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Seeing the messiness of academic practice: exploring the work of academics through narrative

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This paper illustrates the use of narrative as a means of examining the complex array of factors that shape academic practice. Through focusing on the personal, using the narrative voice of the participants, a series of situated perspectives on the journey towards academic life, and more specifically teaching, is presented. The paper argues that teaching is a highly complex enterprise that is shaped by a multitude of factors and so should be examined in a range of ways in order to uncover the richness of practice. The study is based on a set of qualitative interviews from which a small sample of narratives has been extracted. These narratives illustrate the multiple and often ambiguous nature of academic practice and of teaching in particular, and hence can inform the work of academic developers by providing a rich and more personal understanding.

Keywords: academic identity; higher education; narrative; teaching

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre for Research in Lifelong Learning and Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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