October 2012 // Volume 50 // Number 5 // Commentary // v50-5comm2
Commentaries conform to JOE submission standards and provide an opportunity for Extension professionals to exchange perspectives and ideas.
JOE's Niche in the Extension Scholarship Movement
Extension's sustainability is tied to relationships with academia. Now more than ever, Extension faculty and staff need to integrate their work into the aims of their university to gain credibility, relevance, and support. This requires Extension workers to more deeply and widely document and share the scholarship of their work with academics and stakeholders. Extension workers should look more often to the Journal of Extension as the premier Extension journal in North America to help address this need. The journal provides a number of factors and services that contribute to developing and sustaining a culture of Extension scholarship.
We believe Extension's sustainability is tied not only to our funding but also to our relationship with academia. Now more than ever, Extension faculty and staff need to integrate their work with the aims of their university to gain credibility, relevance, and support. This requires Extension workers to more deeply and widely document and share the scholarship of their work with academics and stakeholders (Adams, Harrell, Maddy, & Weigel, 2005; Alter, 2003; Franz, 2009; Culp, 2009).
The Outreach Scholarship Movement
So where does this focus on Extension scholarship come from? Based on Ernest Boyer's work (1991), scholarship has been defined as "teaching, discovery, integration, application and engagement that has clear goals, adequate preparation, appropriate methods, significant results, effective presentation, and reflective critique that is rigorous and peer-reviewed" (Kellogg Commission, 2005, p.12). Over the past two decades, a renewed focus on Extension and outreach scholarship and community-engaged scholarship has developed in tandem with the outreach and engagement movement in higher education (Adams et al., 2005; Alter, 2003; Bushaw, 1996). Oregon State University, Penn State, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension were early leaders in defining Extension and outreach scholarship for daily practice and tenure and promotion (Gurgevich, Hyman, & Alter, 1998;, Aldrich-Markham, Olsen, Olsen, P., & Reichenback, 1998; University of Wisconsin-Extension, 1997; Weiser, 1994).
The University of Wisconsin-Extension criteria for faculty appointment and promotion specifically states, "Scholarship in UW-Extension is creative, intellectual work; reviewed by the scholar's peers who affirm its value; added to our intellectual history through its communication; and valued by those for whom it was intended "(1997, p. 1). More recently, eXtension provided this view of Extension scholarship, "When theory and practice come together, engagement becomes scholarly. This involves a more focused, ongoing, collaborative working relationship with clientele that results in producing both public goods (results) and scholarly products (peer reviewed and publicly disseminated publications)" (2012, p. 2).
Research on Extension Scholarship
In spite of the work done to define and model Extension and outreach scholarship, and the fact that Extension workers state they are expected to demonstrate scholarship as part of their work, they also believe service is more important than scholarship and that their institution has not adequately defined scholarship (Vlosky & Dunn, 2009). Another study of Extension workers revealed they felt they should enhance their scholarship. The employees in this study indicated they spent almost a third of their time dedicated to Extension scholarship but thought it should be slightly higher. However, they did not want to engage more deeply with scholarship efforts if it compromised program management, delivery, or development (Olson, Skuza, & Blinn, 2007).
Some Extension workers struggle with scholarly work because they can't envision what it looks like or how to integrate it into their own work. To navigate this uncertainty they often look to others' scholarship as a model (Olson et al., 2007). This may include reviewing dossiers and related best practices used by peers with Extension and outreach appointments as part of the tenure and promotion process (Franz, 2011). Another venue for learning about, locating, and disseminating Extension scholarship is the Journal of Extension.
The Why and What of Extension Scholarship
Extension educators feel conflicted about why scholarship is important in their work. They state they do not prioritize scholarship as highly as their administrators and they aren't sure how it fits into their programming (Olson et al., 2007). However, there are many reasons to engage in Extension scholarship that focus on the individual Extension worker. These include the obligation to contribute to one's field/discipline, keeping on top of one's field/discipline to be current and relevant, generating program revenue, improving program delivery and program quality, enhancing the reporting of program impact, and personal professional development (McCann, 2008).
The products of Extension scholarship can be organized into three categories: 1) peer products, 2) applied products, and 3) community products. Peer academically focused products usually include articles, conferences, posters, presentations, abstracts, proceedings, grants, and competitive contracts. Applied products include curricula, materials, guides, technical assistance, and policies. Community products include forums, workshops, newsletters, websites, presentations, reports, designs, and displays that address community needs (Calleson, Jordan, & Seifer, 2005; Franz, 2011a; Franz, 2011b).
Journal of Extension Fosters a Culture of Scholarship
As Journal of Extension board members we are convinced the journal provides a key driver and venue for fostering a culture of Extension scholarship. The journal's website states,
The Journal of Extension (JOE) is the official refereed journal of the U.S. Cooperative Extension System. JOE expands and updates the research and knowledge base for Extension professionals and other adult educators to improve their effectiveness. In addition, JOE serves as a forum for emerging and contemporary issues affecting Extension education. JOE is written, reviewed, and edited by Extension professionals, sharing with their colleagues successful educational applications, original and applied research findings, scholarly opinions, educational resources, and challenges on issues of critical importance to Extension educators (JOE, 2012).
