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Bridging the divides: The role of Academic Development in defragmenting higher education

Thursday 4 July: Conference day two, 4:45pm – 5:15pm parallel session



Room 11 – 303-B11 Sem



Dr Bernadette Knewstubb
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Associate Professor Erik Brogt
University of Canterbury, New Zealand



Academia is extremely fragmented. Rowland (2006, p. 62)  identifies a number of fault lines which “exist, and are widening, between teachers and students, between teaching and management, between teaching and research, and between the increasingly fragmented area of knowledge”. Academic developers, by virtue of their roles (Debowski, 2011) are in a position to act as re-integrators of such divides. One approach for bridging the research-teaching divide that has been gathering momentum recently focuses on ‘whole-academic’ academic development, expanding from our traditional base in development for teaching and learning, to now also include development for research and service (see e.g. Sutherland, 2018). However, we argue that this approach may lead to an overemphasis on the individual academic at the expense of the relationships essential for effective learning and teaching in the institution.



In most facets of academic development work, interactions with colleagues are central. And yet our actions as academic developers may reinforce divides. Therefore it is critical that we are conscious of the way we interact, and that we operate within a theory of relationship with colleagues, rather than focusing on an individualistic philosophy of teaching. In this round table, we will discuss the need for academic developers and academics to be conscious of the relationship between ourselves and those with whom we work, between what we do and what others do in given situations, so that we can work deliberately to address their needs. We argue that articulating an explicit theory of relationship (as opposed to a teaching philosophy) can support our own practice as ‘defragmenters’, and model a process to be adapted by academics for use in their own fragmented relationships and roles.



Debowski, S. (2011). Locating Academic Development: The first step in evaluation. In L. Stefani (Ed.) Evaluating the effectiveness of academic development: Principles and practice. New York: Routledge.
Rowland, S. (2006) The Enquiring University: Compliance and Contestation in Higher Education. Maidenhead: Open University Press
Sutherland, K.A. (2018). Holistic academic development: Is it time to think more broadly about the academic development project. International Journal for Academic Development, 23(4), 261-273.


Presentation topic

Academics – Academic Development

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