August 1998 // Volume 36 // Number 4 // Feature Articles // 4FEA1

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Scholarship Unbound for the 21st Century

In 1995 Oregon State University defined scholarship as creative intellectual work that is validated by peers and communicated. The university revised its promotion and tenure guidelines to reflect this broad view and to recognize scholarly achievements across all university missions including teaching and outreach. In the same year the university made organizational changes to reflect its commitment to extending education beyond the campus. An important change moved the tenure homes for all Extension faculty members from Extension to academic departments and colleges. Specific implications of these fundamental changes in how and by whom faculty members are evaluated, tenured, and promoted are discussed. The experiences of Extension faculty members with new promotion and tenure criteria, processes, and peer evaluations are described. Similar changes are beginning to take place at several other universities. An upcoming national forum on these topics will be held in October 1998.

C. J. Weiser
Dean Emeritus, College of Agricultural Sciences
Internet address:

Lyla Houglum
Dean and Director
Extension Service
Internet address:

Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon

A faculty senate task force at Oregon State University (OSU) undertook the challenge of defining and articulating the core characteristics of scholarship that apply across academic disciplines and university missions to provide a conceptual base for reviewing and revising tenure and promotion guidelines. The result was: Scholarship is creative intellectual work that is validated by peers and communicated--including creative artistry and the discovery, integration, and development of knowledge.

Scholarly achievement and excellence in performing assigned responsibilities are the primary categories for evaluating faculty performance, but OSU's new promotion and tenure (P&T) guidelines describe other aspects of faculty performance that the University values. These include collaborative effort, international perspective and service. Revised tenure and promotion guidelines reflecting these values, and basing faculty evaluation on a position description, were adopted by the university in 1995 with unanimous Faculty Senate support.

Some may be familiar with the model put forth by the Carnegie Foundation (1990) that asserts that scholarly achievements are assessed by determining whether "phases of an intellectual process" were followed. The phases are clear goals, adequate preparation, appropriate methods, significant results, effective preparation, and reflective critique. In contrast, the OSU model uses criteria that focus more on outputs to validate scholarship. Specifically, the criteria are used in assessing the extent to which a scholarly achievement is original, significant, and useful to others.

The Carnegie and OSU models both envision scholarship as broader than results of research published in a peer refereed journal. Both models place high value on scholarly achievements that result from research. Both models extend the concept of scholarship beyond research to include the other types of creative intellectual work and achievement. The Carnegie Foundation model basically describes scholarship in terms of the teaching and research activities those faculty members normally engage. The OSU model views scholarship fundamentally as creative work that is peer validated and communicated to others. This view suggests that scholarship can occur in all areas of professorial work as well as outside of academia.

OSU's new guidelines eliminated the need for separate supplemental promotion and tenure guidelines previously used to describe scholarship in programs such as Extension, international development, veterinary medicine, and library and information services where scholarship sometimes does not fit the traditional research model of results published in peer reviewed journals.

In short, Oregon State University's new (P&T) guidelines:

  • Reaffirm that scholarship is required of all professorial faculty, and articulate a definition of scholarship that applies across the arts and sciences.
  • Require that an annually updated position description serves as the basis for evaluating a faculty member's performance. The position description explicitly describes assigned duties, relevant areas of scholarship, and the relative balance of effort among assigned duties, scholarship, and service for each faculty position.
  • Identify performance of assigned duties and scholarly achievement as the two primary areas of faculty evaluation.
  • Recognize service performed by faculty members that is not part of their assigned duties as a secondary area of performance evaluation. Assigned duties such as administration, Extension, outreach, and student advising are not viewed as service when they are duties assigned to a faculty member. By the same token such activities are considered service when they are performed by a faculty member whose assigned duties lie in another area, such as research or teaching.
  • Recognize teaching, research, and outreach as vital university missions and faculty activities that are not scholarship in themselves but which can each involve creative, communicated, peer-validated intellectual work (scholarship) in any of its several forms (discovery, development, integration, artistry). This is a significant departure from Ernest Boyer's (1990) view of teaching per se as scholarship.
  • Recognize that peer validation and communication are separate processes that can occur in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, peer-refereed publications. When peer validation and communication are accomplished in non-traditional ways it is the faculty member's responsibility to clearly describe and document how peer validation and communication were accomplished.
  • Recognize that creative work of teachers and extension educators in developing education materials, methods, or programs or in conducting research in their subject-matter discipline will become scholarship if the work is validated by peers and communicated.
  • Recognize that the audiences for scholarship in research are disciplinary peers worldwide, but that audiences for scholarship in teaching, Extension, and site-specific field research are often more localized. The P&T guidelines language was changed to reflect this reality-from "professors must achieve a national or international reputation for their scholarship" to "professors must achieve distinction in scholarship as evident in the candidate's wide recognition and significant contributions to the field or profession."
  • Emphasize that the university values and encourages collaborative work, and asks faculty members to report contributions to significant team efforts in documenting their accomplishments.
  • Recommend that documentation of achievements focus whenever possible on what was accomplished rather than how it was accomplished; on substance rather than form; on accomplishments rather than activities. In short, on describing what changed or improved as a result of a faculty member's efforts.

