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To lift the Leaden-Eyed: the historical roots of Ernest L. Boyer's Scholarship Reconsidered.

Let not young souls be smothered out before They do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride. It is the world's one crime its babes grow dull, Its poor are ox-like, limp and leaden-eyed....

Vachel Lindsay (1914)


Ernest Boyer's favorite poem to employ in his speeches was the The Leaden-Eyed by Vachel Lindsay (1914). Boyer's writings and speeches sought to "lift the leaden-eyed" of the nation through a broadened view of scholarship. As former chancellor of the State University of New York System (1971-1977), United States commissioner of education during the Carter administration (1977-1979), and president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (1979-1995), Boyer's career was devoted to education in its many forms (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching 1996).

This article focuses on the historical roots of Boyer's most popular work, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (1990). Seeking to transcend the traditional view of scholarship as simply that which is published, Boyer expanded scholarship to include four domains: discovery, application, integration, and teaching. Boyer placed these four domains underneath the unifying principle of the scholarship of engagement. This collective view of scholarship remains a significant part of the conversation on the nature and purpose of research in higher education. Each of Boyer's four domains of scholarship can be traced back to critical events and relationships in his early life and career.

Previous biographical literature (Jacobsen 2000; Carnegie Foundation 1996) has either explored Boyer as a man of faith or as an educational leader. No biographical study has been written on Ernest Boyer's views on scholarship; thus, this essay fills a significant gap in the literature. Boyer was a well-known educator whose life and thought have not been well-researched. This article, after a brief discussion of its methodology, examines the historical development of Scholarship Reconsidered (E. Boyer 1990). It then analyzes the roots of Boyer's views on scholarship, utilizing Boyer's own four domains of scholarship. Finally, this article explores the significance of these historical moorings and provides conclusions for higher education today.


This essay employs a qualitative life history (Denzin 1989) of Ernest L. Boyer's views on scholarship. Exploring Boyer's early life and influences reveals unique insight into the development of his landmark views on scholarship. Life histories involve "the studied use and collection of personal-life documents, stories, accounts, and narratives which describe turning point moments in individuals' lives" (Denzin 1989, 13). This article employs life history methodology to explore the following question: What were the critical events, influences, roles, and experiences in Ernest Boyer's life, and how did they inform his views on scholarship?

Archival resources housed at the Ernest L. Boyer Center at Messiah College (PA) provided much of the data for this study. This analysis combined document analysis of Boyer's personal letters and speech transcripts, unpublished transcripts of an oral history project on Boyer's life, and existing published data on Boyer's views of scholarship. At present many of these sources, particularly the thirty-two oral history interview transcripts, have not been used by any other researcher.


Scholarship Reconsidered (E. Boyer 1990) was a timely report. A national conversation surrounding faculty reward systems was occurring in 1990, the year of the report's release. Ernest Boyer desired that the issue of scholarship be an international discussion that reached beyond the academy. Additionally, the Carnegie Foundation's (1990) Campus Life report revealed that faculty time was a significant hindrance to Boyer's vision of campus community. He lamented the publish-or-perish reality in the academy, often pursued at the expense of teaching and service (E. Boyer 1990). With the help of Carnegie Foundation Fellow Eugene Rice, Boyer spent much of 1989 surveying, collecting, and analyzing data from more than 5,000 faculty members from all types of higher education institutions (Glassick 2000). The survey asked questions related to teaching, research, tenure, and satisfaction. The results were stunning: Over seventy percent of the faculty reported a strong interest in teaching, many of whom advocated that teaching be a primary criterion for promotion (Glassick 2000). C. E. Glassick (2000, 878), another Carnegie Foundation senior fellow, concluded, "clearly, the majority of faculty considered teaching to be a central mission and enjoyed the time they spent with students."

These results revealed the dissonance between what faculty valued and what they were rewarded for accomplishing. The majority of faculty desired to teach and spend time interacting with students. Yet the dominant structure of the modern university rewarded faculty who could successfully distance themselves from the classroom so that they could spend more time on research. The faculty reward system in the 1980s was weighted heavily toward published research, yet its quality was neglected. Over a third of the faculty respondents reported that their institutions simply counted publications regardless of their quality (Glassick 2000). Even at research institutions, forty-two percent agreed that there was a systemic lack of quality control in scholarship. Boyer's speeches and writings on scholarship proposed a broader vision of scholarship: "The work of the scholar also means stepping back from one's investigation, looking for connections, building bridges between theory and practice, and communicating one's knowledge effectively to students" (E. Boyer 1990, 16).