In particular, the journal's board representing all aspects of the Extension enterprise intentionally creates a culture that enhances Extension scholarship by ensuring that the journal:
- Serves as the premiere Extension journal in North America
- Is an open source journal sponsored by U.S. Cooperative Extension institutions
- Has a manuscript acceptance rate of 28% based on a double-blind peer review process for the majority of manuscripts
- Promotes a scholarship network through journal Commentary articles, related online discussions connected to those articles, and features to share articles through social media
- Has a professional editor rather than student editorial support
- Provides academic writing development support for new writers through the editor and land-grant university JOE institutional representatives
- Serves as a prime empirical research-base for Extension work and critical source for research to development grant proposals related to Extension and Outreach
- Supports opportunities for scholarship development and dissemination cross discipline and cross institutional work and scholarship across Extension
- Highlights the top 50 most viewed JOE articles each year that provides scholarship recognition for JOE authors
The Journal of Extension builds on these cultural factors by reaching over a million visitors each year and a subscriber list of 4,500 individuals.
Journal of Extension Plans to Further Enhance Extension Scholarship
In the past decade in association with the rise in the Extension and Outreach scholarship movement, the JOE Board has taken a number of steps to enhance Extension scholarship. The Journal of Extension has become an electronic publication. Although the number of issues has remained constant for several years, the number of articles in each issue has increased from 14 in 2000 to 36 in 2012, reflecting the growth of the Extension scholarship movement. The number of manuscript reviewers has increased to 90 to ensure quality. Finally, a National Job Bank has been added to help job seekers and Extension systems connect with each other.
The Journal of Extension board will continue fostering a culture of Extension scholarship by:
- More fully developing an institutional liaison system of advocates for JOE
- Reviewing processes and outputs compared with peer journals
- Maintaining the management system of reviewers for review quality and timeliness
- Continuing to recruit qualified reviewers to ensure rigor
The JOE Board meets quarterly to report and document progress on these aspects of enhancing Extension scholarship.
Extension workers are being pressured more than ever before to create, document, and disseminate Extension scholarship to share best practices and become more integrated into the aims of their university with the growth in the outreach scholarship movement. Extension workers can help meet this need by engaging with the Journal of Extension as the premier Extension journal in North America by serving as a JOE board member, a JOE institutional contact, a manuscript reviewer, an author, or simply a reader. In addition, Extension workers can enhance Extension scholarship by promoting the use of JOE and the National Job Bank, nominating reviewers, citing JOE in other publications, and embedding it in the academic discussions across the country to bring attention to and elevate the scholarly nature of our work.
Adams, R., Harrell, R., Maddy, D., & Weigel, D. (2005). A diversified portfolio of scholarship: The making of a successful Extension educator. Journal of Extension [On-line], 43(4) Article 4COM2. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2005august/comm2.php
Alter, T. (2003). Where is Extension scholarship falling short, and what can we do about it? Journal of Extension [On-line], 41(6) Article 6COM2. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2003december/comm2.php
Boyer, E. (1991). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Bushaw, D. (1996). The scholarship of Extension. Journal of Extension [On-line], 36(4) Article 4COM1. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/1996august/comm1.php
Calleson, D., Jordan, C., & Seifer, S. (2005). Community engaged scholarship: Is faculty work in communities a true academic enterprise? Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 80(4), 317-326.
Culp, K. (2009). The scholarship of Extension: Practical ways for Extension professionals to share impact. Journal of Extension [On-line], 47(6) Article 6COM1. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2009december/comm1.php
eXtension (2012). The scholarship of eXtension. Retrieved from: http://create.extension.org/Scholarship%20of%20eXtension
Franz, N. (2009). A holistic model of engaged scholarship: Telling the story across higher education's missions. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 13(4), 31-50.
Franz, N. (2011a, October). Strengthening your engagement dossier. Paper presented at the National Outreach Scholarship Conference Emerging Scholars, East Lansing, Michigan.
Franz, N. (2011b). Tips for constructing a promotion and tenure dossier that documents engaged scholarship endeavors. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 15(3), 15-29.
Gurgevich, E., Hyman, D., & Alter, T. (2003). Creation of UniSCOPE: A model for rewarding all forms of scholarship. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(2), 1-7. Retrieved from: http://sloanconsortium.org/system/files/v7n2_gurgevich.pdf
Journal of Extension. (2012). About the Journal of Extension. Retrieved from http://www.joe.org/about-joe.php
Kellogg Commission on Community-Engaged Scholarship in the Health Professions. (2005). Linking scholarship and communities. Retrieved from: http://depts.washington.edu/ccph/pdf_files/Commission%20Report%20FINAL.pdf
McCann, M. (2008). Demystifying Extension scholarship. Virginia Cooperative Extension Specialists Inservice. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.
Olson, K., Skuza, J., & Blinn, C. (2007). Extension educators' views of scholarship and performance evaluation criteria. Journal of Extension [On-line], 45(4) Article 4RIB1. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2007august/rb1.php
Schauber, A., Aldrich-Markham, S., Olsen, J., Olsen, P., & Reichenback, M. (1998). Defining scholarship for county Extension agents. Journal of Extension [On-line], 36(4) Article 4IAW1. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/1998august/iw1.php
University of Wisconsin Extension. (1997). Criteria for faculty appointment and promotion in UW-Extension. Retrieved from: http://www.uwex.edu/secretary/policies/section8/fapp1b.pdf
Weiser, C. (1994). The value system of a university: Rethinking scholarship. College of Agricultural Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR.
Views expressed in this Commentary and the accompanying discussion forum do not necessarily reflect those of the Extension Journal Inc. board of directors or the Journal of Extension editor. Journal of Extension Commentary discussion forums remain open through two issues of the journal. Anonymous comments are not permitted. All comments are screened before publication for derogatory content—disagreement is acceptable, but comments should reflect a respectful exchange about the relevant issue(s).