Scholars of Color Making Academic Research More Culturally Relevant - Higher Education
Higher Education News and Jobs

Scholars of Color Making Academic Research More Culturally Relevant

Email


by Tiffany Flowers


 

Tiffany Flowers

Tiffany Flowers

As a fairly new academic, I have this conversation with colleagues at least once a week. Making academic work relevant for both the higher education environments where we work and the stakeholders we serve can often become a daunting task. However, going back to a basic approach of conducting research, publishing work, and focusing on information dissemination is key to making this come to fruition.

As academics, we must not forget our stakeholders. This is often an issue particularly for scholars of color that come from communities of color that do work with underrepresented, minority, and even impoverished populations. Although many academics gain access to these communities to conduct research, it is rare that there is impetus to actually help those populations in some way. Thus, the academic work becomes cyclical and merely identifies the problem. This is problematic since research framed in this manner seeks to only confirm existing research instead of advancing the conversation, posing solutions or recommendations of the issue at hand.

Confirming the problem through research essentially becomes the nature and culture of academia at colleges and universities across the United States. Although, there are some changes such as academics that do action research, research regarding service learning, and auto-ethnography. Those instances are not widespread and not a normalized part of academic culture. Many academics follow appropriate guidelines set by the Institutional Review Boards housed at their institutions. The research is often conducted, analyzed, written, published, and in some cases the work is published in academic books. The authors and publishers make money from selling the research, and the academic journals in which we publish our work support our national academic organizations. Thus, everyone except the population under study stands to profit, advance or gain prominence in some way.

  Lost in the Shuffle: The Critical Role of Community Colleges

There may be a trickle-down effect for the population under study since the research is used to train future professionals in the field. Those professionals may in turn help the population. However, there is no direct requirement that researchers are actually responsible for helping the population they study in some way. At some point, we have to ask ourselves whether this behavior and business practice is ethical. More specifically, we need to figure out more responsible research practices that focus on how we can make our work more relevant to our populations under study. In other words, as scholars of color, how can we create more culturally relevant research in our respective fields that seek to investigate, analyze, challenge, and ultimately positively impact our respective fields and the communities where we conduct research?

At the outset of conducting research, scholars of color should ask themselves five questions:

  1. How is this research relevant to the population under study?
  2. How can I design a research project to offer information dissemination to the population under study?
  3. Can I design my research project in a way that provides service to the population under study?
  4. Is there a way to offer long-term service to the community under study?
  5. What resources can I provide to the community in which I study?

In order to move toward a more meaningful and culturally relevant research approach, academics should focus on the approach of making their research important to the communities they serve and design a plan to serve the community in some way. As academics, gaining the trust of communities of color means nothing when your practices are perceived as being colonizing rather than culturally relevant.

  Students Accused of Plagiarism Expelled From Ship

Dr. Tiffany A. Flowers is an Assistant Professor of Education at Georgia Perimeter College. She is an Indiana Minority Faculty Fellow, Frederick Douglas Teaching Fellow, and an NCTE Early Career Award Leadership Award Recipient. Her research interests include African American literacy development, literature, diversity issues in education, and emergent literacy. Correspondence concerning this commentary may be e-mailed to tflowers@gpc.edu.

RELATED ARTICLES >>
Celebrate Latino High School Graduation, but Work Toward College Degree Attainment Every high school graduate is one more member of society who can contribute economically, socially and politically. It’s especially true for every college graduate, particularly among students underrepresented in higher education. A college degree ca...
Wing Finds Failure Just a Marker Along Route to Success Kelisa Wing is the assistant principal at West Point Elementary School in New York, but she remembers that her relationship with education did not have an ideal start. As a first-grader, she struggled in the classroom because of problems at home. ...
Two Higher Education Goals Deferred “Challenges and Opportunities in Achieving the National Postsecondary Degree Attainment Goals,” a new research report authored by Michael Nettles of Educational Testing Service (ETS), follows the United States’ progress toward meeting attainment goal...
Strategy Offered to Turn Rising Tide of Segregated Schools Can socioeconomic status (SES) desegregation policies combat rising school segregation across the United States? A new policy briefing from the National Coalition on School Diversity suggests that schools will see better results from using policies t...
Semantic Tags: