By Dr. Matasha Murrell Jones
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Public University
In November 2018, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) conference. AARE accepted a symposium submission that included my work on societal needs and scholarship.
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There is much emphasis in higher education on scholarship and research. Many times, however, the research and concepts learned in the classroom are not directly aligned to the changing needs of society.
The purpose of my project was to gain insight into best practices that educators can use in higher education to move from simply researching to applying critical thinking to analysis of content. It also included application in the real world, specifically in relation to the changing needs of society.
Ensuring Education Matches the Needs of a Changing Society
Society constantly experiences ever-changing trends and catalysts to change. According to an article written by Spanish educator Juliana Raffaghelli, social sciences as well as educational research results assist with understanding and addressing changing societal conditions and problems.
Unfortunately, data availability does not always keep up with the pace of societal change and trends. This lack of data hinders the application of scholarship and research to efficiently assist with societal needs. Australian educators Malcolm Wolski and Joanna Richardson note that specialists in diverse disciplines have examined the role of research and innovation as society is challenged with increasingly complex issues.
Ernest L. Boyer’s scholarship model has shifted the approach of scholarship of one from research to publication to one of research to application in society. This model of scholarship expands the idea of scholarship to an expanded concept beyond the traditional constraints.
In addition, Boyer’s model explores the scholarship of discovery, integration, application and teaching. The Engaged Scholarship Model combines Boyer’s model and the UniSCOPE model for scholarship to create a model with an emphasis on engagement. This is a holistic model of scholarship.
The Value of Engaged Scholarship
American educator Nancy Franz says that the work of the scholar should be engaging not only to the individual, but to society at large. Engaged scholarship emphasizes social justice and citizenship values, according to instructors Marianne Beaulieu, Mylaine Breton and Astrid Brousselle.
Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship writer Sharon Paynter observes that engaged scholarship promotes the engagement of researchers from diverse disciplines and communities collaborating to solve societal problems such as homelessness, poverty, racism and economic disparities. The Holistic Engaged Scholarship model incorporates six points for creating and telling of engaged scholarship. Those six points are:
- Discovery of new knowledge
- Development of new knowledge
- Dissemination of new knowledge
- Change in learning
- Change in behavior
- Change in conditions
Why Is the Holistic Engaged Scholarship Model Helpful?
The use of the Holistic Engaged Scholarship Model broadens the reach of scholarship to meet societal needs. The Holistic Engaged Scholarship Model connects the university to both society and societal needs, according to Beaulieu, Breton and Brousselle.
For instance, a climatologist and scientists can work together to document climate change effects on several local levels. Research conducted in one area can then applied to another area.
An effective way to create credible applicable research that is relevant and of value to society is to use this type of collaborative approach. Applying research across fields and disciplines allows a focus on societal needs as a whole rather than in certain segments and areas. Engaged scholars work with multiple parties, including community participants, to benefit multiple stakeholders.
Focusing Not Only on the Workplace, but Societal Needs with the Holistic Engaged Scholarship Model
Many courses focus on how students can apply what they are learning to the workplace. However, how can those same concepts be used to address societal needs?
There are challenges plaguing our society today from mass shootings, crimes, killings, poverty and increased student loan debt that would benefit from the content taught at the higher education level. Educators and students should start critically analyzing changing societal needs and issues and think about how to solve them.
As educators, we need to think about specific best practices that can be used to move the content and analysis in the classroom to meeting the needs of society. We must create some tools and techniques that can be applied in the classroom through the learning assessments, activities, and discussions emphasizing the importance of changing societal needs. Consequently, when students leave a course, they will be able to deduce how the content is relevant, impacts society, and may assist with societal challenges today.
Are there ways to build a curriculum that incorporates societal needs alongside the needs of the workplace? Definitely, but more work needs to be done.
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About the Author
Dr. Matasha Murrell Jones is a global business educator. She holds a B.S. in marketing from Southern Connecticut State University, an M.B.A. in international business from Temple University and a Doctorate of Management in organizational leadership from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Murrell Jones has presented her research internationally as well as published her work in international journals. Her research interests include international business marketing, global business strategy, general management, cross-cultural communication, entrepreneurship and leadership.