Case study of establishing a "Journal Club" among faculty to foster a scholarly environment of research, enquiry and collaboration and

developing a learning community in a college
Andrew Gerrard, Chair, Applied Research and Entrepreneurship, Dubai Men's College, U.A.E. Victoria Marshall, Librarian, Dubai Men's College, U.A.E. Dean Sheetz, Business Faculty, Dubai Men's College, U.A.E. Mark Cutcher. Lead Faculty, Dept of Learning Innovation, Dubai Men's College, UAE.

Abstract: Within a busy further education system, with so many demands on faculty time and resources at a premium, is it possible to cheaply yet effectively create an environment where faculty are motivated and engaged to read scholarly articles? And if it were, what would the results be on pedagogy and research activity? This case study centers on the efforts of staff at a vocational higher education college in the United Arab Emirates, teaching in English as second language medium, to establish a "Journal Club" to foster a scholarly environment of research, enquiry and collaboration and develop a learning community in a college. The initiative falls within the broader theme of developing professional skills, attitudes and lifelong leaming in faculty, additionally using web 2.0 communication technologies to facilitate and broaden discussion in the club. Questionnaires and attendance at the meetings are used to measure success at achieving the objective.

Statement of Purpose Within a busy institution of higher education, where the primary emphasis is on teaching vocational subjects, there are many demands on faculty time and resources. Within this context, is it possible to create a research culture in which faculty are motivated to read and discuss scholarly articles? As faculty members in a vocational college in the United Arab Emirates, the authors set out to explore the merits of a joumal club to promote research, enquiry, and collaboration. After three months of meetings, we undertook this study in order to: 1. Evaluate the first few months' progress, reviewing the value that faculty members of the Journal Club place on this method of professional development, and 2. Identify the best practices that the Journal Club should adopt in this context to ensure long term sustainability. This paper presents our preliminary results.

Rationale The Higher Colleges of Technology is a network of tertiary educational institutions distributed throughout the United Arab Emirates. Its curriculum is presented in English and, therefore, ESL instruction features strongly in most academic activity. Dubai Men's College (DMC) is in the largest city in the UAE and serves an overall Emirati population of about 2,000 male students, with 102 full time faculty members. Like so many higher education institutions worldwide, the Higher Colleges of Technology (BeT) began its existence as a system of vocational colleges. More recently, old diploma courses are giving way to baccalaureate and masters programs. Required faculty credentials include a minimum of a Masters degree. In line with many other institutions around the world, the HCT enterprise has set its sights on the production of applied research. The question is: how does a college build a culture of research from the sand up, given a heavy teaching workload (twenty or more hours per week) and varying experience with and commitment to the research process?
Why Journal Club?

Journal clubs constitute an attractive means for raising faculty awareness of current research results and methods. Journal articles contain topical content draped over a methodological framework, providing interesting reading while introducing both classic and novel research techniques within academic disciplines. The original journal club developed in the field of medicine (according to Linzer, 1987) as a means for poor doctors to share expensive medical journals. With the advent of evidence-based medicine in the 1980's, however, journal clubs became a popular vehicle for medical schools to teach critical appraisal to their students (Alguire, 1998). The attributes of successful journal clubs were investigated by researchers like Sidorov (1995) who concluded: If ... journal club success is defined as having high attendance or long, continuous existence, then success is associated with . . . making attendance mandatory, . .. providing formal teaching of critical appraisal skills, making food available, and emphasizing original research articles. In her enumeration of the advantages of journal clubs, however, Esisi (2007) describes an intellectual world that is also human and social. Journal clubs, she writes: • • • • • • • • Help people to learn and improve their critical appraisal skills Encourage evidence based practice Promote awareness of research skills Help members keep abreast of new literature Encourage use of research Promote social contact Provide continuing medical education Stimulate debate, and improved understanding of current topics

All of Esisi's advantages (2007) were in the minds of the founding members but several of the teachers we initially contacted indicated that the biggest attraction was the promise of being able to make inroads into professional reading lists. As one faculty member wrote:
I always have a list of articles waiting to be read and unless I get either a long flight or wait somewhere ~the list just grows and grows, I still have one looking

at the introduction of overhead projectors and how they will revolutionise and replace chalk boards! :-)
On the other hand, a.possible barrier to success, not considered in most articles on the topic, was

the availability of journal articles, Although, as noted by Akhund (2006), the enabling influence of technology on journal clubs has been felt in developing nations, the breadth of the literature that can be immediately accessed in full-text by the RCT community is still constrained by the vocational subject matter of the curriculum, limited library budgets internally, and limited consortia! arrangements regionally. Institutional support for article databases and document delivery from the British Library has raised the availability of scholarly literature in Education for faculty consumption to a higher standard than was the case with print-only. However, without immediate access to a solid scholarly collection of full-text, the opportunity for dipping into the literature is restricted. Journal clubs have the potential to provide the stimulus for the dissemination of personal resources or grey literature,

About DMC's Journal Club The Journal Club at Dubai Men's College was set up to meet once a month to discuss an article selected by one of its members. Club members were expected to have read the article before the meeting, A volunteer would summarize the article at the start of the meeting and the discussion would centre on a series of questions, A blog was also created for members to interact; the hope was that this vehicle would encourage a longer discussion thread over a period of time after the club meeting. Members are required to register to gain entry. Initially, word of mouth was used to identify colleagues likely to be interested in attending; the first meeting included all but one of those contacted, Subsequently, posters were displayed in the faculty coffee rooms. The club was also mentioned in the regular newsletter sent to all staff Currently, the club has ten members which together represent roughly 10% of the population.

