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Preparing for an uncertain future in Higher Education: Theoretical Implications for Researcher development

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These are my slides for the EARLI 2015 Conference http://www.earli2015.org/programme/

With numerous reasons to pursue doctoral education, methods to accomplish it, and kinds of doctorates to be had, research and practice doctoral degrees are increasingly blurred across institutions and their learners. With global inconsistencies increasing, it appears almost fashionable to try to reconceive what doing a doctorate means (Boud & Tennant, 2006; Chiteng Kot & Hendel, 2012; McAlpine & Norton, 2006).

However, many of these studies seek to explore this area from the perspective of the higher education economy, industry, national standards, and disciplinary expectations—sometimes leaving the experiences, needs, and intentions of recent postgraduates to their own devices. This research theorizes the shifting nature of adjunct instructors with research degrees—those alternately known as part-time, contingent, temporary, casual, or non-permanent teachers in higher education—who cannot attain full-time research positions, and proposes a framework to reconceive their roles.

This work problematizes what constitutes researcher education and how those who pursue it often do so regardless of realistic future work opportunities in their areas. The notion of Flexible Academics is developed as an identity to allow the role to be talked about as distinctive from an early career researcher, something different not only by the growing period it may last, but also because of its increasingly permanent possibility.

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Preparing for an uncertain future in Higher Education: Theoretical Implications for Researcher development

  1. 1. Preparing for an Uncertain Future in Higher Education: Theoretical Implications for Researcher Development Jeffrey M. Keefer New York University & Pace University 16th Biennial Conference European Association for Research in Learning and Instruction (EARLI) August 25-29, 2015 Cyprus University of Technology (CUT) Limassol, Cyprus cc: Mr.Tea - https://www.flickr.com/photos/12575062@N00cc: betta design - https://www.flickr.com/photos/65768710@N00
  2. 2. With numerous reasons to pursue doctoral education, methods to accomplish it, and kinds of doctorates, research and practice doctoral degrees are increasingly blurred across institutions and their learners. cc: neil conway - https://www.flickr.com/photos/30934989@N06cc: Sprengben [why not get a friend] - https://www.flickr.com/photos/37010090@N04
  3. 3. Global inconsistencies almost invite us to reconceive what doing a doctorate means (Boud & Tennant, 2006; Chiteng Kot & Hendel, 2012; McAlpine & Norton, 2006). cc: Valentina_A - https://www.flickr.com/photos/8418112@N04
  4. 4. This is often explored from the perspective of the higher education economy, industry, national standards, and disciplinary expectations, sometimes excluding the experiences, needs, and intentions of recent postgraduates often left alone in research career development. cc: CarbonNYC [in SF!] - https://www.flickr.com/photos/15923063@N00
  5. 5. Shifts in doctoral programs and coursework typically avoid the growing population of adjunct instructors who often cannot get the anticipated full-time academic positions upon completion. cc: pennstatenews - https://www.flickr.com/photos/53130103@N05
  6. 6. Adjunct, part-time, contingent, temporary, casual, visiting, or non-permanent instructors across higher education in the U.S. account for 76% of all university teaching (American Association of University Professors, n.d.). cc: MTSOfan - https://www.flickr.com/photos/8628862@N05
  7. 7. This research theorizes the shifting nature of adjunct instructors who cannot attain full-time university research positions, and proposes a framework to reconceive their roles. cc: Glenn Waters ぐれんin Japan. - https://www.flickr.com/photos/23893265@N08
  8. 8. While 76% of those teaching in higher education have temporary, or adjunct, teaching status, 55% of them have PhDs (House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democratic Staff, 2014).
  9. 9. With this population continuing to expand, it is increasingly unclear to what extent a research doctorate prepares graduates to engage in permanent, research-intensive careers (Mays & Smith, 2009; Rasanen & Korpiaho, 2011; Turner & McAlpine, 2011). cc: matthileo - https://www.flickr.com/photos/38383999@N06
  10. 10. Individuals whose unexpected liminal periods of career uncertainty challenge them in ways not customarily prepared for in academic programs (Flaherty, 2013; McAlpine & Emmioğlu, 2014; McAlpine & Turner, 2012). cc: Arbron - https://www.flickr.com/photos/91281489@N00
  11. 11. Career trajectories are problematized for those unable to assume a university position they prepared for (Goldstene, n.d.). cc: mayeesherr. - https://www.flickr.com/photos/16503481@N04
  12. 12. How can higher educational systems remain intact when up to 75% of their products, early career researchers, do not locate permanent positions in their areas? cc: DaveOnFlickr - https://www.flickr.com/photos/49392213@N00
  13. 13. Those who pursue researcher education increasingly do so regardless of realistic future work opportunities in their areas. cc: Gideon Tsang - https://www.flickr.com/photos/34323101@N00
  14. 14. The rules for engaging in doctoral studies have changed, yet the new rulebook has not yet been written.cc: photosteve101 - https://www.flickr.com/photos/42931449@N07
  15. 15. Those who work in adjunct, contingent roles bring scholarship to their tasks, though without having stable university positions, are not readily considered researchers. cc: Wonderlane - https://www.flickr.com/photos/71401718@N00
  16. 16. Likewise, the academic specialization that comes as a result of this same training focuses one to remain outside the regular knowledge economy. cc: 55Laney69 - https://www.flickr.com/photos/42875184@N08
  17. 17. The situation is such that for many, “Contingency has become permanent, a rite of passage to nowhere” (Kendzior, 2013). cc: Justin Balog - https://www.flickr.com/photos/41008285@N06
  18. 18. They hold part-time positions in higher education as full-time positions are eliminated to reduce costs, so are liminal because they cannot work as they were prepared to do. cc: Wonderlane - https://www.flickr.com/photos/71401718@N00
  19. 19. These are not early career researchers, as there is little evidence they will ever reach those careers. cc: EssjayNZ - https://www.flickr.com/photos/19387816@N00
  20. 20. This research proposes the term “Flexible Scholars” for this population, too overeducated and overqualified to work only casually part-time, though who remain within the higher education machinery that will not fully employ them.
  21. 21. Scholarship speaks to their work, while Flexible as the majority of their time is spent across various capacities without a central research “home” in which to work and advance (House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democratic Staff, 2014). cc: quinn.anya - https://www.flickr.com/photos/53326337@N00
  22. 22. While Flexible Scholars increase, without articulating it as a growing, distinct identity with roles to play within academic discourses, it means that for many people it does not even exist (Goffman, 1959). cc: C-Monster - https://www.flickr.com/photos/23835356@N00
  23. 23. Previous Expectations for Early Career Researchers: No Longer the Reality Doctoral Learners Early Career Researchers
  24. 24. A Rise in Flexible Scholars Doctoral Learners Flexible Scholars (75% PT Academics) Early Career Researchers (25% FT Academics)
  25. 25. It is beyond the scope of this theorizing to change higher education funding, cost structures, disciplinarity expectations, or solutions to changing structures. The intention is to propose language to describe a reality that is not readily acknowledged and begin discussions as to implications and research agendas. cc: JoãoMoura - https://www.flickr.com/photos/24041341@N02

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