Academic identity – searching for significance

100 cakeThis is my 100th EdD blog post!

I’m talking about…

Alexander, P., Harris-Huemmert, S., & McAlpine, L. 2013. Tools for reflection on the academic identities of doctoral students. International Journal of Academic Development. 19 (3), pp162-173

This paper was surprisingly useful. At first glance it had its limitations, focused as it is on full-time doctoral students – whose day-to-day experience (and perception of academic identity) will clearly be quite different to the experience of those undertaking a part time professional doctorate. Also, the methodology appears to rely on the psychological Narrativity thesis that Galen Strawson calls into question.

However, I found it was possible to ‘bounce off’ the text in considering the points of departure with my own context, and generating some potential themes in my own ‘doctoral journey’. Here are three:

1. Wellbeing and perceptions of ‘clutter’ in doctoral study
The practice of synthesising and recording responses to literature as a form of ‘cognitive decluttering’. I’ve written about this a few times on my blog:
26 Feb 2014
23 March 2014
3 April 2015

2. The identification and use of ‘resource people’ in developing/shifting academic identity.
Reading this paper made me realise all the people I have on my side. Unlike Elizabeth (p12), I’ve not been very good at keeping friends in the past (something to do with an Episodic temporal temperament?), so virtually all my friends know me as a doctoral student. Three of my closest friends have also been completing their doctorates in the areas of philosophy and education. I do have some friends who are remote from academia, but it’s not like I’m studying theoretical physics; everyone has experienced education and has something interesting to say about it. My UAL colleagues are incredibly supportive and often ask me how the course is going, and I’ve encountered several interesting strangers along the way who have been happy to act as informal advisers, critical friends, peer reviewers, or simply the provider of a pep talk. I certainly don’t feel that I am on a solitary journey. The authors of this paper conclude by highlighting the value of student agency in developing relationships that support their developing academic identity, and therefore an exploration of how I’ve constructed and maintained these relationships might be of interest.

3. Exploring a shift from regular publication and presentation pre-EdD to very little of either.
There are two aspects to this last one, I think. One has been the opportunity the EdD has presented to consider the purpose and practice of writing for publication, and a subsequent realisation of my earlier naïveté as an academic writer (parallels with Adam and Eve being confronted with their nakedness on eating from the tree of knowledge?). But more significant, I think, has been a shift in personal interests and values – from online networked learning to sustainability and wellbeing – that has come from wider reading of a more philosophical flavour. Before embarking on the EdD I felt I belonged in the two professional communities of Ed Tech and Ac Dev. I probably slipped out of the peripheries of the former entirely a few months back. While still an academic developer by profession, there are new academic communities on the horizon. I don’t quite know where I want to be yet. This shouldn’t dissuade me from disseminating work within my current community, but I feel like it has. It’s probably a poor excuse, and I really need to dig out my WrAP 2 assignment and polish it up to send out forthwith. These earlier blog posts are worth revisiting:

27 January 2014 – on getting down to the WrAP1 assignment
12 November 2014 – why write?
20 November 2014 – my writing self
27 November 2014 – planning the WrAP2 assignment
13 February 2015 – on the difference between the ed tech and ac dev communities

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