Philosophy of Scholarship
As a scholar-practitioner, my view of scholarship is broad and it is situated in the expanding space where knowledge from traditional (basic and applied) research interfaces with practice knowledge. As contrast, the scholarly space in traditional research is narrow; processes are highly controlled and have strictly defined parameters; the outcome is highly specific knowledge that may need further translation.
My orientation is largely informed by the notion that a Doctor of Occupational Therapy is a scholar-practitioner who will answer real-world questions by 1) integrating evidence from basic and translational or applied research and/or 2) by applying empirical methods to test the effectiveness of evidence in real-world practice context. In other words, if a practitioner where to apply evidence taken from controlled contexts (traditional research, basic or applied) will it work in practice? And if it does not work, the scholar-practitioner assesses why and figures out what can be tweaked to make the evidence work. Thus, I view my role as a scholar-practitioner to facilitate dialogue among researchers, practitioners, and educators.
To illustrate, here is one important research questions I strive to answer:
How can we harness brain plasticity to promote motor learning and functional adaptation in persons with neurological conditions? Traditional research has given us substantial knowledge about the mechanisms of neuroplasticity and brain recovery from rat models to humans (basic research). Such knowledge has been translated into robust experiments that demonstrate the efficacy of treatment that induces neuroplastic changes in the brain such as CIT (applied research). The big practical question is: "If CIT works, how come it is not practiced by most?" From here, more practical questions arise. To list a few:
- Are therapists possess the competence or evidence-based knowledge to use CIT?
- Given the realities of reimbursement, is CIT feasible in the clinical setting?
- Given the strict inclusion criteria in CIT studies, is it only applicable to small subset of stroke population?
- Who else could benefit from CIT?
These questions are also informed by social justice. Discoveries on effective interventions should not be limited to a subset of the population of concern who fit the research criteria and who has access through payment/reimbursement and the availability of competent therapists. Therefore, it is my position that research should look at the big picture and answer the many "so what?" questions in integrative manner.
Educators in the health professions are in a large way, active agents of the scholar-practitioner space for they have the responsibility to integrate into their teaching the theory, the best available evidence, and realities of practice. However, educators should not only follow this integration as a scholarly exercise, but must also examine their effectiveness and the many variables that co-effect learning, through scholarship. Therefore, I strongly believe in the scholarship of teaching-and-learning as the crucial 4th leg of the chair where the scholar-practitioner educator model sits.