Preparing for Academic Practice Conference

Last weekend I was in Oxford for the Oxford University Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning annual conference, which was titled ‘Beyond Teaching and Research: Inclusive understandings of academic practice’.

Above and beyond the usual networking and socialising aspects of all conferences (and the chance for a spot of Christmas shopping in Oxford!), the conference offered lots of ideas about how new academics conceive of academic practice, and how developers are working with academics to help them to cope with the range of tasks and roles that they are increasingly expected to perform. The full programme can be viewed at: http://www.learning.ox.ac.uk/files/file/Conference%20programme.pdf.

A couple of the most interesting sessions that I went to were on different forms of academic writing. The first was one of the keynote talks, which was about ‘Building scholarly writing cultures’, and discussed both how PhD students approach writing and how writing is inextricably linked with the formation of a professional identity. The other session was one which looked at how female early career researchers experience rejection (of scholarly articles and research funding bids). While the assumption was that most would experience the review process as unfair (as the session leader had done), it was found that, actually, those who do feel that their work has been carefully and fairly reviewed see the reviewer’s feedback as being formative and helpful in subsequent revisions. This led to discussion of how review processes could be made fairer and how application processes could be made less time consuming for all concerned (although the suggestions were more about how the Research Councils ought to handle applications rather than about how individuals could save time).

In addition to these sessions, I also ran a discussion group which focussed on the funding of researcher development. We talked about making the most effective use of Roberts money for maximum impact, whether we should offer generic or discipline-specific traning, what ‘transferable’ skills are and whether that’s what researchers want, and our role in helping researchers to decide whether they want to remain in academia or not. Clearly, we couldn’t arrive at easy answers, but the session was certainly useful in helping me to think about how the Humanities Faculty here at Manchester might approach researcher development in the future.

If any one has comments about any of these issues, feel free to get in touch or, if there’s anything on the programme that you’d like further info on, just let me know.

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