A consensus exists among AAC&U members that educational practice should be informed by evidence. What counts for evidence, however, varies widely in kind, quality, and trustworthiness. The most rigorous research can also be the least accessible: hidden in expensive journals, written in impenetrable jargon, or out of step with the most urgent needs of administrators and academic leaders. In a 2015 press release, the Association for Study in Higher Education (ASHE) noted that "too often researchers are conducting studies that have little relevance to policymakers and practitioners, and policymakers and practitioners are too often unaware of the relevant research that does exist.”
The gap between practice and sound research is particularly wide and persistent in faculty affairs (less popular than student-focused studies among foundations and researchers). Yet, no recent sessions at the annual meetings of ASHE and the American Education Research Association (AERA) have convened faculty affairs leaders and researchers of the professoriate. In the research agenda about the faculty, the voices of program directors, department chairs, deans, and provosts are conspicuous by their absence.
With faculty under such great public scrutiny today, however, research on faculty-related issues is especially important to inform institutional leaders who make strategic decisions. How can administrative leaders find solid evidence about creating the conditions in which all faculty can do their best work? How can researchers of the professoriate investigate emerging problems of practice with insights from those living the problems on a daily basis?
To answer these questions, this interactive session assembles voices from diverse sectors—each person a bridge between research and practice, each a seasoned veteran of faculty change efforts across their professional careers. Extending AAC&U’s reach beyond the Annual Meeting, they will use participants’ ideas to stimulate new research in faculty affairs.
Panelists will share the challenges they have faced in bringing research to practice and vice-versa, then share the strategies they have found to be effective in overcoming them. In the second half of the session, the panelists will lead the audience through a collaborative ideation process to identify critical problems of practice in faculty affairs that they urge higher education researchers to address. After the Annual Meeting, the panelists will curate these proposals to use in proposing interactive symposia for scholars at the ASHE and AERA meetings. In 2019, this team will return to AAC&U to discuss a new, shared agenda for scholars and leaders in faculty affairs.
Kiernan Mathews, Executive Director and Principal Investigator, The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE), Harvard University
Ann Austin, Professor; Associate Dean for Research; and Assistant Provost for Faculty Development - Academic Career Paths, Michigan State University
Steven Graham, Senior Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs; Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, University of Missouri System
Muriel Poston, Professor of Environmental Analysis, Pitzer College; Chair, Education Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science