The OSU P&T guidelines acknowledge that the faculty of a university performs essential and valuable activities that are not scholarship. The guidelines explicitly describe scholarship as creative intellectual work that is validated by peers and communicated including: discovery of new knowledge; development of new technologies, methods, materials, or uses; integration of knowledge leading to new understandings; and artistry that creates new insights and understandings. This view acknowledges that scholarship can be carried out by knowledgeable creative people throughout society--not just at universities. It emphasizes the importance of ensuring validity, and of communicating to broader audiences to ensure that results of scholarship will be accessible and useful to others. In addition, it articulates the fundamental nature of scholarly achievement that applies across all disciplines.

OSU has just completed a third year of using the new University P&T guidelines. How the OSU model has affected the Oregon Extension Service was recently outlined by Lyla Houglum, dean and director of the Extension Service. She makes the following observations about changes that have occurred over the past three years:

  • All Extension faculty in Oregon (county and campus-based) carry an appointment in an academic college or department. Oregon county agents and specialists have long held professorial rank with full privileges and tenure in Extension. Since 1995 the tenure home of all Extension faculty has become an academic department or college through which they are considered for promotion and tenure along with their on-campus teaching and research colleagues.
  • Department and college P&T committees now have broader representation that includes Extension faculty (both county and campus based faculty). Committees have worked hard to appropriately evaluate and value Extension faculty accomplishments. In addition, the dean and director of the Extension Service serves on the University P&T committee.
  • Research faculty are accepting Extension faculty as peers within departments and colleges and are evaluating them, and being evaluated by them, through the department committee P&T process. This represents a huge change from the first year of implementation when several researchers balked at evaluating or being evaluated by Extension faculty.
  • Academic deans have worked hard to gain the necessary knowledge to evaluate, support, and defend their Extension faculty through the college and university P&T processes.
  • There is much more clarity among faculty, department heads, deans, and the university P&T committee about how scholarship is defined. The university committee commonly refers back to the definition when evaluating faculty accomplishments; for example, Was there creative intellectual work? Was the work validated by peers? Was it communicated?
  • The quality of all faculty position descriptions has improved significantly. The position description is used as the foundation for annual performance appraisals and for P&T dossier evaluation.
  • OSU faculty without Extension appointments are including outreach activities and accomplishments in their dossiers.

Citizen advisors value OSU's new guidelines because they feel the guidelines recognize and reward faculty efforts benefiting students and citizens in Oregon. Several universities are finding that OSU's definition of scholarship provides a useful starting point for their institution's deliberations about faculty evaluation, promotion and tenure, and post-tenure review. Iowa State University and the University of Idaho have recently adopted broader views of scholarship and revised promotion and tenure criteria to reflect that view. University faculties and the broader public seem ready to improve faculty evaluation and reward processes.

OSU will host a national forum on this subject on campus October 1-3, 1998, entitled "Scholarship Unbound: Reframing Faculty Evaluation and Rewards. Registration forms for this W. K. Kellogg supported workshop, co-sponsored by the American Association for Higher Education, may be obtained by writing to Scholarship Unbound Workshop, Oregon State University, 202 Peavy Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331-5707; fax (541) 737-4966; phone (541) 737-2329; or e-mail:

Other information may be found on the Internet, including OSU's revised tenure and promotion guidelines at and a draft paper called "The Value System of a University-Rethinking Scholarship", at

Relevant questions and answers from the authors' participation in a satellite teleconference titled "Position Description: A Key to Scholarship," program #2, October 2, 1997, in a program series titled "21st Century Land Grant University" sponsored by Clemson University can also be accessed at


Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professorate. Special report. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.