22 SES 02 C, Professionals in Academia
Demands on academics are severe. As well as teaching, academics are under increasing pressure to generate income, be research active and publish in high-impact journals: quantity of income and publications are used as measures of academic performance, capacity and professional responsibility (Hyland, 2007; Murray, 2012; Macfarlane, 2015). The dominant scientific/social scientific form of research is largely institutionally controlled and publications are judged externally by impact factor within a technical rational metrics system rooted in an objectivised form of logic. A culture of performativity (Ball, 2003) extends the view outlined in the Trilateral Commission’s The Crisis of Democracy (Crozier et al., 1975)that ‘those institutions which have played the major role in the indoctrination of the young … have been the family, the church, the school, and the army’ (p. 162); these institutions now include the university. The increasing emphasis on performativity stems from an underlying commitment to dominant epistemological objectivist and technical rational forms.
This situation denies my intellectual and professional values as a research professor with some responsibility for contributing to academic staff development. It also denies the traditional Aristotelian values that underpin a view of the virtuous university as outlined by Newman (2015) and Nixon (2008). From this reading, the task of the university as an institution is to encourage its members to aim for the practice of phronesis, wisdom engendered through thoughtful practices that act as the basis of practical theorising (Eikeland, 2008), in spite of increasingly dominant impulses towards the value of techne as manifested in the increasingly visible corporate university. The existence of techne as a potentially dominant value also denies what I see as the responsibility of academics, members of ‘the university’, to tell the truth and expose lies (Chomsky, 2000). They can do this mainly through developing the capacity to critique messages that are communicated from the external world through the media, and that they then learn and internalize as normative.
My research and work aim is to contribute to social transformation such that all people may come together, on an equal footing, to debate matters concerning their futures in a dialogical way. I understand the process of social transformation as follows: logics (ways of thinking) transform into epistemologies (ways of knowing), which transform into practices (ways of being and doing). The link between values and virtues, for me, is that a value, when realized, becomes a virtue (McNiff, 2016). This view is similar to that of Eikeland (2008) who, while speaking about Aristotle, suggests that the Greek concept of virtue means what makes any thing or activity work at its best. The realisation of a value shows it working at its best, i.e. as a virtue. Virtue therefore becomes a creative transformational process, an activity rather than an object of study.
My research as an educational researcher and academic supporter focuses on helping academic colleagues develop virtuous practices through finding ways to realise their intellectual and practical values. My research question therefore becomes, ‘How do I support academic colleagues’ action enquiries for social change; to realise their intellectual and practical values such that they work at their best?’ If they did, the institution of the university would also work at its best. Through this engagement I address the conference theme of how educational researchers can lead education through contributing to different kinds of transformation: intellectual transformation through recognising that all forms of knowledge should be seen as contingent and rooted in practices, and social transformation through recognising that knowledge is constructed and dialogically negotiated with other people.
Ball, S. (2003) ‘The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity’, Journal of Educational Policy, 18 (2): 215–228. Berlin, I. (1990) Four Essays on Liberty. London: Oxford University Press. Berlin, I. (2013) (ed. H. Hardy) The Crooked Timber of Humanity. London: Pimlico. Chomsky (2000) (ed. D. Macedo) Chomsky on MisEducation. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Crozier, M., Huntington, S. and Watanuki, J. (1975) The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission. New York: New York University Press. Eikeland, O. (2006) ‘Condescending ethics and action research: Extended review article’, Action Research 4 (1): 37–47. Eikeland (2008) The Ways of Aristotle. Bern: Peter Lang. Hyland, K. (2007) Writing in the Academy: Reputation, Education and Knowledge. University of London: Institute of London Press. Loy, D. (2010) The World is Made of Stories. Boston: Wisdom Publications. Macfarlane 2015 Macfarlane, B. (2015) ‘Student performativity in higher education: converting lerning as a private space into a public performance’, Higher Education & Development, 34 (2): 338–350. McNiff, J. (2013) Action Research: Principles and Practice (3rd edition). Abingdon: Routledge. McNiff, J. (2016) ‘Introduction’ in J. McNiff (ed.) Values and Virtues in Higher Education Research. Abingdon: Routledge. Murray, R. (2012) ‘Developing a community of research practice’, British Educational Research Journal, 38 (5): 783–800. Newman, J. H. (2015/1873) The Idea of a University. London: Aerterna Press. Nixon, J. (2008) Towards the Virtuous University. London, Routledge. Polanyi, M. (1958) Personal Knowledge. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Polanyi, M. (1967) The Tacit Dimension. New York: Doubleday. Ryle, G. (1949) The Concept of Mind. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Sacks, J. (2003) The Dignity of Difference. London: Continuum. Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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