Global Research Letters

The Commitment of a Scholar Practitioner

Dr. Michael Patten begins this course on research design by introducing the topic of research, designing research and contextualizing it in the scholar practitioner designing research model. He concludes the program with a discussion of two terms he believes should be in the vocabulary and consciousness of a scholar practitioner designing research epistemology and ontology.

I want to welcome you into the world of the scholar practitioner designing research so let’s talk about that world and what it means to be a scholar practitioner designing research. Scholar is someone who studies how the world is, to learn about the world, to contribute to knowledge about the world and part of what distinguishes research from our ordinary walking through the world and being in the world is not only paying attention to it more systematically, but the commitment to record how we do that. To publish for others, to review what our findings are, to designing research and in particular what methods we use to come up with those findings. What you’ll find in the world of scholarship is that the controversies are actually not so much about the findings; the controversies are about the methods. How did you find out what you found out, the method finding linkage is key and so as a scholar you have an obligation and a commitment to record not only your findings but to document in great detail where those findings came from. How did you arrive at those conclusions? What instrument did you use? What was your sample? What was your relationship to the thing that you’re studying? It is that commitment to study the world to understand how it unfolds that makes you a scholar. A practitioner designing research is someone who is trying to make a difference in the world, trying to help people, trying to change systems, trying to improve programs and that linkage then between the scholar and the practitioner is that a scholar practitioner designing research is someone who uses the skills and the knowledge that comes out of scholarship to inform their action in the world, to inform their prime. To give you a favorite example, my daughter was born without one ear and as she became a teenager we began talking with her about whether or not she wanted to have reconstructive surgery to have an ear built and we located one of the world’s best reconstructive surgeons and went to see him. He talked to my daughter and showed her what he would do but in addition to that he had followed up all of the people on whom he had performed reconstructive surgery he had interviews with them and he was able to show my daughter the satisfaction rates of different people who have had their ears rebuilt and was able to show her data from teenage girls who were the least satisfied of his clientele because they had such high expectations about how this would change their lives. So as a part of his practice, a skilled reconstructive surgeon, he provided her with data about how people like her responded to the surgery, the impact on their lives, and was able to gather data from her and help her think about what her life was like. How it might be different? What her expectations were, and compare that to data from other people like her. He was a scholar practitioner designing research as a reconstructive surgeon. If you’re in Psychological practice, if you’re in a clinic, if you’re in education, part of being a scholar practitioner designing research is to follow up the impact of your work and find out if you making the difference you want to make. We call that reality testing. A scholar practitioner designing research is careful not to fool themselves about the impact they have. We know from psychology that we all have rose-colored glasses. We all have selective perception as basically animals, we prefer pleasure to pain and so we’d like to think that we’re doing well, that we’re making a difference. The scholar practitioner designing research brings to that desire to make the world a better place a commitment to empirically validate whether or not those are actually being realized. Are you making a difference? Now, that’s a scary question because it’s easier in some ways to live the unexamined life, to engage in the unexamined, to practice. The commitment of a scholar practitioner designing research is to say here’s what I hope to accomplish, this is the difference I hope to make, this is a contribution I hope to make, and then to employ the methods of research to find out is that how it turned out. How do you know that you’re doing good not just that you hope to do good but how do you know and that requires having criteria. That requires having data, that requires being willing to ask that hard question about what difference you’re making. The scholar practitioner designing research is committed to changing what’s going on to get a better result and that means using the method of research, designing research and systematic inquiry to examine the effects of your practice to improve your practice. Many of you are unlikely to be full time researchers designing research, full time scholars designing research. You will however throughout your life as a practitioner be a lifetime consumer of research. We live in the knowledge age. Knowledge is the currency of our time. To be an effective citizen, to be an effective participant in democracy, to be an effective practitioner, to be an effective parent, to be an effective colleague, to be an effective spouse, there is knowledge about what works and doesn’t work in those arenas. There’s also a huge amount of garbage out there especially with the internet spewing garbage all the time. One of the commitments of a scholar practitioner designing research is to be able to tell knowledge from junk, is to be able to distinguish stuff that is true and validated and reliable from the stuff that people make up, where they assert things on the basis of their values and hopes that simply aren’t true. So regardless of whether or not you conduct a great deal of research, you will always be consuming research. What diets work, what foods should you consume and not consume, what’s the effect of red wine, what’s the effect of caffeine, what kind of exercise programs work, what statements do politicians make that are true and not true. It’s important for you to know those things. As a consumer you need to be concerned about knowledge, about facts, about what’s going on in the world that makes you a sophisticated consumer and learning how to tell solid research learning, how to tell cumulative research becomes a part of that practice. The scholar practitioner designing research brings to their own practice an attitude of skepticism, an attitude that you need evidence to make claims. This is one of the areas where I find students get in the most difficulty especially in psychology that in the social sciences in general is many people who come to adult education come with a lot of experience and with strong beliefs about what works and doesn’t work. Many psychologists are involved in a form of practice of designing research where they’re in a particular tradition of psychology or operating out of a particular model or doing some techniques that they’ve been using for a while and I work with those students and ask them why they’ve come into a master’s program or a doctoral program. What they often say is I want to prove that my model works. That’s not the mindset of a scholar practitioner, that’s public relations, that’s advertising. To try to convince people that something you believe is true is PR is advertising, is persuasion. What a scholar practitioner designing research wants to do is inquire into whether or not what you’re doing works. You bring then openness to it, a reality testing attitude to it. Research and designing research is not about proving you’re right. Research and designing research is about studying how the world is and you may or may not be effective in what you’re doing. That is what this gives you an opportunity to do to learn about what works and doesn’t work, not to try to prove a prejudice, not to prove a predisposition, not to support your biases, but to find out how the world works. Now the beauty of that is and I want to speak directly to the anxiety that students often have when they come to research and designing research, the beauty of that is that you cannot fail to find out that your model doesn’t work. Is not failure that’s knowledge, that’s learning in the world? It is our task is to find out how it is. That’s the challenge- to discover that the way we thought it is isn’t the way. It is not failure, its knowledge. Our history as a species is filled with propositions that turned out to be false. That’s how we build knowledge so you can’t fail at this unless you come to it with a closed mind, manipulating the data to try to make it come out the way you want it to, make it come out to be genuinely open to the way the world is and to find out how it is and to record your methods of inquiry so that others can see how you arrived at your conclusions and to use those conclusions to inform your practice.