The nuance may initially seem slight, but it is profound. The focal point of Ernest Boyer's scholarship was not scholarly peers, but students. Peer review plays a role in scholarship, but is merely a means to the end of a Boyerian approach, which is effective communication to students. In other words, Boyer viewed scholarship as a highly communal act. In a speech to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he explained,

You never get tenured for research alone. You get tenured for research and publication, which means you have to teach somebody what you've learned. And academics must continue to communicate, not only with their peers, but also with future scholars in the classroom in order to keep the flame of scholarship alive. (E. Boyer 1995, 88)

A communal act for the sake of student learning was not the traditional milieu of American scholarship. However, it was consistent thinking for Boyer, whose writings and speeches reveal a convergence of his key philosophical tenets of education: connectedness, service, language, and teaching. If these attributes are the building blocks of a quality education, they must have an impact on scholarship within college education. A Boyerian view of scholarship requires that it be connected to a community. Scholarship for scholarship's sake is wasteful. It must serve the common good, and this was the essence of his call for an education of coherence (E. Boyer 1980, 1988).

Thus, Boyer's (1990) wrote his most popular work, Scholarship Reconsidered. He sought to shift the paradigm of scholarship to value concepts that universities had lost: community, service, and teaching. He sent a prepublication manuscript of the report to a distinguished Princeton historian to garner feedback. "I don't like it very much" (Bucher and Patton 2004, 3). Ernest also sent a copy to his brother Paul, a distinguished University of Wisconsin professor. Paul's response was similar (albeit a bit more sympathetic), explaining that Ernest had not given the scholarship of discovery its due, but that it was likely due to his passion for the practical. Boyer remained resolute that scholarship can be both excellent and accessible. The response prior to Scholarship Reconsidered's release was a foretaste of the controversy to come. It became Boyer's most influential work in part because it was his most controversial.

Ernest Boyer's diagnosis was conventional, yet his prescription to radically expand scholarship was innovative. His four domains were a clear departure from the majority view. What influenced him to develop such innovation? Historical analysis reveals that beyond responding to faculty survey results, Ernest Boyer had significant influences throughout his life that shaped his views on scholarship.


Ernest Boyer's scholarly interests began when his high school history teacher, Mr. Carlton Wittlinger, pulled him aside after class one day and told him, "Ernest, you're doing pretty well. You keep this up, you just might be a student" (E. Boyer 1993, 8). Boyer referred to the comment as the "highest academic accolade I'd had.... He redirected my thinking at a time when I wasn't sure who I was or what I would like to become" (E. Boyer 1993, 8). That small pep talk was the catalyst Ernest needed to emerge as an audiologist, and later as a scholar of scholarship. He pursued graduate work in audiology at the University of Southern California. During this period of his life, Boyer navigated two very different worlds of higher education. His doctoral work was in the realm of scientific research, and his administrative work was in the realm of the liberal arts college. While conducting research at USC, he served as an administrator at the small Brethren-in-Christ-affiliated Upland College in Upland, California. In both environments, Boyer began to explore the potential of an expanded view of scholarship.

Ernest Boyer earned his PhD from USC in 1958 (State University of New York, 1971). He divided his time among his family, his studies, his teaching, and his role as lay minister of the local Brethren church. Despite the many obligations, he eventually finished his dissertation. It was titled "An Experimental Study of Speech Fluency Under Stress as a Function of the Emotionality of Speech Content" (E. Boyer 1958). Nearing graduation from USC, he met with his faculty advisor, W. Charles Redding, to discuss next steps. Boyer revealed that he planned to continue to work for Upland College. Boyer's advisor threatened to withhold the degree should he follow through with this plan. He boasted proudly, "Our PhD's go to bigger jobs" (J. Z. Martin 2004, 2). Boyer was distraught and likely offended. He deeply valued the work of Upland College, and had no interest in landing one of his advisor's "real jobs." Boyer sought counsel from his boss at Upland College, John Z. Martin, who helped Boyer develop a plan. He would seek part-time teaching employment at a larger school that would provide the needed credibility to achieve the degree while still allowing him to work at Upland College. Boyer found an adjunct position at Long Beach State teaching night classes. To Boyer's delight, the arrangement was sufficient in his advisor's estimation. Fortunately, his classes at Long Beach State were cancelled due to low enrollment, yet he still received his PhD (J. Z. Martin 2004). Such an experience illuminates the pre-conceived notions of valid scholarship within higher education in the 1950s. Boyer's doctoral advisor at USC firmly believed a part-time, adjunct teaching role at a mid-size public institution was preferable to a full-time position at a small, private liberal arts college. The experience marked Boyer and caused him to reflect anew on the merits of the traditional scholarship. Armed with a PhD, Boyer could now begin the arduous task he was recruited for nearly five years prior: securing accreditation for Upland College.

