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An Example of the Scholarship of Integration

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The Promotion, Tenure, and Evaluation (PT&E) Advisory Group is continuing to develop a workshop about the Boyer Model of Scholarship. I wrote last month about our first two readings in preparation. In the meantime, the Advisory Group has had a couple of discussions and I have (re)read an additional book about the model. For our meeting last week, each member of the PT&E Advisory Group came up with an example from our own individual work of one of the four types of scholarship that Boyer identifies. I present my own example of scholarship of integration below.

As I have thought about the examples that I and my colleagues have developed, I have come to believe that the main shift in thinking that needs to happen in order to embrace this broader view of scholarship involves thinking about scholarship as a process rather than JUST a product. In other words, the process of scholarship is just as important as the product of scholarship. What do I mean by that?

In traditional views of scholarship, the peer-reviewed article, book, or conference presentation is what matters. Some guidelines for PT&E even have criteria that count the number of peer-reviewed articles, books, and/or conference presentations. These criteria make it seem as though scholarship is simply about the product–the article, book, or presentation. But embedded in these traditional products of scholarship is a process–namely, peer review. When we publish a peer-reviewed article or book or give a peer-reviewed presentation, we feel like we know what we mean by “peer-review.” It’s a process that ensures that the product of scholarship has met the appropriate criteria. But what ensures that this product is actually scholarship? The process that has created the product. So when we think about broadening our definition of scholarship, we can’t focus on products to the exclusion of process. Nor can we focus on process to the exclusion of product. Both are important. If we take this view, we can’t say that a particular product is scholarship without examining the process that created that product. We also can’t say that a particular activity is scholarship without examining both the process of the activity and product that arises from the activity.

As I wrote in my previous post, we must evaluate scholarship by using the following six standards: clear goals, adequate preparation, appropriate methods, significant results, effective presentation, and reflective critique.

In order to illustrate how to apply these standards to scholarship, I have chosen my own work on the creation of an open educational resource (OER) about creating games. The OER can be found at https://creatinggames.press.plymouth.edu/. Boyer describes the scholarship of integration as “serious, disciplined work that seeks to interpret, draw together, and bring new insight to bear on original research” (p.19). The scholarship of integration refers to the many ways that a faculty member brings existing and/or interdisciplinary knowledge together to understand an issue and communicate that understanding to audiences outside one’s discipline.  It involves synthesizing findings and discovering patterns and connections within a discipline and across disciplines to create an integration of knowledge and bring new meanings to original work. For example:

  • Developing knowledge in one specialized discipline and applying it to solve problems or answer questions in another
  • Disseminating information to interdisciplinary and/or non-specialist audiences in the form of a performance, exhibition, patent, publication, conference, etc.

In my example of the scholarship of integration, I am disseminating information to my students who are not game studies specialists in the form of a freely, available online publication.

The questions that I answer below come from page 36 of Scholarship Assessed. The authors of that book recommend that we ask these questions when we’re evaluating the quality of a faculty members scholarship. They also recommend that faculty use the questions as a guide to how to document their scholarship for their evaluators.

Clear Goals

Does the scholar state the basic purposes of their work clearly? My goal is to create a high quality OER for use in teaching game design. In particular, the OER should be freely available to my students in my Creating Games class (as well as to other interested parties).

Does the scholar define objectives that are realistic and achievable? I have co-authored a software engineering textbook that was published by a traditional publisher. I have also created other OER materials for use in classes and by PSU committees. When I set out to do this work, I felt pretty confident that I could create a workable first draft of the OER for my Spring 2020 offering of Creating Games because I understood what needed to be done.

Does the scholar identify important questions in the field? OER materials are of interest to a lot of people in higher education. Game studies in general and game design in particular are rapidly growing disciplines at many colleges and universities. When I have spoken about my work in teaching this field at various conferences, colleagues from around the country appear to be interested in the ways that I approach the material as well as the pedagogies that I use in teaching my classes. The OER that I created incorporates many of the principles that are important to the Integrated Cluster initiative at PSU and this initiative is of interest to colleagues at many institutions who are facing many of the same challenges that we are facing.

Adequate Preparation

Does the scholar show an understanding of existing scholarship in the field? I have been teaching Creating Games (the course for which this OER would be the text) for more than 10 years and have used a variety of texts to support the class. I make choices in using each of these texts about which material to emphasize, which to leave out, and which to supplement. I have received feedback about my approaches from colleagues at conferences as well as via my blog where I write regularly about teaching.

