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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
J Edu Health Promot 2018,  7:119

Sabbatical as a part of the academic excellence journey: A narrative qualitative study


1 Health Management and Economics Research Center, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran; School of Nursing, Center for Global Initiative, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA
2 School of Nursing, Center for Global Initiative, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA

Date of Submission25-Apr-2018
Date of Acceptance28-May-2018
Date of Web Publication14-Sep-2018

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Mohammad H Yarmohammadian
Health Management and Economics Research Center, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jehp.jehp_70_18

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  Abstract 

INTRODUCTION: Sabbaticals were first offered by Harvard University in the late 17th century to provide “renewal” for faculty members. In this period of career development, a professor might learn new techniques, expand a research program, or finish off that book or pile of languishing manuscripts. This article tried to organize lived experiences of a visiting scholar from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences to Johns Hopkins University. The research aimed to study the context and conditions of the sabbatical in an alternative academic setting.
METHODS: This article applies a narrative qualitative study integrated with Eisner critical and connoisseurship approach as a combined naturalistic methodology. Using narrative inquiry and reflective analysis in form of observations and audit reports, written dairy notes and memos, the content analyzed thematically and extracted the themes of lived experiences as well as lessons learned and then have been transformed into tables.
RESULTS: Extracted themes from research sources are categorized into three main themes: organizational and professional experiences; teaching, instruction, and curricular experiences; and research and technology management experiences. These are resulted in the explanation of the field and events (description), discussion about them (interpretation), followed by concluding remarks (evaluation). . It also represents research questions and findings in descriptive and interpretation phases.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: This article addresses some descriptions, interpretations, and evaluations extracted from the experiences through answering the research questions. It categorizes these practical lessons into three categories: (1) lessons about becoming a lifelong learner, (2) lessons about remaining a professor, and (3) innovative experiences.

Keywords: Academic development, academic journey, educational excellence, field report, higher education, medical education, observational study, sabbatical, sabbatical leave, visiting professor, visiting scholarship, visiting scientist


How to cite this article:
Yarmohammadian MH, Davidson P, Yeh CH. Sabbatical as a part of the academic excellence journey: A narrative qualitative study. J Edu Health Promot 2018;7:119

How to cite this URL:
Yarmohammadian MH, Davidson P, Yeh CH. Sabbatical as a part of the academic excellence journey: A narrative qualitative study. J Edu Health Promot [serial online] 2018 [cited 2018 Dec 12];7:119. Available from: http://www.jehp.net/text.asp?2018/7/1/119/241134


  Introduction Top


University life can be a grind of teaching, grant writing, and department politics, but every 7 years, faculty members get a magical opportunity that is coveted by nonacademics: sabbatical leave. In this period of career development, a professor might learn new techniques, expand a research program, or finish off that book or pile of languishing manuscripts. The dream starts with meticulous advanced planning, but ends best for those who are adaptable and open minded.”[1] Several universities across the world have been sending their faculty members on sabbatical study in titles such as sabbaticalee (sabbatical taker), visiting scholar, visiting scientist, or in medical disciplines as clinical, research, or teaching fellow or residents.

Sabbaticals–temporary paid leave from a tenured faculty position–were first offered by Harvard University in the late 17th century to provide “renewal” for faculty members.[2] Renewal can take many forms, but perhaps the most common involves spending time at a different academic institution in order to enhance creative professional development.[3],[4] A sabbatical may stimulate future development or simply reward past performance.[2] Hence, the historical stem of sabbatical comes from business school of Harvard University and resulted in a common version of sabbatical in business schools titled “executive-in-residence” (EiR), in which an accomplished member of the business community is invited to join the faculty of another community for a period of time. The “Professor-in-Residence” (PiR) is also the flip side of the EiR where the academic takes a position in a business firm. Faculty internships,[5] professional interaction activities,[6] and university–industry partnerships[7] all involve individuals' embedding themselves in a business community.

In nursing and allied health schools, taking advantages of this opportunity as renewal and to improve academic staff and nurse practitioners' knowledge and skills in some needed areas has also been common.[8] It is also in public health, health economics, and health management.[9] Renewal can take many forms, but perhaps the most common involves spending time at different academic institutions in order to enhance creative professional development.[4] If a faculty member desires to experience something new, he/she can take advantage of his/her reputation for the past performance and use sabbatical to open a door for stimulating a professional development.[10] Some universities and policymakers are wondering about its efficiency and effectiveness, especially universities in low- and middle-income countries, due to costs imposed on the home university to financially support their scholars. However, of all the academic career decisions that a faculty member makes, deciding what to do during a sabbatical is still one of the most exciting. Although sabbatical-like fellowship–as a strategy for continuing medical education if we accept–is growing in prevalence, it has been an invisible phase of postgraduate training lacking practical evaluation and accreditation, as well as funding.[11]

Fellowships serve a variety of purposes which benefit both individual trainees and the academic enterprises. Fellowships can be categorized within a distinct taxonomy: individualized, clinical, and research. Each type of fellowship may serve a variety of purposes, and each may need distinct support and resources.