In 1956, at the age of 28, the newly minted Dr. Ernest Boyer was named academic dean at Upland College. To hone his administrative skills, he attended an Institute for Academic Deans at Harvard University. He was by far the youngest dean, and from the smallest institution. He told his wife, Kay, that he wished he had some gray hair, thinking others would take him more seriously if he looked older (K. Boyer 2003). Yet the experience proved empowering. He found that the more seasoned deans in the room were not more intelligent than him. His ideas were in step or even ahead of his fellow deans. At Harvard, Boyer grew in his confidence as an educational leader and was able to connect with the mainstream of American higher education. There he formed relationships with administrators who would become lifelong friends and colleagues, such as David Reesman (Harvard), Nathan Pusey (Dartmouth), and Sylvia Field (University of Minnesota). Boyer's resolve hardened to allow schools such as Upland College to have a seat at the table of American higher education. Boyer was instrumental in the founding of the Council for the Advancement of Small Colleges, a group that coached small college administrators seeking regional accreditation, while also lobbying accrediting bodies to consider more than the classic metrics of accreditation. Boyer became convinced that accreditors should consider what small college graduates have contributed to the world (J.Z. Martin 2004). As a result of the council's efforts, ninety small colleges received accreditation, including Boyer's alma mater, Messiah College (the other Brethren-in-Christ-affiliated college).

The impact of Boyer's participation in Harvard's institute should not be underestimated. His work in lobbying accrediting bodies on the merits of small-college higher education planted the seeds for his landmark views on scholarship (J. Z. Martin 2004). The Council for the Advancement of Small Colleges' emphasis on teaching, collaboration, and service convinced Boyer that these were not concessions of the small college. Rather, they were exemplary tenets for all of higher education. Boyer synthesized his own personal educational journey with the potential he saw in the small college setting. It did more than validate their existence. Perhaps the large public research institutions had something to learn from the small college? This paradigm expanded Boyer's view on the definition of excellent scholarship.

Unfortunately, Upland College went bankrupt and was forced to shutter in 1965. Boyer accepted a coveted post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Iowa, where he studied the effectiveness of a new procedure to combat middle-ear deafness (State University of New York 1971). At the end of his contract, the University of Iowa made him a more permanent offer. At the same time, Ernest received an offer to work for the Western College Association, where he would lead a program in California focused on reforming the state's teacher education system. Suddenly, Boyer had to confront the scholarship tension yet again. He could choose the classic research route, or he could choose a multidisciplinary, administrative path. His wife, Kay, remembered, "I don't know if he actually knew so clearly at that time that it was going to be an end to his research and his professional field [as an audiologist]. I think he kind of knew that" (K. Boyer 2003, 10). Retrospectively, this decision speaks to Boyer's evolving, generous view of scholarship. At the time, he felt he was giving up a career in scholarship. Yet his new vision of scholarship was emerging, one that valued not only discovery, but also service, teaching, and integration.


Boyer chose to return to California to work with the Western College Association. He was hired by Sam Gould, then-chancellor at the University of California-Santa Barbara, to be the Director of its Center for Coordinated Education (1962-1965). Boyer would later follow Gould to work at SUNY. It was at U. C.-Santa Barbara that Boyer's innovative, holistic views on education had a tremendously influential audience among some of America's most prominent higher education leaders. Ernest was quickly initiated into a small group of college leaders who met often to share and discuss new ideas for education in America. This group included Tim Pitkin (Goddard College), David Riesman (Harvard), Ralph Tyler (University of Chicago), and Boyer's boss, Sam Gould (K. Boyer 2003). In this group of men, Boyer developed a seamless view of education from pre-school to graduate school. This view again confronted Boyer's own experience as a researcher, posing questions about the purpose of scholarship and how higher education can impact the common good.

