The Need for and Value of Scholarship in Institutional Research
Theory and conceptual framing play an integral role in the professional practice of institutional research. The university research centers from which institutional research emerged were directed and staffed by scholars originating from primarily psychology and the social sciences. Advances in applied statistics and information technologies through the latter half of the twentieth Century shaped the scholarly development of institutional research practices as well as emerging applied social science disciplines, such as public administration, business, and education. Today’s IR practitioners, regardless of academic training and socialization, focus foremost on the value of theory in providing insight into the complex and highly nuanced issues that pervade higher education institutional administration and operations, and appreciate how a scholarly approach to research connects them to academic colleagues. As evaluation and accountability grow in importance, enhancement is connected to the explicit formulation and empirical testing of action theories that underlie the programs and processes of higher education. Recent developments of a theoretical predictive analytics and a growing divide between administrative and academic bureaucracies reinforce the need for IR practitioners to continue to take a critical, scholarly approach to supporting institutional effectiveness and enhancement.
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