Further research is needed to catalog the operational requirements for hosting and undertaking sabbatical or fellowship training, as well as establishing recommendations for educational and administrative policy and processes in this new phase of postgraduate education.[11] However, generally speaking, establishing a track record of publications can help trainees get invited from another university as a host to do his/her sabbatical period, although effective networking before starting and mentorship during the period are critical determinants of academic success. Given the positive effects of mentorship, trainees should understand what comprises a good mentor–mentee relationship and how to optimize the mentoring process.[12] In a study, interviewees described the need for multiple mentors over time, with each mentor addressing a unique domain. Interviewees also suggested that mentees should seek mentors who will serve as strategic advisors, who will be unselfish, and who engage with diverse mentees.[13] Although today, internationalization of higher education trend involving ICT facilities such as e-learning and virtual networks has provide innovative opportunities for academic staff to be involved from their offices and homes instead of going abroad to other academic institutions,[14] still personal experience for going abroad and moving to another country for sabbatical leave makes people excited and inspired sometimes as a dream; we named it as “The academic journey in search of educational excellence.” Experiencing learning in different environment is still exciting and inspiring for innovation, knowledge transferring, and benchmarking as well as diffusion of scientific methods and techniques.

Aim and scope of the paper

In this paper, I (MHY) present one such opportunity through describing my lived experiences as visiting scholar (MHY) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) under the supervision of my mentors (PD) and (CHY), as a sabbaticalee. I try to summarize my experiences as a case to transfer my learning during the sabbatical to make it more practical and accessible for those interested in engaging in their own sabbatical experience or for university policymakers and administrators in facilitating the process.

I will try to address some descriptions, interpretations, and evaluations extracted from my experiences through answering these questions: what are the specifications of my host university as an educational field for sabbatical? In what kind of opportunities, as educational events and activities, I was involved? What are the most important programs that I engaged? What lesson I have learned from? I also will conclude the paper with practical advices on how to plan a sabbatical to assist faculty in getting the most value out of the sabbatical.

Method of study

I have tried to take advantages of combined naturalistic methodology, a narrative qualitative study[15] integrated in a critical and connoisseurship approach.[16],[17] Using narrative inquiry and reflective analysis on my own personal experiences, my intentions were to research the context and conditions of a sabaticalee in an alternative academic setting. Through personal narratives of my experience with different programs in the host university, I account for the evolving construction of my own performance as a lifelong learner in new life environment and as a still professor who has been doing his academic and professional duties remotely.

Narrative study

Connelly and Clandinin view narrative inquiry as a naturalistic paradigm. They point out this paradigm brings theoretical ideas about the nature of human life as lived to bear on educational experience. They state that the process of narrative research revolves around three matters: the field, texts on field experience, and research texts which incorporate the first two and which represent those issues of social significance that justify the research.[18] Furthermore, Craig et al. describe how narrative inquiry, the use of story to study human experience, has been employed as both method and form to capture crosscultural learning associated with Western doctoral students' travel study to Eastern destinations.[19] Narratives are open ended and can be interpreted in many different ways depending on culture, personal experience, prior knowledge, and societal teachings and expectations. McKay also has applied the narrative research as a method of her Master of Education Thesis study titled, ” Journey toward knowing: a narrative inquiry into one teacher's experience with at risk students”, submitted to the College of Graduate Studies and Research, the Department of Curriculum Studies, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.[20]

In addition, Street published a narrative study on his sabbatical leave and mentioned that a successful sabbatical needs to be prepared for and engaged in the following four key stages: (1) Initial planning, (2) the first day on the job, (3) the term itself, and (4) leaving the host organization at the end of the term. He also emphasized on financial decision which should be made by scholar to choose their host university or organization. But, he did not discuss on any economic evaluation aspect of the sabbatical.[10] Despite applying narrative study in some previous educational literatures, we just have tried to comprehensively explore the affordances and constraints of the methodology and the possibilities integrated in critical and connoisseurship approach for illuminating knowledge developments, academic growth, and identity of medical education transformations in support of sabbatical programs.