These experiences helped him further develop his broadened views on scholarship, which were expressed nearly thirty years later in Scholarship Reconsidered (1990). According to wife, Kay (K. Boyer 2003, 15), "while working with the schools and the State University of California ... his writings would completely match up with what he wrote about in his book, Scholarship Reconsidered, in 1990." In Santa Barbara, he visited a class representing every level from kindergarten through the senior year of high school (Dourte and Dourte 2004). Though his career was still firmly planted in higher education, a grand vision for the span of American education was forming in his heart and mind. It included a vision for scholarship that transcended traditional boundaries, drawing from a deep well of personal and educational experience. Historical analysis reveals that critical events shaped Boyer's remaining three domains of scholarship: application, teaching, and integration. In particular, the influences of his grandfather, his first grade teacher, and his first innovative idea in higher education led to Boyer's scholarship of engagement. These influences provide a lens through which to view all four domains.


In the scholarship of application, Ernest Boyer called for scholarship to specifically engage problems in ways that are helpful to individuals and institutions. Ernest's grandfather, William Boyer, was his greatest influence. Ernest would often refer to his grandfather as "the most important person in my early years" (E. Boyer 1993, 3). A minister in Dayton, Ohio, William founded and led the Dayton Mission for thirty-three years. The mission became Ernest's second home, and the residents of Dayton who subsisted on the mission's charity were a part of Ernie's life (Holland 2004). It was at the Dayton Mission that Ernest witnessed compassion exemplified. He attended services multiple times per week, worshipping with and serving people from all walks of life. In his childhood, Ernest heard hundreds of sermons delivered by his grandfather. Witnessing his grandfather's ministry, Ernest formed a vision of service that remained with him throughout his career. Ernest admired his grandfather immensely for his compassionate spirit, his way with children, and his ability to listen. In his own words, "Grandpa taught me by example lessons I could not have learned in any classroom. He taught me that God is central to all of life, and he taught me that to be truly human, one must serve" (E. Boyer 1993, 3).

The emphasis of service in higher education pervaded Boyer's speeches and writing, and was an inspiration behind Boyer's scholarship of application, which later developed into his comprehensive scholarship of engagement. In Scholarship Reconsidered, Boyer (1990, 21) asked "Can social problems themselves define an agenda for scholarship?" It became a unifying thread throughout his seamless view of education. Boyer believed that service would not only unify the academy, it would restore its credibility in the public square.

A vibrant community of scholarship, according to Boyer, is one that reaches beyond the campus to address the world's deepest needs. Boyer believed scholarship for scholarship's sake was wasteful. Scholarship's full potential would be realized when it served the public. This service-orientation to scholarship led him to introduce a new term to his scholarship lexicon: engagement. Boyer championed engagement as the key to restoring the country's faith in its educational system. He lobbied for colleges to focus their educational and scholarly efforts on addressing the society's pressing problems.

In College: The Undergraduate Experience in America, Boyer (1987) challenged the prevailing notions of specialization and individualization and called for a renewed commitment to campus life. He believed that a college "must be held together not just in its scholarship, but also in the quality of its human interaction" (E. Boyer 1986, 16). In his Campus Life report, he argued for a commitment to the development of a supportive community on the college campus. Boyer envisioned the campus (be it a school or college) as a purposeful community where faculty and students work together.


Ernest Boyer's scholarship of teaching challenged the academy to consider creative teaching endeavors as scholarly acts. According to Boyer, teaching as scholarship must "stimulate active, not passive, learning and encourage students to be critical, creative thinkers, with the capacity to go on learning after their college days are over" (E. Boyer 1990, 24). Boyer advocated teaching as a distinct form of scholarship, in part to restore its authority in the American university.

When speaking of the value of teaching, Boyer's first day of first grade at Fairview Elementary with Miss Rice was one of his favorite stories to tell (Moser 2013). It was a warm day in the fall of 1934, and Ernest and his mother were on their way to the school. Eager and naive, Boyer asked his mother, "Will I learn to read today?" His mother gently replied, "No, not today, but you will before the year is out" (E. Boyer 1993, 8). He remembers his first encounter with Miss Rice vividly:

[T]here she stood, half human, half divine, my first grade teacher. I was sure that in the afternoon she ascended into heaven and the next day came down to teach the class. She looked at twenty-eight frightened, awestruck, anticipating children and said, "Good morning, class. Today we learn to read." (E. Boyer 1993, 8)

