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Fragmented academic identity: lessons from defining academic practice

Gough, A.Martin (2011) Fragmented academic identity: lessons from defining academic practice. In: BERA annual conference, 6-8 September 2011, Institute of Education, University of London. (Unpublished) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:28166)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.
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In comparison with accounts aiming to explain how we may view academic practice as an integrated and coherent whole from a theoretical perspective (e.g. McAlpine and Hopwood, 2006; CETL, 2007), I contribute to accounting for how and why the experience of academic practice, and of developing as an early career academic (ECA), is, by contrast, significantly fragmentary. This problematic phenomenon, from the perspectives both of the ECA wondering what they are meant to do and of the academic developer (whether as the general university staff role or as the disciplinary mentor) facilitating their development, demands analysis and is the rationale for this paper.

We can see that the experience of fragmentation is partly a function of institutional convenience, packaging roles and development provision as a series of discrete entities. This notwithstanding, I propose that the ground for this goes deeper, down to our understanding of academic practice as a concept. Conceptual analysis of academic practice finds traditional essentialism and the Wittgensteinian family resemblance approach to definition, and then W.B. Gallie’s default alternative of essential contestability, inadequate, despite these approaches offering foundation for coherence of the concept based upon salient properties. I introduce a pair of alternative theories borrowed from philosophy of art, George Dickie’s institutional theory, and Timothy Binkley’s ‘anti-definition’ theory. I argue that they offer more enlightenment in trying to define academic practice and also supply the ground for autonomy for practitioners as freedom competently to direct their own work. After finding significant common ground between Binkley’s theory and Feyerabend’s epistemological anarchism, we can see that these two positions offer insight into art and science respectively but that Dickie’s theory enables us better to understand academic practice as a concept in its own right.

CETL: Centre for Excellence in Preparing for Academic Practice (2007) Statement on academic practice (University of Oxford Learning Institute). Online at

MCALPINE, LYNN and HOPWOOD, NICHOLAS (2006) Conceptualizing the research PhD: Towards an integrative perspective (Proceedings of the Society for Research in Higher Education annual conference, Brighton, UK, 12-14 December). Online at

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Projects: [135] Defining ‘Academic Practice’ and developing and piloting profiling tools to log students’ progress in developing academic practice
Additional information:
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BD Speculative Philosophy
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC5201 Education extension. Adult education. Continuing education
Divisions: Divisions > Directorate of Education > Centre for the Study of Higher Education
Depositing User: Martin Gough
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2011 15:18 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:06 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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