Disciplinary Variations in Publicly Engaged Scholarship: An Analysis Using the Biglan Classification of Academic Disciplines

Diane M. Doberneck, John H. Schweitzer


Although contemporary models of faculty involvement in publicly engaged scholarship recognize the important influence of disciplines on faculty members, few studies have investigated disciplinary variations empirically. This study used the Biglan classification of academic disciplines to analyze publicly engaged scholarly activities reported by faculty members during reappointment, promotion, and tenure review. The Biglan dimensions (pure/applied, soft/hard, life/nonlife) were used to explore types of scholarly activity, intensity of activity, and degree of engagement. Using interpretive content analysis, we analyzed 171 reappointment, promotion, and tenure forms gathered from faculty members at one research-intensive, land-grant, Carnegie-engaged institution in the Midwest. Descriptive statistics revealed statistically significant disciplinary variations associated with all three Biglan dimensions. Study results provide evidence for moving beyond a universal, institutional approach to more nuanced discipline-specific policies, professional development programs, and support for faculty involved in publicly engaged scholarship.

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