Developing Academic Communities in a Context Where

International Scholarly Networks
Developing Academic Communities in a Context Where There is
Tension between Relevance and Accountability
Name & Contact
Information of
Kathleen DeMarrais, PhD
University of Georgia
850 College Station Road
Athens, GA 30602-4811
Ph: (706)
Fax: (706)
E-mail: [email protected]
Anne Graham Cagney, Ph.D.
Waterford Institute of Technology
College Street Campus
Ph: +353 (51) 302476
E-mail: [email protected]
Elizabeth M. Pope
University of Georgia
Rivers Crossing
850 College Station Road
Athens, GA 30602-4811
Co-Researchers, Phases 2-4:
Paul Coughlan, PhD; Trinity College Dublin.
Gary Crites, PhD; DUKE University, USA.
Darlene DeMarie, PhD; University of South Florida, USA
Scholarly Practitioner Research / Learning and Teaching
Stream 8
Submission Type
Working Paper
This study’s purpose is to design an international survey that will
identify the key contributors and their networks; the development points;
and the promising research collaboration opportunities that emerge from
international scholarly networks. Questionnaires and interviews during
the pilot will inform the research study on how to identify the role of
scholarly networks (developed within the context of Fulbright Programs)
in contributing and enhancing the relevance of academic research
interests both to the academic community and to the practice community.
The pilot study results will assist in exploring the impact of international
scholarly networks on faculty core research, networked relationships,
and interdisciplinary orientations. This project has received ‘New
Foundations’ funding from the Irish Research Council.
Key Words
social networks, learning partnerships, communities of practice,
networked relationships, inter-disciplinarity, research collaboration
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Developing Academic Communities in a Context Where There is Tension
between Relevance and Accountability
Education in general, and higher education in particular faces significant
challenges in its role and relevance to society today (EUA, IUA, AAU). Key features
of the necessary changes in this educational landscape include quality research training,
interdisciplinarity, partnerships with industry, and a mentality of innovation. These
requirements have implications for the professional development of faculty in higher
education institutions (HEIs).
Heretofore, faculty members have determined the nature and extent of their
professional development; most often driven by career progression ambitions and
research interests. Pressure for change has meant that for most research active and
research engaged faculty their projects and studies now take place within a context
where there is tension between the rigour, relevance and accountability in their research
publications and the needs of society in general. Going forward faculty professional
development will involve their ability to maintain the relevance of their research
interests to their academic community; and to the practice community. This will have
implications for their core research, networked relationships, and inter-disciplinary
Analysis of social networks on international research communities identifies
several important characteristics that have significance for this study. Santonen &
Ritala (2014) argue these communities are usually found around several key authors
who are well connected to other central scholars; secondly, there is a tendency to
geographical or institutional clustering. Finally, well-connected actors perform better
than less well connected ones. Other issues include the tendency to ‘homophily’
(particularly within scientific communities) with network members tending to recruit
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and work with those who mostly share similar perspectives (Vidgen et al, 2007;
McPherson et al, 2001) also language and proximity play a key role in the successful
development of scholarly networks. This study adopts an innovative approach by
drawing from a population of academics who have been in receipt of a common
scholarly award, rather than drawing on their disciplinary research communities.
Phase One of this research project explores how individual faculty members
through their involvement in Fulbright Programs engage in professional learning and
development through the use of learning partnerships, academic communities of
practice and social networks. This paper offers a better understanding of how scholarly
networks can support the social, personal and situational contexts of an evolving
professional identity for faculty in HEIs.
Conceptual Framework
This study is informed by the following key interrelated concepts: the learning
partnership model (LPM), transformative learning in particular perspective
transformation, and the development of social networks. We describe each of these and
their contributions to the study in the following sections. The frameworks underpin the
core focus of this study of how people use Fulbright to create collaborations (perhaps
interdisciplinary) and networks across international borders.
Baxter Magolda suggested that self-authorship is important to learning and
describes it as “the capacity to internally define a coherent belief system and identity
that coordinates engagement in mutual relations with the larger world” (Baxter
Magolda in Baxter Magolda & King, 2004, p. xxii). This study will draw from Baxter
Magolda & King’s (2004) Learning Partnership Model (LPM) core assumptions that
knowledge is complex and socially constructed; that the self is central to knowledge
construction and that authority and expertise are shared in the mutual construction of
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knowledge among peers. Additionally, the seminal work of Eraut (1994) in respect of
how theory gets used in practice (i.e. that it rarely is taken off the shelf and applied
without undergoing some transformation) will form part of the argument on the
development of professional knowledge and competence. The findings of emergent
research on lifelong professional learning will be combined with social network theory
in the context of this study.
