22 SES 07 D, Academic Work and Professional Development
In response to changing student demographics universities have begun to grapple with the specific needs of particular groups of students including those who are mature and studying part-time. However, some of these needs are external to the university and consequently support for practicing professionals undertaking academic study should not be the sole responsibility of universities. Consequently, this paper examines the nature of workplace support offered to students during their time enrolled in a masters degree with a focus on education.
The complementary notions of ‘Discourse’ (Gee, 1999) and ‘professional identity’ (Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004) are useful lens through which to understand how the norms and practices of a workplace may either support or constrain participants’ ability to undertake academic study as a form of professional development. According to Gee (1998) there are both primary and secondary Discourses. Whereas a primary Discourse is acquired early in life and is associated with the construction of a personal identity, secondary Discourses are acquired later in life as one participates in numerous institutions. Schools are one such institution, and universities are another. Either way embedded within a Discourse are taken for granted and tacit theories of what counts as a ‘normal’ person. As such a Discourse integrates “words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes and social identities” (p. 7) to the extent that there are “ways of behaving, interacting, valuing, thinking, believing speaking … that are accepted as instantiations of particular roles by specific groups of people” (Gee, 1996, p. viii).
While a Discourse is concerned with certain objects and promotes particular concepts, viewpoints, values and relationships at the expense of other competing Discourses (Gee, 1998) all Discourses are a product of history. Associated with the notion of Discourse is the concept of professional identity, an identity created by the Discourse and discursive practices of a professional group (Trowler & Knight, 2000). Professional identity has been described as “the attitudes, values, knowledge, and beliefs shared with others within a professional group and relates to the professional role being undertaken by the individual and thus is a matter of self-conceptualisation associated with the work role adopted.” (Adams, Hean, Sturgis, &Macleod Clark, 2006, p. 56). Shaped by history and culture, professional identity is dynamic, subject to formulation and re-formulation at both an individual and collective level as the Discourse both reflects and constructs the social world. The discourses of the school and the university are examined to understand what the workplace sees as valued and valuable and how that might influence the types of support given as well as participants’ ability to reformulate their professional identity.
Adams, K., Hean, S., Sturgis, P., & Macleod Clark, J. (2006). Investigating the factors influencing professional identify of first-year health and social care students. Learning in Health and Social Care, 5, 55–68. Beijaard, D., Meijer, P. C., & Verloop, N. (2004). Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20(2), 107–128. Gee, J. (1998, 3 Feb.). Learning academic social languages late. Unpublished paper presented at a writing program at Syracuse University. Gee, J. P. (1996). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses (2nd ed.). London: Routledge Falmer. Gee, J. P. (1999). An introduction to discourse analysis theory and method (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. Glaser, B. G., and A.L. Strauss. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York: Aldine de Gruyter. Trowler, P., & Knight, P.T. (2000). Coming to know in higher education: Theorizing faculty entry to new work contexts. Higher Education Research and Development, 19(1), 27–42.
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