He left his first day with the ability to read four simple words: "I go to school" (E. Boyer, n.d.a, 2). At the end of the school day, Ernest ran home to his mother, took out a piece of crumpled paper from his pocket, flattened it, and enthusiastically proclaimed to his mother, "Today I learned to read!" (E. Boyer, n.d.b). His first day with Miss Rice provided a symbol of educational reform that shaped his agenda: "[I]f I had one wish, it would be that every child during his or her first day of school would hear some teacher say: 'Good morning class. Today we learn to read'" (E. Boyer, n.d.b). To Boyer, teachers had the distinct privilege of empowering the mind and the soul of students. They changed Boyer's life, and he devoted much of his career to providing that same experience for others. Excellent teaching became the cornerstone of Boyer's reform agenda for education in America and a pillar of his views on scholarship. He lamented the erosion of the authority of the teacher and the neglect of the art of teaching in the university classroom. Decades later, while Chancellor at SUNY, Boyer argued that the university was big enough to exalt both prolific research scholars and master scholar-teachers. He proposed that a rank equal to "Distinguished Professor" be developed for SUNY's master teachers. He called it the "University Teacher" ("SUNY's Boyer" 1971). Boyer believed that scholarly teaching begets great scholarship because he had seen it did so in his own life.


Rather than limiting the pursuit of discovery to research efforts alone, Boyer felt that other domains of scholarship would foster deeper connections and enhance the good work of research. In his scholarship of integration, he applied the central argument from his report on general education called A Quest for Common Learning (E. Boyer and Levine 1981). There he called for colleges to develop a common curriculum of education marked by coherence. In a speech to an audience of provosts and academic deans (E. Boyer 1991b, 22), he argued that "in our fragmented world, we urgently need scholars who go beyond the isolated facts, who make connections across the disciplines, and who can, by their integrative work, move from facts to knowledge and ultimately to wisdom."

In the scholarship of integration, Boyer's communal leanings shine by celebrating scholarship that crosses disciplines. The scholarship of integration seeks to interpret and bring new insight into original research (E. Boyer 1990). Boyer sought to legitimize multi-disciplinary research. He was keenly interested in the development of collaborative research that educated those outside of defined academic disciplines. Boyer was trying to create a space for an integrative core of scholarship that would draw scholars together, rather than the academic silos that tend to isolate. To Boyer, this integration was essential to connect the good work of higher education to the world's most pressing problems.

Boyer was marked by his experience as an undergraduate student at Messiah College, then a Brethren-in-Christ two-year college. Boyer found the Messiah community vibrant. He devoted himself to fostering a similar campus community while in administration at Upland College. Upland's unofficial slogan became "a climate of conversation," a place "where people talked and listened to each other, where learning was intimate and informal, and where the pursuit of ideas was the central quest" (E. Boyer 1975, 1). This push for innovation and collaborative conversation within the context of a community was a formidable force for such a small college. It is best exemplified in Boyer's introduction of a mid-year term at Upland College; a creative, common educational course held during the month of January, comprised of lectures and assignments focused on a common integrated theme decided upon by student leaders. Boyer proposed the concept to the Ford Foundation, which awarded Upland College a grant to launch the program. The first mid-year term occurred in 1953, and the topic was the "Role of the Individual in U.S./Soviet Relations" (Womack 2004). It was a bold first choice. Anti-communists felt a college conversation on the subject opened the door to sympathizers. Yet students were enthusiastic about the idea. Another year, the campus focused their learning on "Faith and the Arts." At its inception, Upland College was the only college in the country educating within a 4-1-4 academic calendar. In the years that followed, hundreds of other colleges adopted a similar plan, many of which still exist today (Goldberg 1995). The creation of the 4-1-4 academic calendar was a helpful lab for Ernest Boyer to experiment with what eventually became the scholarship of integration. Boyer sought to credit scholars who crossed disciplines and worked collaboratively. He believed that scholarship conducted together was far more powerful than scholarship conducted alone.


Ernest Boyer's Scholarship Reconsidered was not his final word on the subject. Approximately three months before his death in 1995, Boyer (1995) delivered a speech to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He introduced a new term to his scholarship lexicon: engagement. Boyer spoke to his audience on the disconnect between higher education and the nation. Boyer shared with his audience that "America's colleges and universities are now suffering from a decline in public confidence, and a nagging feeling that they are no longer at the vital center of the nation's work" (E. Boyer 1995, 2). He urged administrators and faculty to push their institutions to more intently pursue society's most pressing problems. He called them to reaffirm what he felt was a historic commitment of the American college, the commitment to the scholarship of engagement (E. Boyer 1995).

In the scholarship of engagement, Boyer was calling for higher education to return to its roots of service. He argued that the mission of American universities should be aimed toward the common good. In so doing, the country would see the essential and beneficial nature of the university. In the mid-1990s, Boyer felt that colleges and universities were missing the mark. In the scholarship of engagement, Boyer warred against seemingly irrelevant, elitist notions of the academy as an ivory tower.