Does the scholar bring the necessary skills to their work? As I said, I have been teaching Creating Games for more than 10 years and have developed my take on the material used in the course through these experiences. In addition, I have participated in Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s summer Project-Based Learning Institute and am one of the leaders of PSU’s Cluster Pedagogy Learning Community (CPLC). Those activities have allowed me to think about and discuss the ways in which OER contribute to students’ access to knowledge.

Does the scholar bring together resources necessary to move the project forward? I created the OER using Plymouth State University’s implementation of PressBooks, a popular tool used for creating online books. I also did a search for existing OER related to teaching game design and found Ian Schreiber’s online course called Game Design Concepts. Schreiber’s course is licensed using the Creative Commons CC-BY 3.0 license which means that I could reuse and remix pieces of this OER in mine. Finally, over the years I had written numerous blog posts about various aspects of the Creating Games class and its content that I could reuse in this new text.

Appropriate methods

Does the scholar use methods appropriate to the goals? Since my goal was to create an OER that could be used in my own class, I made an outline of the topics that I would want the OER to cover. I then examined all of the previously written material to see which topics had already been written about by either Schreiber or me and determined whether that material was adequate for my purposes. When there was no previously written material for a topic in the OER, I wrote that material from scratch based on my notes for how I teach that content.

Does the scholar apply effectively the methods selected? I completed a full draft of the OER in time for the first day of my class. I think this means that I made effective use of the material that had previously been created and effective use of my time to create new material.

Does the scholar modify procedures in response to changing circumstances? As my students are reading and interacting with the OER, I am making notes about what I want to add, modify, and delete. I have also decided to add a student work section to the OER so that outstanding work created by my current students can be used by future students in trying to understand the content of the course.

Significant results

Does the scholar achieve the goals? As I said, I completed a full draft of the OER in time for the start of my course this Spring. Students are using the text for free which means I had no issues with access to the materials and could start talking about the content of the text immediately at the start of the semester.

Does the scholar’s work add consequentially to the field? When I have talked about this work with others who teach game studies, they are interested in my work.

Does the scholar’s work open additional areas for further exploration? After I did a conference talk about my teaching of this class, an editor of Analog Game Studies asked me to write about this for the journal. When I mentioned that I was working on an OER about teaching board and card games, she was particularly interested in reading it and perhaps using it in her own work. She also asked me to write about the process of creating the OER for the journal.

Effective presentation

Does the scholar use a suitable style and effective organization to present their work? The OER is available to review to see its style and organization. I am using my current students’ understanding of the reading to think about what needs to be rewritten or supplemented. For example, there is a chapter that presents definitions of “game” from a variety of game studies scholars. In discussion and written work, I can see that my explanations of those definitions is too brief for students to truly understand what the definitions say. I will add further explanation to this chapter before I teach the class again.

Does the scholar use appropriate forums for communicating work to the intended audiences? I have presented this work at conferences. I have also used my personal learning network, via Twitter, my blog, Facebook, Yammer, and so on, to tell people about the OER. I am thinking about doing another revision using the Rebus Foundation community of scholars which would both make the work stronger and make it visible to a wider audience.

Does the scholar present their message with clarity and integrity? Again, the OER is available for review of its clarity. In all cases, I have given appropriate credit, following Creative Commons guidelines, for any materials I am reusing and remixing in the OER.

Reflective critique

Does the scholar critically evaluate their own work? I have honed my explanations of this material through years of talking about the concepts with students. I have made my explanations public over the years via my blog and have gotten feedback from other scholars about these explanations. As I said above, I have been paying attention to places where students are not understanding the written work and have planned to revise the work based on what I’m learning. I am also adding student explanations, analyses, questions, and study guides to the OER. These might be more accessible to other students and will help those future students understand the material from multiple perspectives.

Does the scholar bring adequate depth of evidence to their critique? I think this OER is unlikely to ever be “finished” because I will continue to think about how best to explain this content to students. I will continue to get feedback from other game studies teachers about this material.

Does the scholar use evaluation to improve the quality of future work? I think I have explained several ways that I will continue to revise and improve the OER. I also am interested in continuing to think about the kinds of student work that can be added to the OER. I have asked my students this semester to think about what they believe should be added to the OER to make it more understandable and have encouraged them to create this material for credit in the course.

 

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I am currently Professor of Digital Media at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. I am also the current Coordinator of General Education at the University. I am interested in game studies, digital literacies, open pedagogies, and generally how technology impacts our culture.

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