Critical and connoisseurship approach

Eisner[16] drew critical and connoisseurship approach upon his experience as an art educator and used art criticism as the basis for this model. His approach relies on educational connoisseurship and educational criticism. Connoisseurship focuses on complex entities; criticism is a form which discerns the qualities of an event or object and puts into words that had been experienced. He proposed “that experienced experts, like critics of the arts, bring their expertise to bear on evaluating the quality of (educational) programs,”[21] He proposed an artistic paradigm (rather than a scientific one) as a supplement of other forms of inquiry. It is from this view that connoisseurship is the art of appreciation; the relationships between/among the qualities of the evaluated.

Educational connoisseurship and educational criticism are two evaluative processes that are rooted in the arts. Connoisseurship pertains to what I have referred to in previous writing as “the art of appreciation.”[16] The aim of connoisseurship is to engender an awareness of the qualities that constitute some process or object and to grasp their significance. Connoisseurship pertains to matters of awareness and therefore to the creation of consciousness. Elliot W. Eisner is asking educators to develop in particularly sophisticated ways to be connoisseurs and critics. They have to engage in a continuing exploration of themselves, others, and their arena of practice. They have to be able to reflect-in-and-on-action, engage with feelings, and be able to make informed and committed judgments. However, educators need to become something more than connoisseurs. They need to become critics. The appeal to discipline is linked to Eisner's concern with both connoisseurship and criticism.[22]

This study is organized and followed Eisner critical and connoisseurship approach, which proceeds three phases: description, interpretation, and evaluation. Educational criticism model is basically composed of description, interpretation, evaluation, and theming steps.[16],[23],[24],[25] DIE is a shortcut for “description, interpretation, and evaluation.” The original exercise was developed as a pedagogic tool to train observation skills, help establish the difference between description and analysis, and foster reflection on the politics of fieldwork. Hence, it is first reflected on explanation of the field and events (description), makes discussion about them (interpretation), followed by concluding remarks (evaluation). It is also represented in the form of research questions and findings in descriptive and interpretation phases. The method which applied was narrative inquiry and reflective analysis on the personal story and narratives. After reviewing observational and audit reports, written dairy notes and memos, their content was analyzed thematically and extracted themes of lived experiences as well as lessons learned then results transformed into the tables [Table 1] and [Table 2].
Table 1: Three categories of themes extracted from the lived experiences

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Table 2: Three types of lesson learned

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  Results Top


Description of the field

What are the specifications of a host university as an educational field for sabbatical?

JHU, the university I was invited to do my sabbatical, is an outstanding comprehensive private research university founded in 1876 that focuses on developing and marketing higher education and research programs, especially in medical allied disciplines as well as nonmedical ones at national and international level. Its mission states: “To educate its students and cultivate their capacity for lifelong learning, to foster independent and Original Article research, and to bring the benefits of discovery to the world.[26] JHU's ranking in the 2018 edition of Best Colleges is 11th National Universities for 2017–2018.[27] Hopkins' graduate programs include the top-ranked Bloomberg School of Public Health and the highly ranked School of Education, Whiting School of Engineering, School of Medicine, and the well-regarded Peabody Institute. Hopkins has campuses in Homewood and East Campus at Baltimore, MD; in Washington DC.; Bologna, Italy; and Nanjing, China. Johns Hopkins Hospital is a top-ranked hospital with highly ranked specialties.[28] JHU has been ranked among the top 2% of universities in the world by the 2018 QS World University Rankings released.[29]

JHU's Nursing School (JHUSON) is No. 1 in the country, according to the U.S. News and World Report's new rankings of graduate programs. The university's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program ranks second. The school also has the second best medical school for research in the country, according to the U.S. News, trailing only Harvard University.[30] JHU is the 17th best university in the world according to our QS World University Rankings.[31] JHU ranks among the top 10 universities in the world for nursing, life sciences and medicine, anatomy and physiology, and medicine in the QS World University Rankings by Subject. Ranked among the top 60 universities in the world for employability, JHU has invested more money in research than any other US institution for the past 36 years.[32] The JHSON is the no. 1 accredited graduate nursing school in the country, according to the U.S. News and World Report 2019 rankings. The school also maintained its previous no. 2 ranking for the DNP program.[33],[34]

In what kind of opportunities, as educational events and activities, a sabbaticalee should be involved?