Ernest Boyer's scholarship of engagement was a call for scholars and practitioners to speak and listen carefully to one another. It was an opportunity to connect the brightest of the nation to what Boyer believed was the most pressing social issue of the day: the plight of America's children. Boyer's scholarship of engagement was a bridge from Scholarship Reconsidered to his report on school readiness, Ready to Learn (E. Boyer 1991a). He challenged educational leaders, saying "I find it ironic that universities which focused with such energy on rural America a century ago have never focused with equal urgency on our cities" (E. Boyer 1995, 18). Such service-oriented logic was modeled after his grandfather's own life. Prior to founding the Dayton mission, William Boyer lived a typical Brethren life in the rural outskirts of Dayton, Ohio, defined by separatist tendencies and "simple faith." He worked in a trolley-car manufacturing plant (Pawelski 2004). While factory work paid the bills, William grew discontent. He had a vision to serve the entire city of Dayton. He was burdened for those who were hurting. His daily commute on foot took him across a bridge that provided an expansive view of the city of Dayton. He would often stop on this bridge, look at his city, and grieve for all of its residents who were struggling (Holland 2004). In 1912, at the age of forty, William left his stable income, moved his family from rural comfort into the heart of Dayton, and lived among the poor (E. Boyer 1993).

Boyer's vision of engagement found traction in the higher education community. Peter Hill (2010), reflecting upon Boyer's (1990) views on scholarship twenty years after its release, felt that Scholarship Reconsidered and the accompanying scholarship of engagement "became a manifesto to reinvigorate American higher education by providing a more creative view of the professoriate" (Hill 2010, 3). It provided a foundation for what is now commonly known as service learning.


The Scholarship Reconsidered (E. Boyer 1990) report quickly became a Carnegie Foundation best seller and, according to Glassick (2000, 877), "clearly had struck a nerve in higher education." The response was mixed and passionate, and revealed that Boyer provided a vocabulary for a national debate on scholarship. In Glassick's (2000, 878) estimation, "Scholarship Reconsidered lacked specificity, [but] its concepts ... were immediately recognized as important new proposals in a field that was ripe for revision."

The majority of responses to Boyer's view of scholarship were positive. Many praised Scholarship Reconsidered for expanding the thinking of the academy on scholarship (Bruns, et al. 2003). Others praised Boyer for fostering comprehensive reform to higher education (Fiddler, McGury, Marienau, Rogers, and Scheideman 1996). Steven Estes (1996, 128) may have summed it best when he wrote that "Boyer's approach to scholarship is scholarly ... Boyer was a scholar of scholarship."

There were also those who were largely critical of Boyer's view. Alexander McNeil (1996, 143) was one of the strongest critics, challenging Boyer's scholarship of teaching, "Boyer's intention is to broaden our concept of scholarship within the university. But he has succeeded only in clouding the issue. Part of the cloudiness results from his failure to draw a relationship between teaching and learning." Alan Rubin (2000, 263) was also not impressed, claiming that Boyer's view of scholarship only succeeded in leading to a "scholarship of confusion." Glassick (2000) summarized the tension surrounding Scholarship Reconsidered well, explaining that an expanded definition of scholarship was generally well received, but two main areas provided stumbling blocks. First, what is the meaning of the scholarship of teaching? Second, how should the quality of scholarship be assessed?

Lee Shulman (1999), Boyer's successor at the Carnegie Foundation, attempted to clarify Boyer's scholarship of teaching. He concluded that to be scholarship, teaching must meet three criteria: it must be made public; it must be available for peer review and critique; and it must be reproducible and built on by other scholars. Regarding quality, Carnegie Foundation Fellow Eugene Rice argued that the four domains corresponded to "distinct approaches to the perception and processing of knowledge" (Paulsen and Feldman 1995, 616). Assessing scholarship should attend to these distinct approaches. This was a helpful step, but the pragmatics of quality were largely left unanswered. If discovery, integration, application, and teaching could all be scholarship, how does one assess such different scholarly activities and maintain any sort of standard? Scholars offered their own ideas (Diamond and Adam 1993; Hutchins and Shulman 1999), but failed to fully resolve the issue of quality. In 1994, researchers at the Carnegie Foundation conducted a study on the assessment of scholarship. Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff (1997) analyzed the data and co-authored a report entitled Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate. The report provided qualitative standards for evaluating faculty scholarship. In summary, it appears that while the faculty voiced general frustrations over the narrow state of scholarship in the academy, there is little agreement as to a solution.


The faculty landscape in higher education has shifted dramatically since the release of Scholarship Reconsidered almost twenty-five years ago. The rise of the non-tenure track class of professors is well-documented and troublesome to many. For example, The Atlantic Monthly reported a 300% rise in adjunct faculty since 1975, compared to a meager 26% rise during the same period for tenured/tenure track (Wiessmann 2013).

Most conversations regarding this new faculty majority are typically framed in economic terms, as they are simply less expensive in a number of ways to employ. While important, such a perspective only sheds light on part of the problem. The new faculty majority represents not only a fiscal crisis, but also one of ideology and utility. Adjunct, contingent, and other maligned groups of faculty are organizing to be recognized by their institutions. However, what is not being discussed is the long-term impact of this new faculty majority on the academy at the macro level.

The faculty role, as explored in a recent Association for the Study of Higher Education conference paper by Sean Gehrke and Adrianna Kezar (2013), was referenced as unbundling. The traditional duties of a faculty member are being distributed among many individuals, most of whom are now part-time. This fragmentation is pursued, argue Gehrke and Kezar, with little attention to institutional impact. The strategic vision of the future gives way to the fiscal tyranny of the urgent. But other challenges, however, linger.

Beyond institutional impact, consider the toll on almost any discipline. Central to the cultivation of a discipline-specific guild is the generative production of research where scholars convene, critique, share, and contribute to their field. If the new norm for scholars is the cobbling together of part time-teaching positions, where is the time to research, write, and present (not to mention teach effectively)? Even if faculty members have such time afforded to them, a critical incentive in tenure is removed, along with some of the motivation to publish in the first place. No doubt scholars will continue to conduct research simply for the joy of cultivating the life of the mind. The hindrances to such work, however, are many.

If the historic rule of promotion and tenure is waning, what role then can scholarship play in a fragmented, unbundled academy? In Scholarship Reconsidered, Ernest L. Boyer offered a still much-needed approach. To begin, Boyer attacked the academy's sole focus on original research and called for a broadened view of scholarship refocusing its gaze from the tenure file and audaciously to a broader community.

Through the scholarly domains of discovery (original research and publication), integration (scholarship conducted across the disciplines), application (scholarship as service), and teaching (the pursuit of innovative pedagogy), Boyer wrote Scholarship Reconsidered as a coup d'etat to the publish-or-perish status quo that dominated the academy. This particular Carnegie report, published almost twenty-five years ago, lobbied that publication was pursued at the expense of teaching and service and robbed faculty of the time needed to contribute to a vibrant learning community.

While Boyer's broadened view has remained a significant part of the national conversation on scholarship in the academy, it has done so in spirit more than in practice. Scholarship Reconsidered arguably generated more discussion than concrete action. Instead of disregarding his views as being out-of-step with the emerging structure of the American faculty, perhaps Boyer was ahead of his time. Perhaps Boyer's views are more relevant to this particular iteration of the professoriate with its radically shifting priorities than it was to his own. All said, perhaps the time has come to consider the possibility of employing his domains to the present condition.

While still important, the focal point of Boyer's scholarship was not the publication of refereed journal articles. In contrast, Boyer's emphasis was on forming an integrated community of learning on, and even beyond, the campus. In other words, Boyer viewed scholarship as a highly communal act. In so doing, he believed scholarship for the common good (whether conducted through teaching, service, or collaborative endeavors), would restore the credibility of higher education to the public.

The faculty landscape undoubtedly shifted in significant ways since the release of Scholarship Reconsidered and is likely to continue to shift. While faculty trudging along the tenure track may not have the luxury of complaining about the pressures of publishing in comparison to many of their colleagues, adjuncts now lack sufficient time to devote to traditional scholarship. The subtitle of Scholarship Reconsidered is thus timely and poignant: "priorities of the professoriate."

What then are the priorities of the new majority of college faculty? It appears the first priority is survival. The compass of a scholar is, however, his or her research agenda. The vibrancy of one's discipline depends on the collective pursuit of its scholars to advance their field. Perhaps an even better question for the academy to ask is what the priority of the professoriate should be given the current condition.

Boyer's model is timely and instructive. His four domains were a call for scholarship to be diverse and flexible enough to serve the common good and advance higher education in the ways it needs to in order to thrive. Boyer's views serve as a helpful correction to the unbundled fragmentation of the present.

Despite disagreement, the Scholarship Assessed (Glassick, et al. 1997) study revealed the power of Boyer's (1990) Scholarship Reconsidered. The report passed the Scholarship Assessed criteria of good scholarship. Boyer's work had clearly defined goals, was meticulous in preparation and methodology, produced significant results, effectively and proficiently presented those results, and was subjected to widespread peer review. In arguing for a paradigmatic shift to scholarship, Ernest Boyer provided an example of how to conduct quality scholarship.

