Parallel session 1-1: The changing nature of scholarship: a review of the literature

  • The changing nature of scholarship: a review of the literature

    Linda Price, The Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

    A range of issues about the nature and purpose of scholarship and how it relates to or benefits teaching are currently being debated within many universities worldwide; however the interpretation and nature of scholarship are still disputed. In order to gain some purchase on how varying interpretations may have influenced our current views, this paper reviews a wide range of literature to inform the debate. It reflects upon historical perspectives of scholarship and how these have changed over time. The role of a scholar is considered as a way of understanding the nature of scholarship. This question is widened to contemplate who might be considered as a scholar and in what context scholarship might be conducted. It reflects upon some of the important scholars such as Charles Darwin, Heinrich Schliemann, and Karl Marx, who operated outside mainstream university contexts and considers their role and contributions.

    The role of scholars and hence scholarship is traced back to ancient times where the scholars role was the imparting of knowledge. This role changed in medieval times where the knowledge and the control and distribution of that knowledge lay with monasteries, hermits, monks and priests who were involved in compiling knowledge into scrolls and then books and in controlling access to knowledge. Later in this period the distribution of knowledge moved into ‘schools’ such as in Bologna, Paris, Oxford and Cambridge, using a ‘lecture’ style approach. In the 13th century Scholasticism became a prominent form of scholarship where learning took the form of explicit disputation.

    In the 1800s research became a function of the modern university. Humboldt’s ‘Theory of Human Education’ involved scholars in both teaching and research (Westbury, Hopmann, & Riquarts, 2000). Newman’s (1853) idea of university encompassed the position that it was a place a place for the communication and circulation of thought. This prompted universities to publish their own journals. In more recent times there has been greater pressure to publish and gain research funding, considered as prestigious by universities. Hence research-prominent scholars had greater chances of gaining promoting. Against this backdrop Boyer (1990) wrote his seminal work on scholarship. He was concerned that different facets of scholarship were undervalued and that the function of a ‘scholar’ had become research-intensive followed by teaching. Hence the scholarship of teaching and learning movement was launched, sparking discussions across the world about its definition, nature, and enactment.

    The literature review indicates that scholarship has changed over time and appears to be influenced by a number of factors. These include the socio-cultural context and the structures within which scholars have to operate. This reflects recent research by Price and Draeger (2011) who found that perceptions of scholarship were influenced by socio-cultural contexts and institutional structures. This suggests that reshaping interpretations of scholarship is beyond mere discourse as the activities of scholars may be influenced by context and the institutional, if not political, structures within which they operate.