Journal article

A linguist’s journey toward community engaged scholarship: insights on definitions, practice and evaluation policies

Research methodology Higher education Research Community engagement United States of America
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This article contributes to the current conversation surrounding the definition of community-engaged scholarship (CES) by providing critical insights from a linguist’s journey towards establishing a CES partnership with a middle school. I argue that a prescribed CES definition for all disciplines is neither possible nor desirable. CES has gained appeal in recent years because of the mutual benefits promised by the scholar–community partner collaboration. At the same time, the conversation around defining CES is ongoing, highlighting the difficulties in establishing a single definition of CES for all disciplines. In response, individual institutions have adopted their own definition in an effort to help their faculty members navigate CES and assist their efforts towards satisfying requirements for promotion and tenure. While designed to ensure rigorous scholarship and true community involvement, institutional-specific definitions can unintentionally limit a scholar’s CES options, particularly given the expectations of the tenure and promotion process. As a result, scholars in disciplines which are not well understood outside academia, such as linguistics, find themselves ill-positioned to engage in CES. And as the general public is unfamiliar with the discipline and its benefits, developing mutually beneficial partnerships with community organisations requires an extensive amount of time – more than is usually required of other disciplines engaged in CES. Furthermore, tenure and promotion timeline expectations may be incompatible with CES work for some disciplines. Two solutions are proposed to address these challenges. First, scholars in disciplines such as linguistics must utilise multiple approaches to developing partnerships, such as volunteerism, community outreach and cross-disciplinary collaboration, and be intentional in college classrooms in engaging undergraduates in activities that make the discipline relevant outside academia. Second, they must challenge current CES definitions and interpretations and advocate for policy changes to the tenure and promotion process on their individual campuses.

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