Actions informed by values in academic development: agency, opportunity and responsibility

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Next Generation, Higher Education: Challenges, Changes and Opportunities Vol. 42

March, 2020, 125 pages
Published by
Eva Heinrich & Roseanna Bourke

We leverage our recent (and ongoing) collaborative auto-ethnographic project to explore how the values, expectations and experiences that we each bring to our roles function in tension (or synergy) with the current higher education climate. This exploration is to help inform what we do in our roles: how do we choose to act in the neo-liberal university and why. Firstly, we trace a narrative that explores the positioning of academic developers with respect to expectations, signaling that we have an active relationship with the discourses that we work within. This leads us to consider the political dimensions of academic development work, and, in that context, our power, agency and values. Such focus encourages a critically reflexive approach and segues to the second part of the article, where, through the lens of identity, we interrogate how our own actions (as developers) are linked to the expectations and discourses with which we might find tension or conflict. It is here, drawing on notions of privileged irresponsibility and a scholarship of ‘re- description’, that our exploration turns to action: we argue that academic developers have not only an opportunity, but a responsibility to engage with redefining the discourses that give rise to the tensions and ambiguities in our roles. To do this, we suggest that a reflexive approach informed by values is essential: failure to do so contributes to a lack of clarity about what academic development work is for and risks promulgating the antithesis of its purpose.

Keywords: academic development, values, agency