Scholarship Considered A Generative and Integral Synthesis of a Community of Scholarship

Purpose of the Inquiry

Twenty-four years have passed since The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching issued Ernest Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered. Having been a professor and scholar during that same time period I can report that while we, the professorate, have and continue to consider this seminal report.  The various dimensions of scholarship stemming from Boyer’s report remain, for the most part, unbalanced, passive, and disconnected.  The divisions of scholarship — Discovery, Integration, Application, and Teaching — have been discussed and weighed all the while remaining divided. Most would agree that the value of the scholarship of Discovery still weighs heaviest in terms of what counts in academia in terms of professional advancement and what matters in terms of the advancement of scholarship — ideas, innovations, and theories (Vannini, 2006, & Gravani, 2007). This creates a system of scholarship where the other divisions or elements become passive and under recognized. In terms of dissemination; the sharing of knowledge across disciplines, the sharing of best practices, or the sharing of conversations about teaching and learning, remain localized and unconnected within discreet communities of practice. This paper seeks to encourage a revitalization concerning the value of a balanced approach to scholarship. Terms like transdiciplinarity (Nicolescu, 2002; & McGregor & Volckmann, 2011, generativity (Erikson 1950/1963; & Volckmann, 2014), and communities of scholarship (McCaslin & Flora, 2013) will be introduced.

This paper is grounded in Boyer’s (1990) original work while being influenced by the author’s own heuristic. I joined the professorate in 1991 upon graduating from a Research I University (Carnegie Foundation, 2010). Since that time, I have served as a research faculty, an extension educator, a doctoral dissertation chair or methodologist on over 70 completed dissertations, a program administrator, and currently as the University Research Chair. I have served as the President of a professional organization, on editorial boards, a reviewer for conferences and journals, and currently sit as the senior editor of a professional publication. My partial bio is important only to the point of giving the reader an understanding of my experiences as they relate to the scope of this paper. What follows is a white paper, a thought piece, grounded in that experience and yet informed by emerging trends in scholarly leadership. The intent is to reinvigorate the conversation concerning the realms of scholarship towards producing a balanced, active, and generative system that seeks to discover, integrate, apply, and teach from an interconnected transdisciplinary perspective. A system that seeks to put knowledge and wisdom to work in the world. 

The Philosophical Foundation

The philosophical foundation supporting this paper is integral in its construction. An integral approach to the various elements of scholarship is made necessary because it holds the function of drawing it to completion or it draws our attention towards seeing the individual elements as an interconnected whole.  Integral thinking draws together the elements of scholarship into an interrelated system of ideas that are mutually enriching (Volckmann, 2014). Integral thinking can be seen as synergistic as it seeks a synthesis of these elements (Esbjőrn-Hargens, 2010). Figure 1 is a representation of this integral thinking.  The realms of scholarship in this model form an interrelated dynamic with each contributing and acting on the other. As such, valuing, interacting, transacting, and transforming enliven and inform the whole. The dynamic is not linear but networked. In the end the lines separating individual realms dissipate forming a community of scholarship as shown in Figure 2.


Figure 1. A representation of the realms of scholarship with integral thinking.

Theoretical Basis

According to Boyer’s model (1990) there are four distinct but overlapping functions of scholarship which constitute the primary work of the professoriate: discovery, integration, application and teaching. Scholarship, within this model, is not just a linear cause-and-effect relationship that moves from research, to publication, to application, to teaching. The Boyer model challenges this currently held assumption: “The arrow of causality can, and frequently does, point in both directions. Theory surely leads to practice. But practice also leads to theory. Teaching, at its best, shapes both research and practice” (Boyer, 1990, pp. 15-16). Therefore, the scholarship when integrally cultivated embraces all four elements of scholarship in an attempt to form a dynamic and interdependent community of scholarship.



Figure 2. The interrelationship of the elements of scholarship within a community of scholarship.

Practical implications

The practical implications that follow present an outline of the four elements to include a brief description and purpose. The completed paper also will present metrics of accomplishments as well as a much full explication of how each element engages and interacts with other elements within a community of scholarship.


