Thomas Kersten and Stacey Edmonson, March 2010
To a large extent, faculty who enter the field of educational leadership preparation do so following many years of experience as school administrators. For most new faculty members, a position in higher education is a natural extension of their professional lives. While some choose to serve as adjunct professors, others aspire to tenure-track positions. In either case, they are typically motivated by the opportunity to share what they have learned during their careers with both aspiring administrators as well as current administrators seeking promotions.
As they enter academia, many tenure-track professors find themselves somewhat unaware of all the responsibilities associated with their new positions. Yes, they know they will teach, serve on committees, and be expected to publish. In fact, for most former administrators, meeting the expectations associated with teaching and service requires minimal adjustment. For a substantial number, however, the scholarship expectations initially appear daunting.
As a result, many novice assistant professors soon discover that the transition to higher education includes a steep scholarship learning curve. During their careers as school administrators, they had probably heard the phrase "publish or perish" but had not fully comprehended its meaning. Many may even have earned their degrees before the introduction of the Institutional Review Board process (IRB).
As school administrators, new professors may have conducted local research but often without significant concerns about research design, methodology, data collection, and analysis. In fact, it is likely that they may not even be familiar with the definition of a peer-reviewed publication. To them, publishing means having what they have written accepted for publication somewhere. Whether it is peer reviewed or not, as well as whether it is published locally, statewide, or nationally, either in print or online, means very little. In fact, most of their past personal writing probably focused on pragmatic administrative responsibilities rather than research studies or theoretical papers.
Once they are immersed in their first tenure-track position, the realities of scholarship become readily apparent. New professors must shift a majority of their reading and writing from practitioner-oriented, non-peer reviewed educational magazines and newsletters to more academic publications. Some learn for the first time that scholarship also includes presentations at state and national conferences, which too have to pass the test of peer review. As a result, when faced with the expectation of publishing in peer-reviewed journals, new professors often are not sure where to begin.
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