The Scholar-Practitioner Model at UNE Online

Scholar-Practitioner teaching onlineThe Scholar-Practitioner Model is an advanced educational and operational model that is focused on the practical application of scholarly knowledge.

At UNE Online, course designers and instructors follow this model to help graduate students make important connections between theory and practice by connecting the core curriculum with core experiences.

What does the Scholar-Practitioner model look like at UNE Online?

At UNE Online, we live out the Scholar-Practitioner model by employing faculty who are currently working in the field in which they are teaching, and currently doing the work that they are teaching about.

Our Scholar-Practitioners are not only up to date on the latest interventions and theoretical frameworks, but they also have the ability to talk to the students about actual experiences that they’re having at the moment.

Being a seasoned professional who also teaches in the field allows for a learning environment beyond a simple lecture. Students are able to have more in-depth conversations and gain real-life knowledge from their instructors.

How does the Scholar-Practitioner model figure into course design?

When each program identifies a need to design a new course, they work with a specialized team comprised of people who have expertise that is specific to the topic area being covered. Teams building new courses are generally composed of the Program Director, a Subject Matter Expert (SME), and an Instructional Designer. Those three roles comprise the core, and other consultants are pulled in as the need arises.

At the beginning of each course build-out, there is a kickoff meeting where the Program Director discusses what they would like the course to cover, in a broad-strokes type of outline. From there, the Subject Matter Expert uses that outline and fully fleshes it out. The Subject Matter Expert and the Instructional Designer then work together to craft the course outcomes, weekly learning objectives, and activities as well as the key assessments which address professional competencies.

How do we best prepare professionals who will likely work in jobs that haven’t yet been created?

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.

We’re teaching students not only about the subject matter but perhaps more importantly, how to apply their knowledge.

History lesson: Where did the concept of the Scholar-Practitioner come from?

In his book, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professorate, Ernest Boyer argued that scholarship means more than engaging in original research. In answering the question “What does it mean to be a scholar?” he proposed that scholarship was comprised of four separate yet overlapping functions:

  • the scholarship of discovery;
  • the scholarship of integration;
  • the scholarship of application; (used by UNE Online)
  • and the scholarship of teaching.

According to Boyer, ‘scholarship’ means “stepping back from one’s investigation, looking for connections, building bridges between theory and practice, and communicating one’s knowledge effectively.”

The application of scholarship to problems of consequence can take many forms including publication, consultation, technical assistance, policy analysis, and program evaluation. It may be focused on issues related to persistence, diversity, leadership, character development, and a range of other educational challenges.

UNE Online actively practices Boyer’s model “the scholarship of application” and we refer to this model as the Scholar-Practitioner model.

What are the benefits of the Scholar-Practitioner Model?

Incorporating experiential learning into the curriculum fosters a deeper understanding and a greater, more rapid transfer of knowledge/application of skills. UNE creates value for students that reaches far beyond student learning – at the same time that industry demand for skilled professionals continues to grow.

A two-tiered approach to curriculum design and delivery

The Scholar-Practitioner approach (in some circles also called the practitioner-scholar model) begins with course design. Courses are designed in conjunction with a pedagogy expert (an instructional designer) and a subject matter expert (a professional with years of relevant field experience.)

The Instructional Designers structure and build the learning process and assessments, and the Subject Matter Experts provide professional insights and real-life examples to present alongside the peer-reviewed journal articles and textbook readings.

A curriculum designed to be timely and relevant

Each course instructor at UNE Online is an expert in their field. So when a student has a question or is struggling to grasp a concept, the instructor can provide off-the-cuff real-life experience to help the student understand.

Scholar-Practitioners are able to teach with an eye to real-world examples, which also helps students to develop the skills that employers are looking for.

History lesson: Instructional Design

Although the ‘scholarship of application’ is both exciting and compelling, it is not new to higher education.

As far back as 1905, when William Raney Harper published a book entitled, “The Trend in Higher Education” he advocated for the study of the student’s capabilities and needs and applying this knowledge to the design of instruction. This is what we now refer to as Instructional Design.

Read more about Instructional Design at UNE

Why does UNE Online use the Scholar-Practitioner model?

One of the best ways to help graduate students make important connections between theory and practice is by connecting the core curriculum with core experiences.

The Scholar-Practitioner model connects theory and practice, helping to provide more valuable educational experiences for students.

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*Special thanks to Instructional Designers Olga LaPlante and Amy Wright for their professional insights and edits on this post.

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