Masters Degrees (Centre for Higher and Adult Education)

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    An interpretative phenomenological analysis of academic identity development in part-time lecturers at a private higher education institution in South Africa
    (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2022-04) Marais, Karel; Frick, Liezel; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Education. Dept. of Curriculum Studies. (Centre for Higher and Adult Education)
    ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The origins of this study lie in a personal struggle to define my academic identity. My frame of reference is that of part-time lecturer that later moved to a full-time academic manager position in a private higher education institution. The main academic focus of the private higher education institution is on teaching rather than research. The nature of the private higher education institution furthermore entails that there is ever-present spectre of profit. The profit driven nature and the teaching focus led me to doubt if I was in fact an “academic”. This led me to the aim of the study that investigated what the academic identity of part-time lecturers in a private higher education institution is and how this academic identity develops. This initial interest led to reading about identity and I came across Goffman’s theory of dramaturgy, that proposes that daily life could be compared to a theatrical production. When later focussing exclusively on academic identity, I came across Henkel’s work around academic identity in a changing environment. She proposed that three sources of academic identity can be found: discipline, institution and profession. These two scholars’ work formed the theoretical framework for this study. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) research approach was followed. IPA was appropriate as it allows one to describe how the respondent experiences the phenomenon given the context in which it takes place. A purposive sample of five part-time lecturers at the Cape Town campus of a large private higher education institution was selected for the study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the five respondents. The data gathered was analysed using a six-step process that initially analysed each respondent’s interview to find themes. The themes from each interview were then compared to find commonalities and create overarching themes. These themes were interpreted and analysed to allow for findings to be made. The findings indicated that the respondents exhibited a definite academic identity, although most denied being academics. In addition, a clear professional identity was displayed by all the respondents. Respondents showed how they easily, and with comfort, code switched between these two identities depending on what the situation demanded. In some cases, the academic identity was invoked in the professional setting and vice versa. Lastly, it was shown how identity takes time to develop and that agency plays an important part in the development of this identity showing academic identity development as an ongoing process rather than a static point. The study contributes to the body of knowledge allows for a better understanding of how part-time lecturers function in the private higher education environment. This information may be used to assist in the appointment, training, ongoing development and management of part-time lecturers within these institutions in the future. A large-scale quantitative survey is suggested as a possible future study to determine if similar results are found in the broader population. A second study that may be considered is to compare the academic identities of part-time lecturers in private and public higher education institutions, to discover how this might be similar or different.