22 SES 07 D, Academic Work and Professional Development
In the past ten years the place of writing in educational research and practice has been the subject of research in many Higher Education cultures (Elbow, USA; Grant and Knowles, New Zealand; Lee and Boud, Australia; Lillis & Curry, UK; Moore, Ireland). While research and publishing have become part of educational work for many, there are problems with fitting the act of writing into professional and academic time and space. Even eminent and experienced educational researchers find writing problematic (Carnell et al. 2008). A study on productive educational researchers did not reveal exactly what they do to make writing less problematic (Mayrath 2008).
If educational innovation and creativity are to benefit society, they must be tested by peer review and published to achieve not only dissemination to different audiences, including policy makers, but also development in educational research and practice. It is important to develop this competency across the discipline of Education. Writing competency, at this level, can be understood as a set of skills, but we need to know more about how to perform these skills in our academic and/or practitioner roles.
This study addressed the question of where the act of writing sits in educational settings: what do those who write in academic and professional settings do?
The objective was to document specific practices and generate possible solutions to the problem of writing in academic and professional workplaces.
The theoretical framework for this study drew on Murray and Newton (2009: 544-5), who used Community of Practice theory (Lave & Wenger 1991, Wenger 1998) to show that structured writing retreats develop communities of practice, which enable writing:
1. Mutuality of engagement, in terms of engaging with and responding to other writers and giving and receiving feedback on writing-in-progress;
2. Identity of participation, in terms of building on mutual engagement to develop a new identity as a writer;
3. Legitimate peripheral participation, in terms of experiencing the legitimacy of writing and legitimising the self as a writer.
The rationale for using this framework in this study was that there was anecdotal evidence of retreat participants using the retreat structure in ‘micro-groups’, where they met in two’s and three’s to write. This study set out more systematically to analyse this emerging practice.
Carnell, E., MacDonald, J., McCallum, B. & Scott, M. (2008) Passion and politics: Academics reflect on writing for publication. London: Institute of Education. Elbow, P. & Sorcinelli, M.D. (2006) The faculty writing place: A room of our own, Change, November/December: 17-22. Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lee, A. & Boud, D. (2003) Writing groups, change and academic identity: Research development as local practice, Studies in Higher Education, 28: 187-200. Lillis, T. & Curry, M.J. (2010) Academic writing in a global context: The politics and practices of publishing in English. Abingdon: Routledge. Mayrath, M. (2008) Attributions of productive authors in educational psychology journals, Educational Psychology Review, 20: 41-56. Moore, S. (2003) Writers’ retreats for academics: Exploring and increasing the motivation to write, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 27: 333-42. Murray, R. & Newton, M. (2009) Writing retreat as structured intervention: Margin or mainstream?, Higher Education Research and Development, 28: 541-53. Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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