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Exploring two common challenges scholars face in the field of education

The Smart Scholar | Topics in Higher Education

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar.

Each discipline has advantages, challenges, and nuances that we must navigate during our career. More specifically, as a professor in the field of education, I believe there are some challenges and opportunities unique to my discipline.  This can be especially true for scholars when looking for an academic position. In this post, I will highlight two particular nuances I have experienced and how you can benefit from them to land your next academic position.

Having an interdisciplinary research agenda

Education is a unique discipline because while it has its own canon, values, and traditions, it also borrows from the fields of psychology, business, sociology (just to name a few). Therefore, I believe for some scholars with an interdisciplinary research agenda, they may find inherent challenges when meeting with search committees. For instance, if your research agenda spans K-12 and higher education, some positions that are strictly K-12 focused may frown upon your higher education research interests and vice versa. While some feel that not fitting perfectly into a sub-discipline is a challenge, I see it as an opportunity to have options. You can be flexible in terms of your departmental fit for an academic position.

So, how do you determine the best fit for you if your work is interdisciplinary research?

  • Use your cover letter and your initial interview to show the search committee how you are a fit for the position
  • More importantly, you should be ready to answer questions about your research and practitioner background
  • Know how your diversity makes you an ideal candidate for the position

Limited experience in the field

Throughout my career I have found it interesting that a faculty member could have limited field experience as a K-12 educator or higher education staff/administrator. Faculty opportunities are increasingly requiring practitioner experience, but there are times when a professor may have very little practical experience. In this case, they are subject matter experts through their research. But, if you have little practical experience, how can you be certain your research is applicable to the settings you investigate?

Given this challenge, in a recent Education Week article, I argued that faculty in schools of education should receive an incentive for them to leave the perceived “Ivory Tower” and go back into the field. This will allow faculty to bring real-world experiences into their university teaching in a way that better prepares future educators for the reality of their jobs. Likewise, if you feel during your graduate studies or early career that you have limited practitioner experience, I would suggest partnering with a local school (if you are focused on K-12 issues). For those who are focused on higher education, it would be helpful to work in conjunction with staff/administrators at your university to gain practical experiences as an administrator.

What challenges, nuances, or advantages do you see in your field? I look forward to continuing the conversation on Twitter (@ramongoings).

 

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. As a writing coach and editor, Dr. Goings enjoys supporting the scholarly development of doctoral students and professors in higher education. For more information about Dr. Goings, please visit his website www.ramongoings.com and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings).