Adopting and Adapting: Using the Scholarship Framework - John Lea

Introduction

The key output from the Scholarship Project (2015-2018) was the Scholarship Framework. The Framework was designed to help colleges develop and enhance their HE provision, with specific reference to scholarship.  The project did not impose a definition of scholarship on colleges, but instead used the work of Ernest Boyer (1990) on the four scholarships as a scaffold to begin a conversation around the types of scholarship which might have the most purchase in college contexts. The Framework has now been launched and over 100 colleges have registered to access it. This think piece offers some suggestions on how the Framework might be used by those colleges and new registrants. [1]

How do we produce an effective scholarship policy?

A key question throughout the Scholarship Project was how to align the aspiration of many teachers in College HE to engage meaningfully in forms of scholarship with a whole college commitment to scholarship in its strategic aims. For this to be achieved the identified forms of scholarship would need to be outlined, resourced, and evaluated.  And, importantly, the forms of scholarship would need to be recognised as valuable by all the key stakeholders – significantly, students and partner employers. For this to be truly effective HE staff would need the skills and space to engineer curricular offers where scholarship was central to learning, teaching and assessment.  And HE managers would need a quality assurance and enhancement strategy, where the activities could be monitored and evaluated. A key resource in the framework is a guide to developing an effective scholarship ethos and policy: Developing a college-wide scholarship policy.

How do we develop and recognise staff for their scholarship?

It became evident at the beginning of the Scholarship Project that colleges were not only very different – for example, some have small specialist HE provision, while others have large, varied provision – but also that they were at different points on their scholarship journeys. The resources which appear under the Professional Development theme in the Framework were designed to reflect this. In this area of the Framework you will find resources aimed at initial teacher education alongside more specialist CPD resources. A key resource is The Continuum Model of Scholarship – designed to support staff in developing critically reflective CPD narratives in support of applications to receive national recognition for their work in supporting HE learning.

How do we embed scholarship in a technical/professional curriculum?

A tricky area for the Scholarship Project was the question of partnership working. Where as partnerships with students was well advanced in some colleges, partnerships with employers often did not go much beyond a list of employers that a college had a relationship with. For this reason, it was a natural step for many colleges to begin to work up their curricular offers for students which embed forms of scholarship. There are several resources under the theme Curriculum Development which reflect this. On the employer side it was clear that more thinking might be required before the curriculum could more fully utilise the potential here for scholarship. The resource Putting Knowledge to Work provides a context for developing that thinking, and other resources will help colleges take some practical steps, for example, The Employer Engagement Mosaic.

How do we enhance student engagement through scholarship?

One of the most exciting dimensions of the Scholarship Project was documenting the various ways in which student scholarship was being enhanced in college settings. Although it was recognised that staff sometimes had some trepidation in this area because they did not believe that their own scholarship gave them much credibility in enhancing student scholarship, others had embraced the problem and were seeking partnership ideas where staff and students could - together – develop a scholarly approach to problem solving. But before this can happen students need to be introduced to the very idea that scholarship could enhance their learning experience. To this end some of the resources, under the theme of Student Engagement, are aimed at embedding an effective introduction to research and scholarship skills for students, for example, Research Based Induction.

How do we assure and enhance a culture of HE scholarship?

One of the original ideas behind the Scholarship Project was to address the concerns that had been expressed in various review exercises that many colleges had not fully recognised the significance of research and scholarship to an HE experience. In my own work I had referred to this as a need to `capture HEness’ (Lea and Simmons, 2012). Of course, HEness has many dimensions, but it is only in being able to articulate these dimensions that a college would then be able to make it a central focus for its HE provision and future enhancement. Some of the resources, under the theme of Quality Enhancement, are aimed at helping college managers articulate, monitor and evaluate their HEness and scholarly ethos, for example, Guiding principles on embedding scholarship.  The central importance of this cannot be underestimated because an effective scholarly ethos is most likely to lead to successful outcomes in: Teaching Excellence Framework submissions; degree awarding power applications; and any future provider review exercises.

Conclusion

The Scholarship Framework contains 50 resources, equally spread across professional development, curriculum development, student engagement and quality enhancement. Given the varied nature of the HE provision in colleges and the different scholarship journeys it is unlikely that all the resources will be of equal value to all colleges. Furthermore, there was never any intention that the resources should be strictly adopted. In many cases it is likely that they will be adapted to suit particular contexts. And clearly, it is only in their use that they might be further enhanced and evaluated, and we hope everyone will contribute to this process in the eighteen months from May 2019 to December 2020.

The framework also includes a Forum – a space designed to help forge and develop our community of practice. We hope that practitioners from around the College HE world will want to use this space to discuss the resources, disseminate examples of the work they are doing, and promote events relating to College HE. This space also now includes our case studies and think pieces, and I hope this think piece might provoke you into submitting a case study or think piece of your own.

John Lea is the Scholarship Project Director at the Association of Colleges

 (1) Your College can register to access the Framework resources.

References:

Boyer, E. L. (1990) Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities for the Professoriate. Princeton University, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Lea, J. & Simmons, J. (2012) Higher education in further education: capturing and promoting HEness. Research in Post-Compulsory Education. 17(2), 179-193.