Main research topics and related events; my main research topic titled “healthcare managers competencies in disasters”, firstly involved me in doing some arrangement works, making scheduled appointments with health-care managers, lecturers, and nurse managers. Alongside that, I have been doing a review of related literature in university catalog, online library, databases such as PubMed, EBSCO, and CINAHl Plus, to gather a strong platform of knowledge baseline. Attending required courses, sessions, and workshops assigned by mentors; doing interviews with health-care facility managers; scheduling for completing interview sample with other health-care facility, ward, and nurse managers; were my other responsibilities during this distinguished period.

Living in such cosmopolitan, dynamic, and interactive environment as JHSON, Center for Global Initiatives, allowed me and made me eager to attend and participate in some innovative and insightful academic and professional events and programs, interact with other academicians, and network and exchange knowledge and experience. There were a lot of scheduled events such as seminars, workshops, and sessions during the semesters which made the university and school as a knowledge and professional marketplace, especially in nursing and health allied disciplines. The most interesting and innovative educational events in which I participated as an observer, audit, or still student (lifelong learner) are explained below:

What are the most innovative programs that I engaged?

Besides focusing on my main research study and related activities, the most innovative programs which inspired me during the sabbatical included the following.

“Writing for Publication Retreat” workshop

On Friday November 10 and Saturday, November 11, 2017, an intensive writing retreat was scheduled and held in JHSON. Many faculty members, scholars, and graduate students have expressed an interest in developing and strengthening their writing for publication. Led by Dean Patricia Davidson, PhD, MEd, RN, FAAN, this retreat prepared participants to complete a paper ready for submission to a targeted journal. The review committee comprised some of the professors and experienced informatics and research mythology and grant writing experts like Haera Han, Jennifer Wenzel, Nancy Perrin, Phyllis Sharps, Jackie Campbell, Patricia Davidson, and Jeri Allen.

Participants were expected to assess own needs in developing publication skills and seek assistance in developing strength in these areas, complete at least one manuscript, be ready for submission to a selected journal, learn about effective writing for publication techniques, receive feedback, and be able to incorporate it into their manuscript, prepare effective feedback, and constructively share it with a peer, and prepare to receive feedback through the peer-review process.

Retreat features comprised periods of uninterrupted writing time, daily feedback from mentors, peer feedback overnight, focus on targeting journals, and crossover learning with focus on writing skills and editing.

Interprofessional education and practice event

Workshop with title” Toward a Common Language for Measuring Patient Mobility in the Hospital: Reliability and Construct Validity of Interprofessional Mobility Measures” was held on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, 1:00 pm–5:30 pm, in Armstrong Medical Education Building. The event organizer invited 2nd year medical, pharmacy, and 4th and 5th semester nursing students. This interactive event incorporated role playing and student-led discussions that focused on the following two core competencies required for interprofessional collaborative practice: competency number 3: communicate with patients, families, communities, and professionals in health and other fields in a responsive and responsible manner that supports a team approach to the promotion and maintenance of health and the prevention and treatment of disease (interprofessional communication) and competency number 4: apply relationship-building values and the principles of team dynamics to perform effectively in different team roles to plan, deliver, and evaluate patient/population-centered care and health programs and policies of population that are safe, timely, efficient, effective, and equitable.[35]

The Johns Hopkins Interprofessional Collaborative beginning started in 2011 when the JHU School of Nursing and School of Medicine began actively integrating interprofessional learning into the prelicensure curriculum. Each passing year has seen significant growth in the arena of interprofessional education (IPE) programs for students and trainees. From the initial small beginnings, the program has grown significantly and now spans both pre- and post-licensure programs, including students from the School of Pharmacy at Notre Dame of Maryland University and the JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health.

These events' series stems from the mission of the JHU Center for Interprofessional Education and Practice, which is to develop, support, and promote an innovative, sustained, and integrated IPE and practice model that informs the education, practice, and research of health-care professionals. Educational approaches are implemented to include students, trainees, and practitioners, resulting in the delivery of person-centered quality of care for patients, families, and communities to improve the health of patients, communities, and populations.

The Interprofessional Collaborative continues to actively promote activities that will encourage health-care professionals to develop the skills that will enable them to work together effectively in order to provide the best and safest health care.

Designing solutions for health challenges in humanitarian crises course

This event was gathered and organized teams combining students in Baltimore and Beirut, and provided online lectures and discussions during January 8–12 on part time schedule. I was also running team formation and hackathon during January 15–19 in full day schedule, and some activities in design studio, concluding team solution development during January 22–24 plus next 3 weeks part time.

