Approved by College Senate March 7, 1997; see College Bulletin, Vol. XLII, No. 25, March 13, 1997
Approved by President, see College Bulletin, Vol. XLIII, No. 8, October 16, 1997
STATEMENT ON APPLIED RESEARCH: A FRAMEWORK FOR DISCUSSION
OFFICE OF ACADEMIC AFFAIRS
Applied research is the use of established research methods to address practical questions about policies, interventions, treatments, practices, programs, etc. It constitutes a professional activity that extends the basic characteristics of traditional scholarship into the realm of practical application. It broadens scholarly activity to address immediate real-world problems and provides concrete results or solutions within a reasonable time frame.
Common Characteristics of Scholarlv and Applied Professional Work
Robert M. Diamond's identification of common features of scholarly work in Recognizing Faculty Work: Reward Systems for the Year 2000 (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993) can be elaborated to provide a helpful framework for evaluating applied professional work:
- The activity is directly related to one's disciplinary expertise. It is important here to distinguish between civic involvement that is classified as an act of good citizenship (e.g., serving on community boards, committees, etc.) or institutional citizenship (e.g., college committees, senate task forces, etc.) and involvement that requires the utilization of one's professional background and expertise.
- The activity breaks new ground and is innovative. There should be, in other words, a uniqueness to one's contribution and not simply a replication of an activity that someone else has already presented.
- The contribution can be replicated or elaborated. Just as in the case of traditional scholarship, the applied work should be transferable and extend beyond its immediate local application.
- The activity can be documented to demonstrate the quality. One would look for an end-result product that can be documented. There should be evidence of what took place so it can be peer-reviewed.
- The professional activity can be peer-reviewed. This characteristic is related to #4, but as in the case of traditional scholarship, it is important to have this work reviewed by peers, and/or external evaluators who can attest to the quality of the contribution.
- The applied work has significance or impact. The value and importance of the contribution made needs to be a consideration in any assessment of the work.
Criteria for Excellence in Applied Professional Work
Ernest A. Lynton and Sandra E. Elman, in New Priorities for the University (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1987), have identified the following generic questions that may serve as central to the evaluation of applied professional activity:
- How complex, difficult, or intricate is the problem or situation to which the work addresses itself? How much skill was needed to relate theory with practice and to transfer knowledge from an abstract setting into a concrete context?
- Does the work use state-of-the-art knowledge and methodology, the most recent data bases, and other up-to-date components?
- To what extent are the approaches and techniques utilized in the work original and innovative, to what extent are they perfunctory and repetitive? Do they break new ground, and are they applicable in other contexts? Has the applied work influenced the faculty members' traditional teaching and research pursuits?
- Does the work represent a comprehensive and thorough analysis of the problem(s) under inquiry? Did it take into account all relevant factors in formulating conclusions and recommendations? Did the analysis identify issues, policy alternatives, and related critical problems of which the client may have been unaware?
A process to approve projects in applied research and confirm the outcome of those projects is essential to the integration of this type of scholarship into the faculty reward and review system. An applied research project will be initiated by a descriptive and reflective statement. When the project is completed, a variety of means can be used to assess the outcome.
I. Descriptive and Reflective Statement
- Description of the professional activity and its relationship to the faculty member's disciplinary expertise.
- Identification of the anticipated professional outcome and how that relates to the shared learning in the broader community.
- Clarification of the knowledge and methodology employed.
- Presentation of the end product that can be reviewed.
- A description of the value and importance of the contribution.
- Completion of Applied Research Routing Form.
II. Assessment of the Applied Professional Activity
- Letters of reference by clients and/or sponsors involved with specific emphasis on the results and outcomes achieved and the impact of the faculty member's contribution.
- Peer-review by recognized scholars and/or professionals within the discipline.
- Inclusion of any evidence of the shared learning of the work in the professional community.
- List of honors, awards, grants, or recognition received for the execution of the applied activity.
Examples of Applied Professional Work
The following are some selected examples of applied research or professional activity from the national literature on this subject:
- Development of educational support programs for high-risk or gifted students that have led to demonstrably positive results.
- Analysis and dissemination of census data or demographic trends.
- Conducting market analysis and opinion research.
- Carrying out regional ecological, meteorological, and other environmental studies that will serve the external community.
- Directed or contracted research for the purpose of developing and testing new materials.
- Preparation and design of educational software, video or television programs for use in the classroom.
- Policy analysis and design conducted in behalf of local government, businesses, non-profit organizations and community agencies.
- Creation of data bases for instructional use.
- Development of field study guides to improve the science literacy of K- 12 teachers.