Reviewed by: Melissa Sweda
Mike Ilitch School of Business
Wayne State University
In Toward a Scholarship of Practice: New Directions for Higher Education, John M. Braxton argues for the scholarly development of a comprehensive knowledge base of information based on research and evaluation of current practices and policies in higher education. Braxton asserts that improvement in administrative practices in the field can be most easily gleaned from the evaluation of well-documented experience; the reality of trial and error. Those aware of and enlightened with the specific experiences and case-studies of their peers will be able to best assess solutions to their specific situations through analysis and empirical research.
Hence, Braxton defines a scholarship of practice in higher education as “the improvement of administrative practice in higher education through the development of a knowledge base to guide such practice and the use of the findings of empirical research as a basis for the development of institutional policy and practice” (Braxton P.5). Academic faculty, staff, and support personnel must be continually evaluating their practices and programs in order to fully understand the effectiveness of their pursuits. They must recognize the landscape in which they operate and how their pursuits are contributing to their intended program outcomes. Constant evaluation must exist as a norm in order to confirm that resources are being leveraged to their fullest extent. Members of academic communities must support a scholarship of practice in their stewardship responsibilities to their institutions. They must also educate and inspire their shared community with current and relevant scholarship. With advances in big data analytics and advances in management information systems, solutions to cross-context issues can be articulated and assessed prior to implementation. Desired outcomes as well as detrimental outcomes can be anticipated.
Another work that also explores developing a scholarship of practice in higher education that is worthy of attention is Toward Scholarship in Practice. Written by Marcy Singer-Gabella in 2012, the article pre-dates Braxton’s work, and specifically calls for the development of a scholarship of practice specific to direct educators. Through the assessment of student learning outcomes, educators can assess practices to present course material to their students. Through experience and research, best practices can be documented and shared within teaching communities. Braxton’s work expands on elements of this work including staff and academic administration in the call to develop a scholarship of practice outside of the teaching profession.
This book is an excellent resource that provides evidence which confirms the need for a scholarship of practice for academics and practitioners in the administrative field of higher education. It emphasizes the need for transdisciplinary professionals that have studied specific issues in higher education in order to adapt solutions to problems at hand and use empirical research to validate their solutions. It is an excellent tool for reference for advisors as well as an enthusiastic reminder of our stewardship responsibilities not only to our students, but also to our field as well.
Braxton, John M. Toward a Scholarship of Practice: New Directions for Higher Education (2017). Hoboken, NJ. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Publisher, 107pp. ISSN: 0271-0560.
Singer-Gabella, M. Toward Scholarship in Practice (2012). Teachers College Record Volume 114, 080306, August 2012, Teachers College, Columbia University, 30pp. ISSN: 0161-4681.