At the core of the scholarship of discovery according to Boyer (1990) is “what contributes not only to the stock of human knowledge but also to the intellectual climate of a college or university” (p. 17) and Boyer considers investigation and research to be “at the very heart of academic life” (p. 18). Discovery represents the disciplined and investigative aspects of scholarship. Present in the formation and foundations of the scholarship of discovery are the critical substrates of creativity, wonder, and wisdom. The scholarship of discovery is not devoid of these catalysts but informed by them. Their presence permits the formation of bridges, connections, to the other elements of scholarship by way of transforming societal problems and questions to useable knowledge through the use of the scientific method. Moreover, discovery, through the construction methodological inventions and approaches, develops tools for discerning and encountering what has yet to be fully understood or problems remaining to be solved. These scholars ask:

  • What is to be known?
  • What is yet to be found?
  • How do we approach it? (Research design)
  • What tools do we need have or create to find it? (Research methods)



The purpose of discovery within the realms of scholarship is to discern and disseminate new knowledge or to extend existing knowledge in new ways through what is called ‘traditional research’. Using qualitative and quantitative approaches as well as blended designs and mixed-methods, covering idiographic and nomothetic aspects surrounding projects that seek to understand, explain, predict or control an identified research problem.



This element of scholarship, sometimes called the scholarship of engagement, is what happens when scholars put isolated facts into perspective, “making connections across the disciplines, placing the specialties in larger context, illuminating data in a revealing way” (Boyer, 1990, p 18). This is scholarship that “seeks to interpret, draw together, and bring new insight to bear on original research” (p. 19). Closely related to discovery, integration draws connections at the intersection of processes, philosophies, and disciplines, examining the contexts of these intersections in a transdisciplinary and interpretive way.

Interacting across disciplinary lines, in order to collaboratively construct approaches to societal meta-problems and questions is at the heart of the scholarship of integration. Transdisciplinarity concerns itself with the transgression of artificially constructed discipline-based boundaries allowing our collective intelligences to approach and solve the big problems we face thereby granting an address to the real issues of concern for the scholarship of integration—capacity building, creating sustainable systems, and generativity. “Transdisciplinary research practices are issues – or problem-centered and prioritize the problem at the center of research over discipline-specific concerns, theories or methods” (Leavy, 2011, p.9).  These scholars understand that new knowledge and ways of understanding knowledge in new ways are often discovered at the intersections of disciplines. These scholars ask:


  • What do the findings mean?


  • What is being left out of this approach or design?


  • What are we missing?


  • What perspectives are not being considered?
  • Is it possible to interpret what's been discovered in ways that provide a larger, more comprehensive understanding?”


The scholarship of integration is an orientation to scholarship that interprets and engages knowledge across and between disciplines. It purposes itself with explicating researchable problems using relevant bodies of disciplinary knowledge, to include the combination of methods/techniques/theories, in order to address meta-questions that form at the intersection of two or more disciplines. For example, consider a researchable problem that forms as the result of a missing or incomplete public policy concerning ethical behavior among school teachers. This problem is best resolved from a transdisciplinary perspective that would include lawyers, psychologists, educational administrators, and teachers.


This element of scholarship is the most practical in that it seeks out ways in which knowledge can solve problems and serve both the community and the campus. As opposed to merely ‘citizenship’, Boyer (1990) argues that “to be considered scholarship, service activities must be tied directly to one's special field of knowledge and relate to, and flow directly out of, this professional activity”  (p. 22). He importantly notes that knowledge is not necessarily “first discovered and then later applied” (p.22). “New intellectual understandings can arise out of the very act of application...theory and practice vitally interacts and one renews the other” (p. 22). This element reveals another two-way conduit on which what is known and/or could become known travels. Therefore, within the scholarship of application, theory and practice are in the state of transacting.

This element of scholarship constantly seeks ways in which to put tested theories and best practices to work in the world. Yet that intention alone is not enough to build a holistic perspective of scholarship. There are philosophical tensions between empiricism and radical empiricism (pragmatists) as well as between constructivists and essentialists. Working across disciplines seems relatively easy by comparison as scholars and researchers from different disciplines still speak the same language of research. This is often not the case in terms of dialogues and relationships between researchers and practitioners. Additionally, the gap between theory and practice is made wider by some fairly strong paradigmatic assumptions held by both the theorist and the practitioner. How do we open a space for transempiricism or transepistemology (James, 1907/1979)?  The question itself is telling as the practitioner rolls their eyes at jargon. From their perspective the question is much simpler and more readily understood. How can we work together to produce better products for our stakeholders and how will our best practices inform that process? Leaving us the reality that good theory often informs good practice and that good practice often informs good theory. These scholars ask:

  • How can knowledge be responsibly applied to problems?
  • How can knowledge be helpful to people and institutions?
  • How does effective practice inform (challenge/change/extend) existing theory?



