The Journal of Higher Education 77.5 (2006) 925-929
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In 1990, there was growing concern that higher education was in danger. We had been "a nation at risk" for 7 years but could not point to significant improvements. The call for reform was strong. Ernest Boyer's (1990) publication of Scholarship Reconsidered provided a response that resonated with many faculty, and since that time, there has been a great deal of activity intended to bring the new conceptualization of professorial priorities into practice. Though it would be difficult to provide direct evidence of overall improvements in college teaching and learning attributable to Boyer, there is a great deal of information about the successful application of his concepts in varied settings and about the improvements resulting from those applications. Faculty Priorities Reconsidered is a source of such information, and as such, it can provide useful guidelines for those who wish to engage their campuses in dialogue about crucial issues of mission, purpose, faculty roles and rewards, and related issues.
Today, higher education faces even greater challenges than in 1990. These include demands for increased accountability (not always from sources who understand higher education or the work of the faculty); increased competition (among traditional institutions and from "for profit" educational entities); a reduction in the status of the professoriate (and in the degree of professionalism accorded to faculty); fewer resources (fiscal and otherwise); the growth of technology (for instruction and as a ubiquitous culture); and a paradigm change that has moved higher education away from its traditional definitions and practices and into an environment with commercial overtones and demands (as in "students as customers" or "higher education as a business"). Even within the academy, there have been strident cries for reform. Hersh and Merrow (2005), for example, said that higher education is "Declining by degrees," and former dean and university president John Campbell (2000) complained of "Dry rot in the ivory tower." What has happened in the 15 years since Boyer's landmark publication? Faculty Priorities Reconsidered provides part of the answer.
What's in the Book?
The book has three major sections. The first part includes a foreword by Russell Edgerton and an introduction and historical context provided by Eugene [End Page 925] Rice. These are followed by six short chapters, four discussing Boyer's (1990) forms of scholarship and two dealing with implementation issues. Part 2 contains nine chapters, each describing an institutional effort to explore and understand how the forms of scholarship can be defined, and how policies for expanding the nature of scholarship and associated rewards can be developed and applied. These are individual campus experiences that demonstrate the importance of careful process and extended dialogue among stakeholders. The third part of the book presents findings from Kerry Ann O'Meara's national study of the "Effects of encouraging multiple forms of scholarship . . . across institutional types." It follows up with O'Meara's recommendations for good practice and then with Rice's look at the future of scholarly work of the faculty. This third part of the book is perhaps the most important for readers who desire a synopsis of findings from 15 years of experiments trying to incorporate Boyer's conceptualization into practice. The study shows that despite positive efforts and results, there are still major barriers to widespread and thorough adoption of Scholarship Reconsidered. While acknowledging these problems, O'Meara's recommendations for good practice provide many useful and necessarily realistic suggestions about how institutions can bring about changes that promote the scholarly work of the faculty and that support improvement. Rice's final chapter presents appropriate cautions drawn from research and practice, finishing with a call for truly "transformative" approaches to change and an acknowledgment that "the scholarship of teaching and learning and the scholarship of engagement must become portable and cosmopolitan if they are to take hold" (p. 312).
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