This hackathon program designed and implemented by JHU, in collaboration with American University of Beirut and Boston University. Supported generously by the Aspen Institutes' Stevens Initiative, this program scheduled to encourage global interdisciplinary and collaborative learning through virtual exchange. Participants did get benefits from the course content and interactive sessions.

Prior to the Hackathon, participants completed the pre-Hackathon survey. The main Hackathon event took place between January 17 and 20, 2018. Before the hackathon, participants viewed the recorded lectures in their own time as close to the days that they are scheduled as possible and joined the three scheduled live sessions on January 8–10 to learn more about the course. Following the hackathon event, teams continued to work together to refine prototypes for the final design competition presentations held on January 26, 2018. The Shared Studios Portal located in the Homewood Campus was available during the program. Participants did get benefits from the course content and interactive sessions. This program also engaged students in developing the high-level analysis and thinking skills that I would expect to find in college-level courses.

Instructional design courses and sessions

The courses and session series provided by expert instructional designers comprised topics such as designing effective instruction and assessment for large doctoral courses, revised syllabus examples, blackboard session, and revised syllabus templates. They are scheduled over different sessions mostly at noon, which invited academic staff to come together in small groups, attend brief lectures, discuss on each topic, and make familiar with different topics in required pedagogical approaches and educational competencies. Most of the sessions stimulated lecturers to present their practical curriculum issues, discuss on them, and exchange their real teaching experiences.

Other related educational and organizational experiences

I also attended some other related work activities such as “Active shooter Training workshop” run by Fred Klapetzky, CEO and Principal Consultant, JHUSON. It is a schedule and held spontaneously with some active shooting incidents happened at high schools and learned and practiced three principles “Run, Hide, and Fight” for better responding while active shooting happens. An early warning alert system administrated by JHU was to announce any forecasting about possible attack, active shooting, bad weather inclement titled “Emergency alert Shelter in Place” ordered and resolved distribution of SMS and organizing News and Media for students, staff across the Baltimore area. “Safe and Sober Driving” education program was also a course implemented by Maryland Vehicle Administration to increase knowledge about factors influencing drivers physically as well as mentally.

“CBID 2017 Fall Healthcare Innovation Showcase and Shark Tank” provided by JHU, biomedical engineering, CBID, and held including a review of many exciting health-care design projects, an alumni start-up panel, a Shark Tank competition with a panel of tough judges and real cash prizes followed by the keynote speaker Dr. William Cohn of Johnson and Johnson, presenting an insightful lecture on his journey from a medical student's explorations to be reached as the head of an academic business shark and think tank director in global medical industry. Furthermore, one of the most outstanding mindful and reflective events at JHU and Health-care System was bioethics seminar series which is designed by Berman Institute for Ethics, an interdisciplinary bioethics committee, with delegates from medical departments, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and Bloomberg School of Public Health. It focused on one of the ethical conflicts influenced on clinical judgment and professional decision-making.

Patient Centered Outcomes Research Network (PCORN) is planned to run quarterly a PCORN seminar in the School of nursing emphasizing on quality and patient safety supported by PCORN by Nancy Perrin at School of Nursing. She pointed out that every caregiver and nurse should hold in mind that “no harm” is the first moto and quality and patient safety should be insured in any health-care and nursing services, across the health system. She also introduced PCORN website and virtual groups and networks which are available for researchers and caregivers.

“HINARI and Internet-Based Information” Training Workshop: This workshop aimed to access to global health resources for health professionals in low and emerging income countries scheduled and run by JHU Welch Medical Library. This workshop included topics such as Scientific Resources for searching Ebooks or Full text Papers and Images and Photos, HINARI Resources: key Access points for journal and other; Cochrane Library, CINAHL Scopus, Google Scholar, Summon Search Engine, Internet E-book resources (booksee, Freebookcentre. net, Infotech, National Academy Press, NCBI/eBooks) SME; Some very helpful applied eBooks through Intech-http://www.intehopen.com/boos/, Other Internet Sources (Google Custom Searches, OpenI, Medlineplus, SuperCourse, Grey Literature tools).

Other topics presented in the workshop included; HINARI Basic and Advanced Courses www. who. int/hinari/training, Research4life Authorship Skills and Reference Management Software Modules-www. research4life. org/training, nongovernmental Organizations Search/Intergovernmental Organizations Search engine.

Discovering the world through geographic information system ( GIS) includes a showcase of work in GIS and spatial analysis. JHU Library can provide GIS workshops tailored to the discipline and research interests. It includes one-time introductory class or multiple sessions offered over several days. GIS library staff schedule workshops, in the MSE Library, on many GIS topics throughout each semester. These workshops are open to all JHU affiliates.