Transformative learning and in particular perspective transformation as a
concept was developed in 1978 by Jack Mezirow. The concept was further developed
in the 1980’s from results of a US Department of Education study on changes in role
and self-concepts which Mezirow and Associates (2000: xii) call ‘perspective
transformations’. The study will build on the conceptual framework of perspective
transformation in the specific context of scholarly networks that provide professional
development for faculty (Graham Cagney, 2011). Expectations are what one expects to
happen based on what has happened in the past; they are the product of experiences. It
is these expectations that are called into question in the transformative learning
experience. Therefore, transformative learning is said to occur when individuals
question assumptions based on prior experience and make changes in their thinking that
lead to new worldviews, and new perspectives on their personal and professional lives
(Cranton, 2006; Sands and Tennant, 2010). ‘When the right circumstances occur,
transformative learning enables the individual to re-develop existing frames of
reference (or points of view) that become more inclusive, discriminating, self-reflective
and integrative of experience’ (Mezirow, 1997:5). This study will contribute to what
is known about faculty experiences of perspective transformation in the specific context
of the Fulbright social network that provides professional development for faculty in
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).
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In order to solve complex problems, faculty research projects have to bring
people with different yet complimentary skills together that require trans-disciplinary
(Stokols, 2006; Pohl and Hirsch Hadorn, 2007) and cross-functional collaboration.
Collaboration patterns differ among disciplines and countries (Santonen & Ritala,
2014). Therefore, social relationships and social networks are important in
understanding how scientific communities and scholarly networks are formed and how
they support collaborative research projects and initiatives. It is important to gain an
understanding of the social structures and sub-structures, and what they can reveal
about information flows, including across formal boundaries within and beyond
institutions. Geographic proximity plays a key role, as do key scholars that are well
connected to other central scholars. Other important considerations include motivation
to collaborate, network position and the extent to which the actors (key authors,
organisations and countries) are embedded in their network structures. All of the above
appear to have an impact on the resulting activities, resources and outcomes of the
network (Borgatti et al 2009; Kilduff and Brass, 2010). Therefore in academic
communities it could be expected that individual scholars are most likely to collaborate
in co-authoring with their existing rather than new networks.
Santonen and Ritala (2014) examined the impact of social network relationships on
research collaboration and social/professional linkages. Their results indicate that
certain authors occupy central positions in scholarly social networks. They find that
those who combine and bridge major clusters and have co-authored a lot within their
network will also have collaborated with a diverse network of co-authors. Face to face
and ease of interaction is significant in developing the social network and it’s substructures. Therefore networks tend to be more institutionally and geographically
clustered in nature. Santonen and Ritala (2014) suggest that international and
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interdisciplinary research collaborations lead to valuable learning opportunities and
In the context of this study, we will test their suggestion that a large amount of
international collaboration encourages very useful dissemination of knowledge,
capabilities and insights. We will also explore how to ensure the inclusion of new
members outside the current community. As the context for this research study is an
international scholarly network we will test the importance of international mechanisms
or incentives from universities and scientific communities, together with international
collaboration through Fulbright supported research exchanges and visits.
Related Literature
While there is a fairly extensive literature of personal narratives describing the
experience of being a Fulbright scholar, there has been little empirical research on this
experience and its impact on individual learning and professional growth and
development or in building international networks for research collaborations.
Several articles included personal narratives embedded in empirical studies. Of
those studies identified, a number reported the impact of learning on the Fulbright
Scholar. For example, in a recent study, Opt (2014) reported the Fulbright experience
taught participating scholars about teaching and research, but challenged their taken for
granted ideas about their own culture. Participants in the study gained insights into their
own culture, including their teaching methods and the U.S. educational system by
experiencing differences in the host country. The study found the use of a cultural
mentor helped to build relationships with colleagues in the host country. Similarly, Lal
(2006) described feeling part of an exclusive Fulbright community with a unique
opportunity to not only assist with the development of a pharmacy in the host country
(China), but also to have gained professional experience in grant writing through the
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Fulbright experience. Jackson (1996) argued the importance of person-to-person
encounters in the host country for learning everyday popular culture as well as for
seeing the perspectives of others on one’s own culture.
Several of the articles reviewed reported the impact of the Fulbright experience
on developing international scholarly networks.