Metbod This study examines the first three months of the Journal Club. Research was carried out using participant observation and a qualitative survey. The online survey based on Esisi's list of advantages was distributed to all participating members to collect data for this paper.

Findings The Journal Club has explored several avenues of interest in its short history. For our inaugural meeting, the club founders chose an article on the use of short podcasts for revision purposes and proposed to our new membership that the club maintain a focus on education technology while investigating a variety of research techniques. However, the membership was also eager to make the most of our resident research talent; the second meeting discussed an article on English language assessment published by one of our members in a peer-reviewed journal. OUf third discussion was based on an article of immediate interest to college faculty members: the characteristics of teacher effectiveness. Each one-hour session evidenced much greater interest in the subject matter and its relevance to the college than the methodology underlying the research. Clearly, members were responding to a variety of motivations and, to gain some consensus, the authors decided to survey members on their preferences. The following are the findings of the survey based on the first few months of operation of the club. All ten members of the club responded to the survey. All members agreed that stimulating debate about current topics and social interaction with colleagues were valuable aspects of journal club participation. A majority also agreed that the opportunity for continuing education (80%) and for developing research skills (60%) were significant incentives. A minority felt that journal club would help members to develop critical appraisal skills or keep abreast of new academic literature. There was no consensus about how articles should be chosen. Some members felt that an experienced member should choose the article. Others thought that responsibility for article selection should rotate around the group. A few members thought that having themes or topics that articles should cover on an ongoing basis would be an effective strategy. To this point, individual members are still selecting the articles. Eighty percent of club members felt that meeting once a month was the most appropriate frequency. However, finding a mutually convenient meeting time has been extremely difficult; no member of the club has been able to attend all of the meetings. At present, the membership has not expanded outside the original group, all of which already possessed an interest in research. The majority of members (60%) have never visited the blog to either read a posted article or post a comment. It is important to the realization of the founding members' goals to find ways to broaden the membership to include those with a lower interest in research and to generate discussion and activity outside the DMC Journal Club's meetings.

Our findings have suggested environment. the adoption of the following best practices as appropriate for our

1. To add extrinsic value to participation, professional development credits should be assigned for contribution i.e. attendance and especially presentations at Journal Club. In this way, faculty who are new to research or those who are between projects can still demonstrate scholarly activity. 2. Journal Club discussions of journal club activities. should be summarized and published locally to increase awareness

3. The results of this survey should be used to clarify the role and procedures and then be used to publicize the club and gain participation.

of Journal Club,

4. Establishing

a consistent time and place for meetings, along with refreshments, the popularity of the club.

will increase

During the investigation behind this paper, the authors also became more aware of the gap that exists in the research into the growth of scholarly communities in developing nations. The evolution of the Journal Club over the next year invites more work.

Conclusion Our experience with the journal club has highlighted several benefits: debate about current issues in education, social interactions with colleagues, the opportunity of continuing education, and the development of research skills are all worthwhile incentives for participation. However, there are some difficulties that need to be overcome in order to make it sustainable: increasing club membership, solving logistical problems, and receiving official recognition for club activities will all help to build a more solid base. Club members hope that, once Senior Management at Dubai Men's College gains an appreciation for the potential of the Journal Club to contribute to the college's strategic goals, support in the form of incentives and recognition will result in high attendance and a long existence.

References Akhund, S., & Kadir, M.M. (2006). Do community medicine residency trainees learn through Journal Club? An experience from a developing country. BMC Medical Education, 6(43). Retrieved from http://www .ncbi.nlm.nih!? 15640 14 Alguire, P. (1998). A review of journal clubs in postgraduate medical education. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 13(5). Retrieved from http://www .ncbi. nlm.nih. gov Ipmcl articl es/PM C 149695 Ol?too I=pubmed Esisi, M. (2007). Journal clubs. BMJ Careers. Retrieved from http://careers.bmj.comlcareers/advice/view-article.html?id=2631


Linzer, M. (1987). The Journal Club and medical education; over one hundred years of unrecorded history. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 63(740). Retrieved from Sidorov, 1. (1995). How are internal medicine residency journal clubs organized, and what makes them successful [Abstract]. Archives of Internal Medicine, 155(11), 1193-1197.

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