“Research Priority at OIS; Office of Innovation and sciences”, designed and presented this workshop by Dr. Cheryl Dennison Himmelfarb, Associate Dean of OIS, Office of Innovation and sciences, and her colleagues.

“How to write an NIH grant application: An introduction & overview” workshop was scheduled and implemented in an interactive climate by the University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, USA.

Blaustein – pain conference series included a series of conferences on key note speakers who were invited from inside JH hospital, School of Medicine or from other hospitals and university departments to present their research on pain management and patient safety in JH hospital.

Spirituality and care; another series of seminars that focuses on “Spirituality and Care” at JHU Hospital in collaboration with some affiliated institutes such as the School of Nursing, Bunting Interfaith Chapel, Psychiatrics and Psychology Departments. It was one of the interdisciplinary events which discussed moral concepts and spiritual factors influencing healing process and care provided by clinicians as well as scholars.


  Discussion Top


Experiences of contributions to organization and professionalism

Organizationally and professionally, my sabbatical allowed me to observe, and learn from, the operation of an international higher education ecosystem with its innovative and glorious programs and the events provided me an opportunity to interact with officers and staff, taught me how departments can create and use research grants and global events to contribute to solve humanitarian problems, forming start-ups and small core creative teams, and taking part in socio-economic development of the community and globe.

Experiences of contributions to teaching and research as well as research management

My sabbatical was a good opportunity to compare the approaches and quality levels of the faculty and students in JHU, SON, and Health System with ours. My participation in above seminars and lectures sharpened my teaching skills and research intuition as well as my reflective thinking and professional judgment as did my work with JHU professors, graduate students, and research teams. The opportunity to audit or observe some courses, seminars, workshops as well as participate in different research meetings was especially valuable for what it taught me about teaching difficult concepts to motivated students. In addition to enhancing my teaching skills, the sabbatical allowed me to sharpen my understanding of practical instructional design in virtual environment.

The collaborative work with researchers at JHU taught me new research skills that I will be able to use on other research projects, provided mentality and intuitions as well as some cross-cultural competencies that will increase the likelihood of globally collaborating and managing my research team, and opened up a new area of programmatic research that has the potential to significantly enhance the comparative study and academic negotiation and collaboration between Iran _ US researchers and professors as well as their Health system and higher education academia mutually.[36]

The purpose of taking online courses during my sabbatical was to increase my ability to develop virtual curriculum. However, I found my latest degree in Virtual Medical Education (MSc. VMedEd) with credit-based online coursework which included teaching courses and taking hybrid courses to be informative to my knowledge and opinion of online education in general hybrid and online courses during my sabbatical. Upon reflection of this experience, I see a very mixed result of the utility and success of teaching credit courses online.

I would like to assess my observed and audited workshops and courses across the JHU to be excellent ones, as lecturers and instructors were skillful and knowledgeable about curriculum development and instructional design as well as innovative instructional technology and hybrid education. They also engaged students in developing the high-level analysis and thinking skills that I would expect to find in high-level courses. Retreat and hackathon were among events, in particular, that were taught by a team of instructors and mentors who clearly understood that complete online environments require different pedagogical approaches that effectively utilize new technologies and could engage participants in ways as possibly effective as in a lecture. However, one traditional course and two fully fell well short of providing a well-rounded educational experience. It was primarily focused on having students learn the level of knowledge, implement specific technical skills by reading lessons in a textbook, and do their assignments. As a faculty member at a university and expert in higher education, however, I recognize the effect of student engagement in attaining high level of expected educational performance.[36] Students may have exercised some critical and creative thinking as well as problem-solving skills in engaging in join projects, interacting with other classmates, forming groups of learning, and presenting their solution together.[37] The amount of personal and professional growth I received from each workshop or event was so different because of the varying amounts and levels of pedagogical knowledge, instructional skill, professional interest, and personal motivation displayed by the instructors when running workshops or events.

In short, my sabbatical increased my preference for hybrid courses rather than fully either traditional or online courses, as in my experience, personal contact in mixed classes clearly allowed instructors to better gauge student understanding and individually instruct students who needed assistance. In addition, I have seen fully online courses by JH professors on Coursera that provide excellent educational experiences, but they required the instructor demonstrate a level of commitment, innovation, and expertise in online technical and pedagogical methods, which seems to be sorely lacking among some college-level instructors. Simply putting textbooks and/or their lessons online may help students develop purely technical skills, but it is not effective way in addressing the critical thinking skills and an understanding of the professional, ethical, social, and cultural environment.[38]

Using narrative inquiry and reflective analysis on the personal story and narratives, embedded in observations and audit reports, written dairy notes and memos analyzed thematically and extracted themes of lived experiences transformed to [Table 1].{Table 1}

Lessons learned

There have been many valuable learned lessons as a result of the sabbatical; some of them reinforced what I already just planned to get involved, while others were somewhat insightful and impressing. These practical lessons are categorized below into three categories: (1) Lessons about becoming a lifelong learner, (2) lessons about remaining a professor, and (3) innovative experiences.