The scholarship of application holds a two-fold purpose:


  1. To provide practitioners with theoretical support in addressing real problems through the articulation of practical/useable solutions.
  2. To inform theory through an explication of best practices in the field.




This element of scholarship recognizes the work that goes into mastery of knowledge as well as the presentation of information so that others might understand it. “Teaching, at its best, means not only transmitting knowledge, but transforming and extending it as well” (Boyer, 1990, p. 24) – and when interacting with students, professors themselves are pushed in creative new directions. Teaching, therefore, becomes the act and the art of delivering valuable knowledge to the world.


The valuing approach to the scholarship of teaching enlivens creativity and deepens our ability to engage in creative discussions about teaching and learning on multiple levels. We can, through this approach, hold multiple perspectives concerning the art and science of teaching to include the effective delivery of content, modelling the ways of being, cultivating ways of thinking, facilitating self-efficacy, and seeking a better society (Pratt, 1998).  In addition, through critical and creative thinking we can embrace Bloom’s cognitive and affect domains of educational objectives (Bloom,  Engelhart, Furst, Hill, Krathwohl, 1956, & Krathwohl, D. R., Bloom, B. S., & Masia, B. B., 1964). These scholars ask:

  • How can knowledge best be transmitted to others and best learned?


  • How can knowledge best be modeled or engaged for others and best learned?


  • How can knowledge best be used to cultivate critical and creative thinking?


  • How can knowledge best be used to generate a sense of high self-efficacy?


  • How can knowledge best be used to create an engaged citizenry?




Stimulating learning through thoughtful/thought-provoking inquiry as well as potentiating participation and purposeful interdependent activity that serves to catalyze principled response and responsibility among learners is good teaching (McCaslin and Scott, 2012). The scholarship of teaching embraces this approach as it models and practices approaches aimed at achieving optimal learning and growth of potential.


Related Literature and Evidence

            Within this proposal some of the relevant literature has been revealed and discussed. The final paper will contain a full and rich discussion concerning communities of scholarship and scholarly leadership. The literature map below (Figure 3) is purposed at providing the scope of the literature that will inform this paper. Major divisions include transdisciplinarity, scholarly leadership, and the standards of scholarly work.

Conclusions and Implications

Within a community of scholarship the elements of scholarship; Discovery, Integration, Application, and Teaching, are not seen as discreet subsets but as interdependent and interrelated aspects of advancing knowledge and wisdom. It would be appropriate to ask, given this declaration; to what purpose? Globally it could be said for the advancement of the human condition. Research and scholarship within such a meta-purpose would hold a social responsibility therefore becoming a social activity (Booth, Colomb, & Williams, 2008). This paper speaks to that engagement. It addresses not only how these elements of scholarship are employed separately, but more importantly, how they can act interdependently. How Teaching holds both the valuing and transforming lens giving it influence on and being influenced by both Discovery and Integration. How Application is influenced by and how it influences both Discovery and Integration by way of transacting and interacting. The community of scholarship, like leadership itself, is dynamic and it is through that dynamism that real discovery, real change, reflective of our mutual purposes, will be revealed to the world (Rost, 1993).



Figure 3. Literature map for a generative and integral synthesis of a community of scholarship.


Significance of the Argument

There is an important relationship at work within any community of scholarship. Scholarly leadership is effectively integral leadership as it purposes itself at the intersections of disciplines, knowledge and wisdom (McCaslin 2013, & Volckmann, 2014). Scholarly leadership seeks answers to perennial and emerging problems and therefore seeks the ability to use multiple approaches, multiple lenses, and to fashion a wide-reaching theoretical and practical reach. A community of scholarship illuminates the interrelationships occurring within this intersectional space, this transdisciplinary space, thereby inviting the scholar to become open to learning and relating in order to transactively achieve the community of practice’s mutual or collective purposes (Eisner, 1991). In addition, scholarly leadership sets its intention towards building bridges that will span the distance between the practical, the theoretical, and the personal.




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