Community-Engaged Research: Opportunities, Challenges, and the Necessity of Institutional Support

Community-Engaged Research: Opportunities, Challenges, and the Necessity of Institutional Support

Aaron Samuel Zimmerman (Texas Tech University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7730-0.ch010

Abstract

Community-engaged research describes an approach towards research and a stance towards scholarship that arose in response to the criticism that institutions of higher education functioned only as ivory towers, disconnected from real-world problems. This chapter is intended to serve as an introduction to the concept of community-engaged research. Topics covered will include the definition of community-engaged research, the criteria for the evaluation of community-engaged research, inherent challenges associated with community-engaged research, and strategies that institutions of higher education can employ as a means of cultivating and sustaining community-engaged research among faculty.
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Introduction

Community-engaged research describes an approach towards research that arose in response to the criticism that institutions of higher education functioned only as ivory towers, disconnected from real-world problems. This chapter will introduce the reader to the concept and mission of community-engaged research, and will focus, in particular, on the unique opportunities and challenges that this approach to scholarship presents. Scholarship that investigates this brand of research has shown that community-engaged researchers are unlikely to be successful unless they receive substantial support from their academic department and university. For this reason, this chapter will focus in depth on a variety of strategies that institutions of higher education can use to cultivate and sustain community-engaged scholarship among their faculty.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Community-Engaged Research: A specific form of engaged scholarship. Like traditional research, community-engaged research involves the planning and documentation of the research process and the research results. Community-engaged research must be conducted in collaborative partnership with community stakeholders. Community-engaged research creates new knowledge while also addressing a practical problem encountered in local communities.

Undergraduate Research: Recruiting and training undergraduate students (for example, in the context of service learning opportunities) is one way in which institutions of higher education can cultivate and sustain community-engaged research among faculty.

Engaged Scholarship: Work that involves the application of a faculty member’s expertise, applied to a real-world context to solve a practical problem. Engaged scholarship is conducted in reciprocal partnership with community stakeholders.

Research Partnerships: In the context of community-engaged scholarship, research partnerships between faculty members and community stakeholders should be reciprocal, collaborative, and mutually beneficial. Community research partners should be able to have a say in how the research project is planned and implemented.

Outreach: Outreach is a form of public service provided from campuses to local communities. Outreach is distinct from engaged scholarship, because outreach efforts are usually limited to opportunities for service, whereas engaged scholarship requires a reciprocal, collaborative partnership where community stakeholders have an opportunity to shape the research process.

Faculty Development: One of the forms of the institutional supports that universities and academic departments can provide to faculty in order to cultivate and sustain community-engaged research projects. Faculty development can help faculty develop specific competencies necessary for engaged scholarship.

Promotion and Tenure: The process by which faculty present their scholarship for peer review. Faculty should be informed by their institution about the ways in which engaged scholarship can be documented, evaluated, and rewarded in the context of promotion and tenure. Unless they are provided with clear guidelines for promotion and tenure, early-career faculty members may be reluctant to participate in community-engaged research.

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