22 SES 05 C, Academics in Academia
For many research active and engaged faculty pressure to publish and collaborate in their research is a very real struggle. Typically, faculty members have determined the nature and extent of their professional development; most often driven by career progression ambitions and research interests. Pressure for change has meant that for most research active and research engaged faculty their projects and studies now take place within a context where there is tension between the rigour, relevance and accountability in their research publications and the needs of society in general. Going forward faculty professional development will involve their ability to maintain the relevance of their research interests to their academic community; and to the practice community. This has implications for their core research, professional collaborations and inter-disciplinary orientations. Thus, understanding how these collaborations are created and maintained is invaluable.
This study aims to explore the structure of international scholarly partnerships and research collaborations and their impact on the professional development of faculty in higher education. Three key sets of research questions guide the study:
- What is the underlying structure of scholarly partnerships? What are the key contributors and their networks; the development points; and promising research collaboration opportunities?
- How are an individual’s incentive, content and interaction dimensions of learning supported through the use of learning partnerships, academic communities of practice and social networks?
- How do individual faculty members experience perspective transformation on their professional and personal identity through the social, personal and situational contexts of their scholarly partnerships and research collaboration?
This study draws on several theoretical frameworks. The Learning Partnership Model (LPM) core assumptions are that, knowledge is complex and socially constructed; the self is central to knowledge construction; and authority and expertise are shared in the mutual construction of knowledge among peers (Baxter Magolda & King, 2004, p. xxii).
Communities of practice include a domain of knowledge, a community of people who care about this domain, and a shared practice that they are developing to be effective in their domain (Lave & Wenger 1991; Wenger, McDermott and Snyder, 2002). Communities of practice thrive where the goals and needs of an organisation intersect with the passions and aspirations of the participants. Muijis, West and Ainscow (2010) emphasise the way individuals gain entry and are given opportunities to become included in the community. Oreszczyn, Lane, and Carr (2010) identify the relevance of boundaries in communities and networks of practice and Weerts and Sandmann (2010) explore how faculty evolve in their thinking and understanding in respect of the relevance of their research interests both to their academic community; and to the practice community.
Mezirow’s (1991) transformative learning theory depicts ways individuals identify and challenge underlying assumptions, prompting changed perspectives that lead to taking new roles and actions. Therefore, changes in thinking that lead to new worldviews, and new perspectives on personal and professional lives (Cranton, 2006; Tennant, 2012) will inform current debate on how scholarly partnerships impact on the evolving professional identity of faculty (Beauchamp &Thomas, 2009).
In order to solve complex problems, faculty research projects must bring people with different yet complimentary skills together that require trans-disciplinary (Stokols, 2006; Pohl and Hirsch Hadorn, 2007) and cross-functional collaboration. Collaboration patterns differ among disciplines (Glanzel & De Lange, 2002) and countries (Wagner and Leydesdorff, 2005). Therefore, social relationships and social networks are important in understanding how scientific communities and scholarly partnerships are formed and how they support collaborative research projects and initiatives (Santonen and Ritala, 2014).
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