The professional-academic: negotiating the relationships between professional, practitioner and academic identities among social worker and nurse educators
AbstractThe study examines how nurse and social worker educators conceptualise and create academic identities through a negotiation between the interests of their professional, practitioner and academic selves. The ultimate identity position of the professionalacademic, as generated from the data, manifests as an interplay of “This is who I am” - expressed in a strong identification with, and commitment to an idealised professional mission and professional self - and “This is what I do”, realised in the teaching of students and production of professional-practitioners. The abiding intent of the professionalacademic is to transcend the limitations of the practice field and hold it – and in some instances the policy-makers - and the practitioner-self to account. Academic identity-making is framed through the ‘internal conversations’ (Archer, 2012; 2003; 2000) and ‘identifications’ (Jenkins, 2008; Lawlor,2008, Wenger, 1998) individuals adopt to establish, legitimate and maintain their position in the university. These reflect their ‘concerns and commitments’ – or orientations – to the profession, practice and the academy and shape the motivations and practices of their academic life and being. The emphasis of orientations and attendant motivations develop over time and place, variously locating individuals within a matrix of identity positions. Some positions become more fixed identity-types. It is an interpretive, qualitative study based on semi-structured interviews with nineteen academics. A thematic analysis generated a schema of identity-making processes where: orientations are a biographical mix of engagements within each of the domains; both professional-disciplinary groups express dissonance or conflict with the practice field alongside an ideological commitment to the profession; predisposing orientations and the affordances-constraints of the university produce a range of five academic identity positions: the teacher, the moral, conflicted, integrated-complete and/or disaffected academic. All the positions require negotiations that enable the forging of personally credible and authentic professional-academic identities. In this individuals become the site of complex dynamics between the profession, academy and practice. Hence, rather than as an academic tribe apart as often described and represented in the literature, these academics – like their peers in other discipline fields - also cultivate academic identities reflective of personal allegiances to professional-disciplinary concerns and commitments that shape their possibilities, positioning and potential in the academy.