22 SES 07 A, Paper Session
Higher education research and innovation play a crucial role across Europe in supporting social cohesion, economic growth and global competitiveness. The shift to a knowledge-based economy is central to higher education as a key driver of societal and economic change. Irish Institutes of Technology are being transitioned through a series of forced mergers aimed at the consolidation and realignment of the sector. The Technology University framework creates the demand for faculty to actively engage in new approaches to teaching, research, postgraduate studies and knowledge transformation.
Similar to consolidations and re-alignments to other European institutions and colleges these transitions pose significant challenges for faculty to particularly engage in increased research activity, networked research partnerships and European/International professional social networks. (Pinheiro, Geschwind and Aarrevaara, 2016; Vartiainen, 2017; Zeeman and Benneworth, 2017; EUA, 2019; Aasen, 2020).
The study aims to explore the nature of personal engagement by faculty in research work in Technology Universities in Ireland.
The objectives are to:
- Explore the influence of personal experiences and work contexts on engagement in research activity.
- Identify elements and components that underpin scholarly partnerships and research collaborations.
- Map the incentive, content and interactions dimensions of collaboration opportunities for research partnerships.
- Develop a conceptual model of an evolving identity from a traditional professional teaching role to one balanced across teaching, research and innovation.
Research Question: How do TU faculty experiences and work contexts influence personal engagement in relevant disciplinary and interdisciplinary research actively, scholarly partnerships and research collaborations?
Theoretical Frameworks (Literature)
There are two overarching conceptual frameworks from which this research project is derived.
i) Personal engagement, identity self-states and perspective transformation.
Psychological conditions of personal engagement at work represents an internal state of being, comprised of three psychological domains (meaningfulness, safety, availability) that determine whether individuals bring their preferred selves to their role as a professional working within a discipline and that of their role as a researcher/lecturer within the organisation (Kahn, 1990, 1991; Schuck, 2011; May, 2004; Tuckey et al, 2012; Lave & Wenger, 1991; May, Gilson and Harter, 2004; Saks, 2006). Role engagement may prompt a changed perspective as individuals identify and challenge underlying assumptions, prompting changed perspectives leading to new roles and actions (Mezirow, 1991). These processes may also lead to a change in habits of mind (Cranton, 2006) leading to new worldviews, new perspectives and an evolving identity. The importance of and interrelation of notions of identify, concept, emotion and agency has been established (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009; Behijard et al 2004; Rodgers & Scott, 2008; Hamman, Gosselin, Romano and Bunuan, 2010;). Identity self-states draws on ‘motivational self-systems’ that incorporate ‘possible’ and ‘ideal’ selves’ theory (Markus and Nurius, 1986) and self-discrepancy theory. Exploring these processes will inform how scholarly partnerships impact on an evolving professional identity and agency (Cranton, 2006; Boylan, Coldwell, Maxwell & Jordan, 2018; Graham Cagney, 2020).
ii) Learning partnerships, interdisciplinary and cross-functional collaboration and social network relationships.
Self-authorship and learning partnerships (Baxter Magolda & King, 2004) influence how knowledge is socially constructed with authority and expertise shared among peers particularly in a research context where collaboration happens across differing disciplines with dissimilar yet complimentary skills (Stokols, 2006; Pohl & Hirsch Hadorn, 2007) . Understanding how individuals identify, join and develop these social network relationships that are often very tightly clustered based on geographic and institutional boundaries is important in identifying key contributors and their networks in addition to the development points and research collaboration opportunities Kinchin, 2012; Taylor & Colet, 2010; Santonen & Ritala, 2014; Pope, deMarrais, Graham Cagney & Moore, 2017; Cordie, Graham Cagney & Adelino, 2020).
Research design. This exploratory mixed methods study uses a sequential design (Creswell and Clark, 2011) divided into two stages. In Stage one, data mining will be conducted of Government publications, academic publications, organisational reports, faculty individual professional profiles and websites. This data will be used to map and identify this multidisciplinary and diverse population of researchers and their research activities within each TU. Social network analysis and visualisation of networks will establish the relationships and connections of identified researchers to fully explore the researcher’s network and collaborations and identify additional potential faculty for the population of interest. Stage two of the study will comprise of semi-structured interviews. Purposeful sampling (from the developed database) will be used to select participants for interview, this may be supplemented with snowball sampling if the original sample size does not reach its target. Thirty interviews will be completed and will be representative of the three Technology University designate clusters. Participants will be contacted (following ethical approval) with an invitation by email to participate. They will then self-select and either agree/not agree to be interviewed. These interviews will take place via Zoom/Skype, depending on participant preference. Participants will be interviewed for approximately 1 hour using a semi-structured interview guide. Assuming informed consent of the participants (following ethics protocols) the interviews will be digitally recorded. To triangulate the interviews, documents that would lend insight into the focus of this study will be solicited, but only as the participant feels comfortable. After the interview is completed, and the data transcribed by the researcher, the participant will be contacted for member checking via email. They will be invited to review their transcript and engage in a follow-up interview if clarification or deeper inquiry is required/beneficial. A follow-up interview will take place only as needed and if agreed by the participant. The anticipated duration of participation for an individual subject will be one interview session of an hour. Consistent with qualitative methodology the data will be analysed by the researchers with respect to the research questions using a constant comparative method to construct categories or themes that capture recurring patterns. Final analysis and synthesis of the data will lead to one if not more academic papers from the study and proposed next steps.
