Negotiating professional identities in higher education: dilemmas and priorities of academic staff

Mike Calvert, Therese Lewis, John Spindler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The project offers a case study of academic staff from one faculty in an English Higher Education Institution. What started out as a management exercise in identifying how staff spent their time, was re-conceptualised as practitioner research exploring the complexities of how academic staff sustain professional identities and the implications for how they prioritised the various aspects of their work. The aim of the project was, therefore, to investigate the work patterns of academic staff and, with particular reference to professional identity, to illuminate how they prioritise competing demands. An additional ‘development dimension’ was intended to promote discussion and debate amongst academic staff to generate new perspectives and new ways to address dilemmas inherent in the competing demands on their time. First, we briefly outline the context for the case study in terms of the University, Faculty, staff background and composition. Secondly, there is a short summary of key elements of the methodology and of the methods used for the collection and analysis of data. Thirdly, we outline some theoretical resources that we have found helpful in our efforts to construct meaning from the data. Fourthly, we present our account of how participants have experienced dilemmas in their day-to-day work. This involves an exploration of tensions between what academic staff feel they ought to do, what they feel obliged to do and what they feel is possible. Finally, we summarise the paper by drawing out some of the key strands that have emerged from the project so far.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-38
JournalResearch in Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011


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