Watson (1995) reflected on the
Fulbright award as an opportunity for personal growth and development, and an
opportunity to work with international colleagues. Lentz (2011) recounted his
experiences as a Fulbright Scholar in Zambia in addition to the results from his research
study on HIV/AIDS. He particularly noted his ability to building relationships with
Zambian scholars in addition to sharing his experiences with colleagues and students
upon returning to the USA. In a narrative study, a collaboration of scholars in health
disciplines described how the Fulbright experienced helped to shape their future career
plans, problem-soling skills, and clinical practice. They reported either continuing the
research they had started or set the groundwork for new research through the
We identified two survey studies reporting views of the impact of the Fulbright
program at two distinct points in the history of the program. The first, a 1955 study by
Mendelsohn and Orenstein reviewed the types of grants awarded, awardees, and
prominent areas of study as well as the impact of the program on those awardees. At
that time, the majority of grants were awarded for France and the UK with two-thirds
for graduate study and one-third for teaching in education, language and literature, and
the social sciences. Two thirds of the awards went to men. The study reported a
development of research and teaching skills, opportunities for better jobs, and
broadened professional contacts internationally. Decades later, Sunal & Sunal (1995)
focused on the Fulbright experience in Africa with results indicating those Fulbright
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scholars involved were more male than female, on average 47 years old, and tenured
full professors. The majority of those studied did not take their families with them. The
study reported participants’ positive growth in international understanding, general
career advancement, and more research on Africa, in addition to the development of
professional contacts through their experiences. These participants also reported little
value attributed to the award by the home institution.
In summary, while the literature points to increased cultural understandings,
improved learning in teaching and research, the bulk of the work on the impact of the
Fulbright Programs on faculty learning, faculty research, and the development of
scholarly networks is largely absent from empirical literature. Much is in narrative form
with just two more general surveys reporting perspectives of Fulbright awardees. With
this overall lack of empirical attention on the Fulbright Program and its impact on
scholars and scholarly networks, the purpose of this study is to examine the perspectives
of Fulbright awardees on the impact of the experience on their learning and career
development, their abilities to enhance an international scholarly network, and to
engage in collaborations with this network for relevant interdisciplinary research.
Research Design
A mixed methods research design will be used to gain participants perspectives
of the impact of their Fulbright experiences. We begin with both a questionnaire and
in-depth qualitative interview design (deMarrais, 2004; Roulston, 20xx).
approach enabled us to focus on the following aims and objectives of the study.
The aim of the research study is to examine how faculty build scholarly relationships,
collaborations, and networks through engagement in a Fulbright Program.
The objectives include:
Identify the scholarly network structure including the linkages between key
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contributors and their networks; the development points; and the promising
research collaboration opportunities that emerge;
Explore how academics use learning partnerships and scholarly networks;
Identify the implications of scholarly networks for faculty core research,
networked relationships, and inter-disciplinary orientations;
Examine how faculty research interests develop and changes as a result of their
international collaborations.
transformation through the social, personal and situational contexts of the
scholarly network.
Research Project Phases
Phase 1: Pilot Study
This paper reports on the initial or start-up stage (Phase One) of the research
study, beginning with this pilot study to identify key criteria to be considered and
included in the development of a national survey for the USA and Ireland. On
completion of the Irish/American study, we expect to expand the study to incorporate
results from a European/Eurasian analysis of scholarly networks and how they are
formed. As the context for this research study is an international scholarly network we
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will test the importance of international mechanisms or incentives from universities and
scientific communities, together with international collaboration through research
exchanges and visits.
Two questions guide the scope of this project
1. How do the Fulbright Programs encourage scholarly networks? Who are the
key contributors and their networks; the development points; and the promising
research collaboration opportunities?
2. How are an individual’s incentive, content and interaction dimensions of
learning supported through the use of learning partnerships, academic
communities of practice and social networks?
The Fulbright Experience, A Journey of a Different Kind
The Fulbright programme is a highly competitive, merit-based programme of
grants for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers,
professionals, scientists and artists. Founded in 1946 by Senator J. William Fulbright
(1904-1995), a U.S. Senator from Arkansas and Chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee from 1959-1974. He dedicated his political career to the pursuit
of international peace and developed an international educational exchange programme
from his experience as a Rhodes Scholar. His vision was to promote the exchange of
knowledge between nations that would lead to greater understanding and tolerance.
From its first overseas U.S. participants who took part in 1948, over 300,000
American and international “Fulbrighters” have benefitted from the program to date.
Fulbright sponsors participants in all disciplines of study and is active in 155 countries
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Principally funded by the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Department of State and also
by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Additional direct and indirect
support is received from foreign governments and host institutions. CIES (Council for
International Exchange of Scholars) of the Institute of International Education has
administered the program for the past 60 years. The program aims to strengthen global
peace by encouraging mutual understanding and education between the U.S. and the
Fulbright partner countries.
