2. Originally known as Appendix C in the Faculty Handbook, Regulation 05.20.8 describes the documentation related to outreach and extension that should be included in each faculty member's annual activity report to serve as the basis for evaluation. The categories, ranked in decreasing order of importance, are as follows (emphasis added).

Evidence of excellence in outreach and extension is defined in Regulation 05.20.8 as follows.

3. A discussion of how faculty RPT candidates can document their scholarly E&E accomplishments is beyond the scope of this editorial. To assist reviewers, faculty members who engage in E&E activities must develop a portfolio that illustrates the excellence of their scholarship and captures the significance of their accomplishments. Perhaps their greatest challenge will be finding mechanisms for evaluating individual efforts on a team. RPT is an individual sport -- it is not a team effort. Yet, collaboration is often a significant part of a successful E&E program. For RPT purposes, it is critical to identify faculty members who have made significant contributions to the team effort, as opposed to those who have benefited from the freeloader effect. [Return to text.]

The opinions and viewpoints expressed in this article are the opinions and viewpoints of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and viewpoints of the individuals and organizations who support FFCI.

References

Glassick, Charles E., Mary Taylor Huber, Gene I. Maeroff. 1997. Scholarship Assessed. Evaluation of the Professoriate. Jossey-Bass, Inc.:San Francisco, Calif.

Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities. 1999. Returning to our roots. The engaged institution. National Association of State Universities and Land-grant Colleges, Washington, D.C. On-line: http://www.nasulgc.org/publications/Kellogg/Kellogg1999_Engage.pdf

NC State University. 1994. Evaluation of Faculty Outreach and Extension. Employment EPA Reg. 05.20.8. On-line: http://www.ncsu.edu/policies/employment/EPA/REG715.00.5.php

Author

Carol A. Schwab, Editor of FFCI, Professor and Extension Specialist, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, NC State University. In 2000, Professor Schwab served on the Faculty Senate Select Committee on Reappointment, Promotion, and Tenure at NC State University. This committee reviewed the existing RPT guidelines at NC State University and recommended modifications to the process that were designed to give it consistency, clarity, and transparency. As a result, NC State adopted the Six Realms of Faculty Responsibility to recognize the value of all forms of scholarship. The Six Realms are: (1) teaching and mentoring of undergraduate students, (2) discovery of new knowledge through discipline-guided inquiry, (3) creative artistry and literature, (4) technological and managerial innovation, (5) extension and engagement with constituencies outside the university, and (6) service in professional societies and within the university itself. Professor Schwab also has served at NC State on the first three University Reappointment, Promotion, and Tenure Committees, 2000 - 2003.

Cite this article:

Schwab, Carol. 2003. Editor's Corner: The scholarship of extension and engagement: What does it mean in the promotion and tenure process? The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues 8(2).

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