Implementation Concerns of Scholar-Practitioners: A Pilot Study of the Link between Research and Practice

Implementation Concerns of Scholar-Practitioners: A Pilot Study of the Link between Research and Practice

Claretha Hughes, Jai Wang, Wei Zheng, Laird McLean
DOI: 10.4018/jabim.2010040104
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The challenge of combining research and practice in HRD has led to continuing debate on who are scholar-practitioners and how they integrate research and practice in the workplace. This qualitative collective case study provides insights from seven scholar-practitioners to help HRD professionals and researchers understand implementation concerns of scholar-practitioners. The findings reveal scholar-practitioners’ perceptions of their roles, the link between research and practice, and actions they took to overcome barriers and challenges related to integrating research and practice. This pilot study can serve as a benchmark for future studies regarding successful integration of research and practice in HRD.
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Gap between Theory and Practice as a Knowledge Transfer Problem

The gap between theory and practice is typically perceived as a knowledge transfer problem, that is, the problem in translating and transferring or disseminating research knowledge into practical knowledge (Van de Ven & Johnson, 2006). A number of researchers have attempted to explain the difficulty of implementing research knowledge in practice. For example, Short et al. (2006) provided several reasons across disciplines. First, researchers are often disconnected from practice. Second, research questions do not address issues that are important to practitioners. Third, research methodologies do not generate data that help to answer practitioners’ questions. Fourth, the findings of research are not disseminated in ways that are likely to make an impact on practice. Furthermore, practitioners have difficulty understanding research and applying research knowledge due to lack of education and training. Finally, practitioners and researchers have limited opportunities to communicate with one another about issues of their common concern.

Reflecting on his professional experiences, Latham (20001) outlined five reasons that practitioners do not read academic journals that may be of use to them in the workplace: (1) lack of time, (2) difficulty in transferring learning from the journals or research findings to practice or a specific application, (3) the difference between the organization and the participant sample from the ones with whom practitioners are working, (4) practitioners’ resistance to journals that reject them, and (5) narrow scope in journal topics.

In the similar vein, Hulin (2001) stated that research that was conducted by scientists often does not address immediate problems facing managers in organizations. He further noted, “Practitioners want to solve this problem in this organization at this time [and] their issues of generality are not important because (a) this problem may never come up again, (b) it may come up again but only in my expected (short) tenure in this organization, and (c) if it does come up again, we can try the same intervention that solved it this time” (pp. 227-228).

Through an empirical study on the usefulness of research as perceived by practitioners, Mohrman, Gibson, and Mohrman (2001) found that practitioners in ten companies that were going through organizational change viewed research as useful when they worked collaboratively with researchers to interpret research findings and when they had opportunities to develop actions based on the research findings.

Similarly, Banks, and Murphy (1985) pointed out that there is a divergence in focus indicating that researcher’s solutions may not speak to practitioners’ problems and that only through “joint effort of researchers and practitioners can useful products be generated and adopted in organizations” (p. 337).

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