UGA and Ireland Fulbright Scholars 2010-2015
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The first stage of the pilot is a case study at the University of Georgia, Athens. Details
of Fulbright Programmes and Scholars associated with UGA include:
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A second-step pilot will be conducted at Waterford Institute of Technology and Trinity
College Dublin immediately after the UGA study. When combined, the results of these
Stage One pilot studies will be replicated at DUKE in North Carolina and USF in
Florida. Results from the pilot studies will assist in how we can reveal the underlying
structure of the social (and scholarly) network behind Fulbright; and will focus on
Fulbrighters’ intentions, expectations and experiences. A national survey will be
designed and operationalised in North America and Ireland as a result of this research
study. Subsequent phases of the overall research study are set out in Appendix One.
Research Design and Methods (Pilot Study)
Stage One of the pilot study will examine the experience of faculty who are part of the
Fulbright social (and scholarly) network. Using a mixed methods approach, an initial
questionnaire will be sent to approximately 150 participants in order to establish a
baseline data set. Participants will be drawn from three US universities (UGA, USF &
DUKE) and two HEIs (TCD & WIT). In-depth interviews will then be conducted with
20-50 participants in total. We will
explore incidents when faculty felt they
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experienced personal, professional, or situational growth during or after their Fulbright
The University of Georgia, Athens is the site of the first case study. The IRB
process has been completed (April 2015), the questionnaire and interview protocols
completed and interviews are currently being conducted (April/May 2015). UGA data
will be analysed and initial results released to inform the next steps in phase one on the
level of Fulbright Scholarly activity within the faculty of the university.
This study uses purposeful sampling. Participants will be selected on the basis that they
have received a Fulbright award and are currently employed as faculty members. They
will be contacted within the week following IRB approval at their university and asked
to complete a 15-minute questionnaire and asked to participate in a 45-60 minute
follow-up interview either in person or via Skype.
Initial Results and Findings at UGA
There is no one single profile of a typical Fulbrighter. However, they all share
a strong academic background, leadership potential, a passion for increasing mutual
understanding among nations and cultures, and the adaptability and flexibility to pursue
their proposed Fulbright project successfully. It would seem that finding oneself in
receipt of a Fulbright award entails a dimension of visualizing the possible and ideal
self as an agent of creatively embracing principles of good practice in challenging times
in education.
This study will examine social and scholarly networks developed through
participation in Fulbright Programs. It seeks to gain a better understanding of the key
contributors and their networks; the development points; and promising research
collaboration opportunities that arise as a result of receiving the award. In particular,
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the study will examine how personal, professional, and situational dimensions embrace
their notions of identity, context, emotion, and agency.
Benefits and Contributions
Knowledge obtained from this study will aid in understanding the impact of
receiving a scholarly award on faculty lifelong professional learning. It will offer a
better understanding of how scholarly networks support the social, personal and
situational (organisational) contexts of evolving professional identities for faculty; and
inform future research in the area. A contribution will be made to existing knowledge
on the importance of learning partnerships, academic communities of practice and
social networks to faculty lifelong professional learning. Individuals may discover
additional insights on how receiving a scholarly award impacted them personally or
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professionally. The study results will inform the design and development in Phase Two
of a US and Irish national survey instrument. Finally, knowledge gained from this study
will help the Fulbright Commission in evaluating the impact its awards are making to
professional scholars internationally.
Other benefits include:
Initial project scholarly relationships and collaborations between Ireland and
the USA will be consolidated by this research project.
This project will evidence the importance of external agency funding and the
necessity for support and commitment to international research by the Irish
Research Council.
The difficulties of working across time zones evidences the need for more faceto-face contact to consolidate and build firm commitment to the project with
other stakeholders outside of core team.
The study will identify future partners and other forms of scholarly networks
that should be the subject of future investigation.
Dissemination at UFHRD conference in June 2015 in Ireland , EERA
Conference in September 2015, and AERA in April 2016 in USA.
Publication in journals include Academy of Management Journal Education;
Adult Education Quarterly, Journal of Human Resource.
This research involves human subjects. Applications for IRB approval in the
American university sites in Georgia (UGA) DUKE and Florida (USF), will be
submitted and we are awaiting formal approval in TCD and WIT. Dr Anne Graham
Cagney is the principle investigator for the overall project with a co-investigator at each
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university site who is a member of the faculty at each institution. Each IRB names Dr
Graham Cagney as a co-investigator and letters of invitation have been issued by the
universities to conduct the research project with their faculty.
