22 SES 06 C, Academic Work and Professional Development
Parallel Paper Session
This paper will report on the outcomes from the process of the engagement of a group of European academics in a collective biography project at Aarhus University, Denmark. The purposes of this project are twofold. The first purpose is to explore the extent to which the ‘global vista is translated via local experiences and assumptions’ (Saltmarsh & Swirski, 2010; 292) to European higher education and the second is to experiment with and evaluate the use of collective biography as a methodological approach in the exploration and articulation of academic identities in the globalised knowledge economy. The collective biography project is an intrinsic element of a 4-year research project funded under the Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme involving the universities of Bristol, Auckland and Aarhus (2010-2014). The overarching aim of this major project is to develop a new research community working on how processes of regionalisation and globalisation are redefining the nature and scope of universities. A key dimension is to explore the implications of national and international university reforms for academics, administrators and students, in particular the impact on teaching approaches and involves a group of researchers in collaborations/exchanges to build upon research knowledges. The collective biography project reported on in this paper will reflect, creatively, this key dimension.
Universities have always been international institutions and attracted scholars from around the world to study in them. The influence on academic staff, however, of increasing numbers of students with different academic and cultural backgrounds in 21st century higher education is seldom considered in policy documents, whether at national or local level, yet the academic has a pivotal role in ensuring the quality of student learning, a ‘core player in the process’ (Teekens, 2000, 26). In previous research (e.g.Trahar, 2011, 2012) I have used narrative inquiry to investigate the perceptions and experiences of learning and teaching of academics working in UK universities. I found that all drew heavily on their own experiences of living and working in different contexts to inform their attitudes and behaviours towards students. The ways in which these experiences had shaped their identities were invaluable in helping them to be more empathetic towards students from different parts of the world. Some academics used these experiences to inform specific changes to their teaching approaches in order to be more inclusive of diversity. Implicit in their rich accounts of their everyday experiences of diversity and its concomitant complexities, was their self-identification as academics in their changing higher education landscapes. Thus, they demonstrated how they were celebrating differences to develop rich and inclusive learning environments and in doing so, offered examples of how their shifting identities connect them ‘to diverse others with renewed feelings for global responsibility’ (Seidler, 2010, 190) - crucial in the interconnected world within which we all dwell. The collective biography project will build on and extend this research as, as a group of European academics, we shall be sharing our experiences and deconstructing and reconstructing our identities through the process of writing as inquiry.
Davies, B. & Gannon, S. (2006) Doing Collective Biography. Buckingham: Open University Press Saltmarsh, S. & Swirski, T. (2010) ‘Pawns and prawns’: international academics’ observations on their transition to working in an Australian university. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 32 (3), 291-301 Seidler, V. (2010) Embodying Identities: Culture, Differences and Social Theory. Bristol: The Policy Press Teekens, H. (2000) Teaching and learning in the international classroom in P.Crowther et al. Internationalisation at Home: A Position Paper. European Association for International Education/Academic Cooperation Association. IAK, IESEG, Nuffic, Katholieke Hogeschool Limburg and Malmo University Trahar, S. (2011) Developing Cultural Capability in International Higher Education: a Narrative Inquiry. London: Routledge Trahar, S. (2012) Trahar, S. (2011) Changing landscapes, shifting identities in higher education: some narratives of academics in the UK. Research in Education 86 (1) 46-60
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