The Scholar-Practitioner: Bridging the Gap between Research and Profession

Teaching teachers to teach is about as meta as it comes. But how do we best prepare professional educators to teach students who will likely work in jobs that haven’t yet been created? One answer to that question may very well lie in research.

Research has long been a cornerstone of graduate education, but the rapidly changing 21st-century job market demands that we move graduate-level work beyond annotated bibliographies and research papers in favor of activities and assessments that provide students with opportunities to apply that research. The shift is an important one for authentic professional practice, as students craft portfolio-ready deliverables that not only showcase what they know but also reveal what they can do with that knowledge in a professional setting.

This winter, we tasked three of our literacy instructors from the College of Graduate and Professional Studies — all talented scholar-practitioners in their own right — with an ambitious curriculum mapping project. In the first stage of the project, literacy specialists Linda Lacasse, Lesley Herschlag and Peggy Wallace utilized mapping to assess the strengths as well as the gaps in our online graduate-level Literacy courses.

Teaching teachers

The results of the initial mapping inspired a lively conversation about teaching teachers the role of research in preparing professional educators for real-world classroom experiences. Inspired by these conversations, our instructors have begun a collaborative process of online course revisions using the backward design model. The resulting activities and assessments challenge students to use research in the creation of activities that they can use in their own schools and classrooms.

“Students are coming away from their courses with toolkits, comprehensive assessment plans, data-based literacy action plans, and sequenced lesson plans that integrate differentiation and technology and are supported by research — and it is all tailored to their individual professional circumstances,” Lesley explains. “What educator would not want that?”

The activities are both rigorous and engaging. Linda says, “It’s so rewarding to know that our students come away with a larger and more comprehensive toolkit of strategies, assessments, and knowledge with which to increase student learning and engagement.” Peggy wholeheartedly agrees, adding, “the backward design process helped me to step back and to look at underlying standards and goals to create 21st-century experiential assignments for students.”

Indeed, the process has been a rewarding one for these dedicated instructors. “I am proud of the work that we have done to map out standards-based courses that complement each other,” says Lesley. The classes are unique, she says, in that they “provide educators with the opportunity to work collaboratively toward professional goals.” Almost half-way through the course revisions, Lesley says that she has enjoyed the process. “I feel like I am not only collaborating and modeling best practice with my colleagues on the design team, but also with the educators taking the courses, and ultimately with the students who reap the benefits in the classroom.

Linda has likewise enjoyed the challenge. “My favorite activities are those which have a practical application, but which are also grounded in research,” she says. “UNE students are so eager to take their learning back to the classroom, and it has really been a focus for us to ensure that our assignments will improve teaching and learning and use research to support instructional decisions.”


For more information about authentic assessment and preparing students for work in a dynamic job market, check out the following resources:

Authentic Assessment in Online Learning (2016). Center for Instructional Technology and Training. Retrieved from

Carnevale, A., Smith, N. and Strohl, J. (2013, Jun 26). Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements through 2020. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Retrieved from

Heffernan. V. (2011, 7 Aug). Education needs a digital-age upgrade. Time. Retrieved from

Klebnikov, S. (2015, Jul 6). What employers are looking for when hiring recent college grads. Forbes. Retrieved from

Rosen, R. (2011, Aug 9). Transforming our schools for the future. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

World Economic Forum. Employment. (2016, Jan). Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Retrieved from


Interested in developing your skills as a teacher? Download our complete guide to the Graduate Programs in Education offered at UNE Online:



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