Each university will be the site of the research project (Phase One) for its faculty
therefore no external sites will be involved. Consent forms will be part of the protocols
submitted for IRB review: there is no external or internal funding from USA sources at
this stage. Seed funding to support travel to initiate the IRB processes in the three
American universities has been awarded by the Irish Research Council ‘New
Foundations’ programme.
Conclusions and Final Thoughts
We have embarked on an ambitious project to design an international survey
that will identify the role of scholarly networks (developed within the context of
Fulbright programs) in contributing and enhancing the relevance of academic research
interests both to the academic community and to the practice community. This pilot
study results will assist in exploring the impact of receiving a scholarly award on faculty
development of international scholarly networks that lead to core research, networked
relationships, and interdisciplinary orientations. We have also identified that one the
major contribution of this study is to address the overall lack of empirical attention on
the Fulbright Program and its impact on scholars and scholarly networks. Therefore,
the purpose of this study is to examine the perspectives of Fulbright awardees on the
impact of the experience on their learning and development, their abilities to enhance
an international scholarly network, and to engage in collaborations with this network
for relevant interdisciplinary research.
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We are grateful to the Irish Research Council for ‘New Foundations’ seed
funding. We acknowledge the commitment we have received for this study from our
co-investigators and the support their institutions (UGA, DUKE, USF, TCD, WIT)
have given to this pilot study. We appreciate and acknowledge the support we have
received to date from the Fulbright Commission (Washington, DC and Dublin) and the
Fulbright Alumni Associations in Ireland, Georgia and Florida..
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3. http://www.fulbright.i
5. http://us.fulbrightonlin
Contact: [email protected]
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Phase 1 – Survey Fulbright awardees in three US HEIs and two in Ireland.
We will collaborate with faculty at the University of Georgia, the University of South
Florida, DUKE in North Carolina, Trinity College Dublin and Waterford Institute of
Technology to administer a questionnaire to a pilot group of approximately 150 people.
An initial database will be developed on the type of Fulbright awards received, the
disciplinary areas of the focal research projects, the geographic location and length of
the Fulbright project, and the significance for the individual of receiving their award
on a personal and professional basis. As part of the pilot respondents will be invited
to continue to be involved and informed about the research study. They will be asked
to indicate on the questionnaire whether they would be willing to be part of a small
group of participants who will take part in a critical incident interview of
approximately 45 minutes as a follow-up to the questionnaire.
Phase 2
We will collaborate with the Fulbright Alumni Associations in Florida, Georgia, North
Carolina and Ireland; and meet with the Fulbright Commission in both Washington
DC and Dublin. Following consultation with the various stakeholders and making
connections to our pilot group of Fulbright scholars in the US and Ireland we will use
the data from the questionnaires, scholar interview transcripts, and stakeholder
discussions to inform the design and development of a large scale survey on the
Fulbright Commission awards in the context of scholarly networks and lifelong
professional learning and faculty identity. The completed survey will be administered
on a national level in the USA and in Ireland.
Phase 3
Following analysis of the data the results of the survey will be written up both in a
report for the Fulbright Commission, the Fulbright Alumni Associations and in a
scholarly journal in order to disseminate the information to the wider academic and
practitioner community. The phenomenon we are researching is one in which an
individual chooses to make an application for the Fulbright award; receive it on a
meritocratic set of criteria and exploit the potential for their own good and that of the
scientific community of which they want to be a part. The results of the study should
inform current practice on how useable knowledge is generated together with how to
form and gain best advantage of scholarly networks designed to encourage
international collaboration through research exchanges and visits.
Phase 4
The research study team will consider how it could extend the work to an international
study encompassing Europe, Asia, and Australia in the context of Fulbright Scholars.
Additionally, it will also consider how it could be extended to other scholarly awards
and of other academic communities (Eden Seminars, RIA, etc) that can be identified as
communities of practice that act as social networks in supporting the lifelong
professional learning academics in HEIs.
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Other related questions (that will be refined over time) include: Lifelong professional learning
 At what point in their career do faculty become interested and engaged in
lifelong professional learning?
 What types of learning do faculty experience as part of their scholarly network?
 How do faculty evolve their thinking and understanding in order to maintain
the relevance of their research interests both to their academic community; and
to the practice community?
Scholarly networks
 Why do faculty engage with scholarly networks?
 What is the underlying structure of scholarly networks and who are the key
 What are the development points of scholarly networks?
 What are the interventions used in scholarly networks? What tasks, functions
or boundary mechanisms support promising research collaboration
 What factors facilitate the creation and maintenance of scholarly networks?
Transformative Learning
 What are the barriers to faculty learning?
 What facilitates faculty learning?
 How does the learning experience compare with other types of collaborative
 What elements, components and processes support personal learning and
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