That’s what makes you a scholar practitioner designing research and great at designing research. As you enter the world of scholarship and designing research you’re going to encounter jargon. There are words that scholars have used that lay people often make fun of or don’t understand or are intimidated by, and of course as practitioners you know about jargon in your areas of practice and designing research. Every discipline has jargon, that is language it creates for its own youth to distinguish things that it thinks are important in science and research in general two important words that you encounter in this journey are epistemology and ontology and I encourage you as a scholar practitioner designing research to practice those words so that they roll off your tongue and you can share them with people or respond to them when you encounter somebody who may ask you what’s your epistemological perspective. Epistemology is the study of knowledge. How do we know what we know and this is an important distinction within the scholar practitioner designing research framework because the framing of a scholar practitioner designing research has a particular epistemology, one kind of epistemology, the one that’s dominant in much of research and traditional social science. It’s called values free. Social science is that the way to study the world, the way to know the world is to be separated from the world, is to be outside, is to be independent, is to be objective, and is to not be involved in what’s going on in the world. That’s an epistemological stance. It says that you can best know the world by being separate from it. The scholar practitioner and designing research in epistemology asserts that you can best know the world by being engaged in it, that by being engaged, by being part of the world you get access to things through your direct experience with lived experience by understanding what’s happening to you as a part of your engagement you get deeper insight into how the world is. So that’s an epistemological stance one that you will have the opportunity to deepen throughout this scholar practitioner designing research journey and I simply introduced that term to you now so that you can pay attention to it and ask yourself how do I know what I know? What are my sources of knowledge? How do I deal with my own biases? How do I try to acknowledge bias? How do I control bias? What are different sources of knowledge? How do I establish the credibility of these different sources of knowledge? Those are epistemological questions. Ontology and its designing research are about the nature of reality. It is especially important in psychological research and designing research because it addresses the issue of what is it that we’re studying what the world is made up of. Clearly there’s a physical world, there is the the world that is made up of tables and chairs and roads and trees, there’s a world of living things. One of the ontological issues in psychology and in the social sciences is whether the nature of reality for human beings is different in some way than that physical world. For example, there is the constructivist perspective that says our language and our participation in a particular culture, in a particular society conditions our experience of the world so that, what we think is real is actually a matter of perception. It’s not real; it’s what we’ve learned from our culture. We’ve been taught to think of certain things as real and that makes them real because we think that they are real. The very notion of a table is a cultural construct from that point of view in the physical world there is simply this structure but we know certain structures as something we call a table. One of the classic examples of constructivism is the difference between a hamburger and a cheeseburger in American culture. Here are these two things, it can have all kinds of condiments and different kinds of bread and different degrees of fat in the meat and it can be made on the grill or some other way but we decided that adding a piece of cheese to this thing is in a different category than everything else, that we may do to a burger well that’s a construction and looking at how we’ve constructed reality is one version of ontology. In this scholar practitioner and designing research journey then, you’ll be invited to think about how you know what you know and what do you think about what are your assumptions about what it is you’re studying. The very nature of reality itself, those are big-time jargony words and over the course of this journey they will hopefully become more real to you because as a scholar practitioner designing research, you will be expected to have an epistemological and ontological point of view. So I welcome you and invite you into the world of the scholar practitioner and designing research.

It’s going to be a wonderful journey you’ll learn ways of inquiring into how the world is and how your practice and designing research is to improve that practice and that will serve you well both in being a participant in this world and in changing designing research in the ways that you want to change.

Various great research journals such as Global Research Letters are a great option and way to help you look up research papers to understand the process of designing research and the commitment of a research scholar. With the help of which you will be able to read the papers and understand the commitment needed to become a scholar practitioner. Here, you will find a number of various research papers that are provided and made available to you in the journal.

You can very easily find various kinds of researches by a number of scholar practitioners recorded in a number of research papers at Global Research Letters. This will help you with your own research work and understanding what research work asks of a researcher. With access to so many amazing research papers, you can practice and learn the process of designing research and the commitment required to become a scholar practitioner.

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