The volume of citations in educational literature speaks to Ernest Boyer's enduring influence. Boyer faced significant challenges in his career, many of which remain at the forefront of American higher education. Issues of access and equity, curriculum coherence, the role of scholarship, and the increased diversity of college student populations pose challenges and opportunities in American higher education. Boyer provided a helpful voice in addressing these issues. Particularly, Boyer provided a framework through which the nation can have a constructive dialogue surrounding the purpose of higher education. With rising costs of higher education and the emergence of the proprietary institution, the country is yet again confronted with the tension of higher education as a private versus public good. The questions Boyer raised and the thoughtfulness with which he approached this issue provide a civil voice to rise above the political polarization that tends to dominate present debate on higher education.


Given the history of Ernest Boyer's Scholarship Reconsidered (1990), its enduring significance, and its present implications for higher education, what is the academy to conclude? First, Ernest Boyer's expanded view of scholarship should be applied more intentionally and specifically in the faculty development, promotion, and tenure processes. As tenure track positions vanish from the academy, the traditional standard for scholarship becomes problematic. Second, Boyer's view of scholarship should serve as a catalyst for conversation on the nature and purpose of higher education in America. His work is still relevant today. It endures as part of the national conversation on higher education (Simpson 2000). While controversial, Boyer succeeded in enhancing collegiate teaching.

Third, Boyer's Scholarship Reconsidered served as a collective argument for the country to care for what he believed its most valuable resource: students. Carolyn Reid-Wallace, former president at Fisk University, called Boyer "a servant of the people and a prophet of his time" (Reid-Wallace n.d., 2). This article echoes Reid-Wallace's words, chronicling Ernest Boyer's advocacy of a college experience that fostered student value development and championed the work of student affairs. Boyer believed that higher education should also be concerned not only with technical training, but with broader goals such as instilling values (E. Boyer 1980c). When most higher education leaders were concerned with enrollment, Boyer was challenging them to consider purpose.

Additionally, in March 1990 the Carnegie Foundation, in cooperation with the American Council on Education (ACE), released Campus Life: In Search of Community. The study surveyed 500 college presidents all over the country, along with hundreds of other administrators, faculty, and students. In the Campus Life report, he praised student personnel professionals (now widely referred to as student affairs professionals) for their superb response to the crises besetting the college campus. He also felt concern for these professionals, believing they were asked to carry too much of the responsibility for these issues. Boyer (1990e) touted the Campus Life report to the annual gathering of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), the same month of its release. Rather than simply try to curb the unruly behavior of college students, Boyer cast a larger vision for the college community. His goal was to provide a framework for the development of a community of learning.

Ernest Boyer continually pressed new ideas back to their fit within institutional purpose. As today's higher education landscape embodies more capitalistic tendencies (large public institutions providing online degrees), Boyer's call for mission fit are wise words. What drives growth, innovation, and change in higher education? Is it an emerging market? Or is it a convicted sense of mission? Regardless of the particular form of higher education, constituents of higher education institutions must intentionally work to form a vibrant community of learning. Boyer's experiences at small liberal arts colleges encouraged him to create similar vibrant communities throughout higher education. Campuses (whether residential or virtual) require cultivation. This work is often done effectively by student affairs practitioners. As institutional budgets tighten, student affairs positions are often in danger of being cut. It is vital to attend to the environment of learning as much as to the content being learned. Thus, the realm of student affairs must be championed and appropriately adapted to new forms of higher education to ensure that interconnecting, caring communities of learning are cultivated.

Scholarship Reconsidered continues to be a prominent text in the canon of higher education literature. Weaving together his appreciation for institutional diversity and university renewal, this vision flowed out of a deep belief in the connectedness of all things, expressed through language. This connected expression of learning was placed in the context of a community that served one another. When many saw the need to change tenure or promotion policies and procedures, Boyer saw a broken community that had lost touch with its roots. The state of scholarship in the academy was merely the symptom of a larger problem. The professoriate had lost its connectivity to one another and its focus on service. Scholarship Reconsidered, written more than twenty years ago, continues to challenge higher education leaders to courageously seek authentic renewal to "lift the leaden-eyed" (Lindsay 1914).


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Drew Moser

Taylor University

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Title Annotation:ARTICLE 8
Author:Moser, Drew
Publication:American Educational History Journal
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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