Key findings to emerge from Stage One (data mining and social network analysis are currently being conducted) will be presented in this paper at the EERA-ECER Conference. The results presented will include a map of key research activity across faculty members in the three Technology Universities. Results will also identify a visualisation of individual networks (and key nodes) and additional collaborators. It is also hoped to identify specific disciplinary and inter-disciplinary research activity in addition to national and European networks and collaboration activity. Results from the study when Stages 1 and 2 are completed will establish a pattern of activity that illustrates formal and informal faculty research activity. Knowledge will be shared to enhance current understandings of the patterns of personal engagement in research, and how scholarly partnerships and collaborations are formed and maintained. The qualitative data in particular will shed light on how these scholarly partnerships and research collaborations (SPaRC) influence faculty research and teaching agendas and contribute to an evolving faculty identity balanced across teaching, research and innovation. Results will also contribute to practice by identifying the enablers and barriers to research related challenges and expectations faced by the organisations committed to the emergent TU framework. Finally, results from the finished study will aid emerging TUs in evaluating the impact their professional research development initiates are making to support their academic staff. The research will contribute to the research development literature, policy and inform professional learning and development for researchers. National and European research opportunities will be sought to bring this study to a wider ‘next stage’.
Aasen, P. (2020) ‘Is the Norwegian experience relevant for the changing education landscape in Ireland?’, in THEA Colloquium Innovation through Partnership, 19th November. Beauchamp, C. and Thomas, L. (2009) ‘Understanding teacher identity: An overview of issues in the literature and implications for teacher education’, Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(2), pp. 175–189. doi: 10.1080/03057640902902252. Cranton, P. (2006) ‘Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning: A Guide for Educators of Adults’, Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education, 35(2). doi: 10.21225/d5z59x. EUA (2019) EUA BRIEFING University Mergers in Europe. Belgium. Available at: http://www.university-mergers.eu/. Illeris, K. (2014) ‘Transformative Learning and Identity’, Journal of Transformative Education, 12, pp. 148–163. doi: 10.1177/1541344614548423. Kahn, W. A. (1990) ‘Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work’, Academy of Management Journal, 33(4), pp. 692–724. doi: 10.5465/256287. Magolda Baxter, M. B. and King, P. M. (2004) Learning Partnerships: Theory and Models of Practice to Educate for Self-authorship. Stylus Pub. Markus, H. and Nurius, P. (1986) ‘Possible Selves’, American Psychologist, 41(9), pp. 954–969. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.41.9.954. Mezirow, J. (1991) Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Francisco, CA, US: Jossey-Bass. Pinheiro, R., Geschwind, L. and Aarrevaara, T. (2016) ‘Mergers in higher education’, European Journal of Higher Education, 6(1), pp. 2–6. doi: 10.1080/21568235.2015.1099455. Pohl, C. and Hadorn, G. H. (2007) Principles for Designing Transdisciplinary Research. Oekom. RIEC (2019) Definition and Organisation of Research at WIT. Waterford. Available at: https://www.wit.ie/research/our_research/research-policies-procedures#practice. Saks, A. M. (2006) ‘Antecedents and consequences of employee engagement’, Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21(7), pp. 600–619. doi: 10.1108/02683940610690169. Santonen, T. and Ritala, P. (2014) ‘Social network analysis of the ISPIM innovation management community in 2009-2011’, International Journal of Innovation Management, 18(1). doi: 10.1142/S1363919614500108. Stokols, D. (2006) ‘Toward a science of transdisciplinary action research’, American Journal of Community Psychology, 38(1–2), pp. 63–77. doi: 10.1007/s10464-006-9060-5. Vartiainen, P. (2017) ‘Campus-based tensions in the structural development of a newly merged university: the case of the University of Eastern Finland’, Tertiary Education and Management. Routledge, 23(1), pp. 53–68. doi: 10.1080/13583883.2016.1205123. Vidgen, R., Henneberg, S. and Naudé, P. (2007) ‘What sort of community is the European conference on information systems? A social network analysis 1993-2005’, European Journal of Information Systems, 16(1), pp. 5–19. doi: 10.1057/palgrave.ejis.3000661. Zeeman, N. and Benneworth, P. (2017) ‘Globalisation, mergers and “inadvertent multi-campus universities”: reflections from Wales’, Tertiary Education and Management. Routledge, 23(1), pp. 41–52. doi: 10.1080/13583883.2016.1243256.
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