Lessons learned as a lifelong learner

A sabbaticalee as a lifelong learner should have enough amount of curiosity and strong continuous motivation for making new learning experiences. He/she have to looking for learning opportunities, observing new academic events, and participating in different learning groups as much as a young student. It was a part of role playing for me to perform as a fresh student everywhere at the School of Nursing, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Welch library, JHU hospital, and attending related workshops, seminars, lectures, as well as participating in related courses, in person and online. But, it was an exciting part of my experience to interact with younger students and interact with them as a lifelong learner and not as a professor.

Lessons about keeping the professor role

Managing remotely my inevitable duties as a still professor at home university; providing remote consultation to the academic department deputy; advising PhD students; remaining my connection in virtual professional and organizational groups; and keeping in touch with my colleagues and co-researchers through virtual networks and smartphone apps, such as teleconference on IMO, WhatsApp, Skype, and Telegram; reviewing papers and research manuscripts for journals and research bodies; collaborating with the head of department to schedule semester courses for grad students; supervising and monitoring ongoing research teams and lab; observing and auditing courses were my obligated remote responsibilities, which have taken some of my time and consideration. The purpose of taking online courses during the sabbatical was to increase the ability to develop virtual curriculum. However, my latest MSc degree in Virtual Medical Education with credit-based courses included teaching courses and taking hybrid courses to be helpful and made me informative and adjustable for capacity building.

Innovative experiences

Being regarded as a lifelong learner was important to the experience of becoming embedded in the organizational climate and culture of JHUSON; however, one cannot deny that the scholar mindset never goes away. Prior to beginning the sabbatical, I did spend time thinking about the options I would have for research or teaching projects. Like Street,[10] I'd like to segregate project ideas into two categories: (a) Preconceived and (b) emergent. An example of a preconceived project was one that I actually completed while at JHUSON, a study about the health and nursing managers' competencies in disasters that was being launched while I was in my home university. I was looking for situations that would include the best sample for gathering research data. I caught up and recognized this opportunity for involving more to the situation and comparing and learning from this new strong situation as the best practice. It was a relatively time-efficient project to complete and a good example of what preplanning could accomplish. An example of an emergent project is the cross-cultural competencies and interprofessional team working across all university departments, disciplines, and hospital wards, which was observable. Overall, my experience was a combination of a preplan for project and a project that interests and benefits the host university and health system. However, there is also a category of serendipitous projects that I suspect no amount of preplanning could prepare. Efficient preplanned work has many benefits, but, for me, it was the serendipity of a new idea to wrestle with that fired my motivation as a scholar. The question about the length of a sabbatical period follows from this discussion of preplanned versus emergent projects. It would be interesting and useful to develop new research directions in promoting my home university virtual education infrastructure and interprofessional team working by comparing and developing best practices to make the pursuit of emergent unexpected research ideas more readily approachable and accessible to the home community.

[Table 2] summarizes three dimensions of lesson learned extracted from lived experiences and research sources during sabbatical study. As shown in [Table 2], there have been three types of lived experiences; as a lifelong learner, as a still professor, and keeping academic role and innovative experiences.{Table 2}

[Table 3] distillates and syntheses finding presented in [Table 1] and [Table 2], summarizes extracted themes from lived experiences. It presents three dimensions of lesson learned extracted from research sources and categorized and combined with experiences examples and learning outcomes and core competencies according to three main themes: organizational and professional experiences; teaching, instruction, and curricular experiences; and research and technology management experiences. These resulted from explanation of the field and events (description), making discussion about them (interpretation), followed by discussion (evaluation).
Table 3: Distillated and synthesis findings

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Recommendations for university organization and policymakers

  • The sabbatical may stimulate academic members for future development, although it is still simply reward for past best performance and good practice
  • Despite practical and political issues, sabbatical still is a best practice for knowledge exchange and transfer as well as lifelong learning for academicians among the universities
  • The host university should recruit and accept applicants from different universities as a knowledge exchange and transfer across the departments and disciplines
  • Sabbatical study also might be considered as a strong tool for cultural exchange and dialog between the universities and community
  • Knowledge and cultural exchange and transfer may result in academic conversation between the universities and scientific diplomacy between the nations
  • The home universities should facilitate application process by setting clear and supportive regulations and supporting policies. Normally, sabbatical takes time and money more than estimated; clear rules and regulations and supportive policies may help applicants to do better advance planning and effective and fruitful sabbatical and save their time and money
  • Universities' decision makers need to facilitate the administrative process and procedures to decrease practical and financial problems which been engaged by the applicants and wastes time and budget.


