International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 21-23 July 2014
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A tale of shedding and growing skins in close-up higher education research

Melinda J Lewis, CoCo, Faculty of Education & Social Work, The University of Sydney, Australia, Melinda.Lewis@sydney.edu.au


This paper tells a tale of two academic health professionals situated in a large, urban, research-intensive university in Australia and adopts a bodily metaphor of skin to explore academic habitus. The study drew on ethnographic approaches to explore research and teaching relationships in allied health disciplines, collecting interview and observational data from academics and students located within one faculty. It elaborates the many interplays between a participants’ involvement in the study whilst undertaking academic promotion to a professorial level and my development as a social science doctoral researcher, yet a former and adjunct academic inside the same university. The research relationship developed with Sally through a common line of enquiry, ‘what is research?’ and ‘what is teaching?’ Her desire to buy time as a participant enabled a focus on her argument for a research-teaching nexus, congruent with university policies and promotion criteria in research and teaching active roles. This led to a critique on the use of evidence in teaching and research, and the ways in which we can show impact within both the academic promotion and doctoral processes (Smith, Crookes & Crookes, 2013). Adopting Bourdieu’s logic of practice (1990), we gained a more nuanced understanding of the very individual nature of one’s academic habitus in the context of who we are in practice. In an exchange of capital (social, political and cultural), we moved within and beyond traditional roles of researcher and researched, into one of mutual academic development and support. This also included the ambivalences and contradictions felt and observed within academic work in its current form, and at times, feeling like imposters and not a real academic or scholar (Barcan, 2013; Sanoro & Snead, 2013). Metaphors surrounding skins are used alongside Bourdieu’s thinking tools to draw attention to habitus, including issues of personal and professional perseverance, containment and concealment, layers of self and identity, representation and scar. The tale is open-ended, calling for a conceptual re-skinning on how we talk about teaching and research (Locke, 2014; Gunn, 2014) and for wider use of events in the annual academic calendar as a way of exploring close-up HE research.

Link to Full Paper (If submitted)

Conference Organisers

Paul Trowler
Lancaster University, UK

Alice Jesmont
Lancaster University, UK

Malcolm Tight
Lancaster University, UK

Paul Ashwin
Lancaster University, UK

Murray Saunders
Lancaster University, UK

Chrissie Boughey
Rhodes University, South Africa

Suellen Shay
University of Cape Town, SA

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