Recommendations for sabbatical applicants

  • Sabbatical applicants have to do advance planning from at least 1 year before the sabbatical begins to schedule an effective and on-time sabbatical
  • Sabbatical takers should write down their experiences during the sabbatical as a first-hand source of data, lived experiences, and real personal stories
  • Narrative methodology and critical and connoisseurship approach is one of the best choices of educational research and evaluation for describing, interpreting, and evaluating the sabbatical study.


Recommendations for future research

  • Qualitative research and thematic analysis of sabbatical reports and written lived experiences may lead to extract or revise guidelines, develop helpful practical rules and regulations, and result in evidence-based decisions and policies
  • Narrative study as a methodology for research during sabbatical is one of the most appropriate types as a method as well as a form for writing a rigor report and papers extracted from the lived experiences of sabbaticalee. Departments and mentors should train and encourage professors in sabbatical to take advantages of this methodology
  • Other quantitative researches should be done to evaluate the effectiveness of sabbatical and its benefits on organizational level as well as individual one
  • Each outstanding and innovative event during the sabbatical might be recognized and evaluated as a unique academic event with different details, processes, and outcomes as well as lessons learned for benchmarking
  • Narrative methodology and critical and connoisseurship approach is recommended as the best choice for reporting perfect source of data, lived experiences, and real stories. So, this methodology should be trained in research methodology workshop and academic and professional development programs.



  Conclusions Top


Despite having some economic, political, and practical problems, sabbaticals are still treasure troves of research and training opportunities for academics and institutions albeit relatively understudied. Great well-known universities such as JHU, with their well-documented researches and databases, educational systems, geographical distribution, organizational and academic continuity, relatively high rates of academic exchanges, meetings, workshops, and research, policy, and interprofessional teams, provide multiple chances for reflecting on and evaluating our past and current programs and provoke us to do benchmarking and learning from best practices and best evidence health care and services integrated with research and education. From research into nursing, health management, and education studies focusing on global hot topics, JHU is the highest and the best, especially for English-proficient scholars from all over the world.

Professors who would like to going on sabbatical should have advance planning. They could have plan for engagement with the host universities in more detail beforehand as much as possible, so that they could receive better support and access to learning opportunities. The appropriate length of time for an effective sabbatical seems to be more than 6 months, to cover needs to get familiarize with environment, socialization, exposure to new academia culture as well as policy and regulations. Some paperworks and administrative affaires also need to allocate more time to spend during sabbatical period. The best choice period and optimal time is between 9 and 12 months for allied health disciplines.

Specifically, the outcomes of this sabbatical project provided the benefit of a significant pedagogical improvement in education, research, and management as well as organizational commitment and professionalism, which resulted in increased academic skills and core competencies and expansion of professional network. Most significantly, the sabbatical permitted me to better understand and evaluate our educational program and health services in value of interprofessional and interdisciplinary approach as well as assessing the feasibility of applying hybrid and virtual technology in education, research, and practice.

Acknowledgments

We gratefully acknowledge JHUSON and the Center for Global Initiatives for hosting MHY for his sabbatical study and Isfahan University of Medical Sciences for approving the sabbatical. The authors would also like to thank all other departments in JHU such as Bloomberg School of Public Health, Berman Institute of Ethics, Bio-engineering Dept., as well as JHU Hospital and Medical System which provide opportunities for sabbaticalee to attend, observe, and contribute to their academic and professional events.

Financial support and sponsorship

We would appreciate Isfahan University of Medical Sciences for approving and sponsoring this sabbatical and also Johns Hopkins University, SON, Center for Global Initiatives for inviting and accepting to host sabbaticalee and providing him great opportunity to involve in JHU academic and professional space, courses, workshops and other valuable events for ten months.

Conflicts of interest

The first author MHY is a sabbaticalee under the mentorship of the second (PD) and third authors (CHY). The first author developed the paper with ideation and amendments of the 2nd and 3rd authors. There is no any conflict of interest to be mentioned.

 
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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]



 

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