An interpretative phenomenological analysis of academic identity development in part-time lecturers at a private higher education institution in South Africa

Marais, Karel (2022-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2022.


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.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die oorsprong van hierdie studie lê in 'n persoonlike stryd om my akademiese identiteit te definieer. My verwysingsraamwerk is dié van deeltydse dosente wat later na 'n voltydse pos as akademiese bestuurder in 'n privaat hoër onderwys instelling verskuif het. Die hoof akademiese fokus van die privaat instelling vir hoër onderwys is eerder op onderrig as op navorsing. Die aard van die privaat hoëronderwysinstelling behels verder dat daar 'n fokus op winsgewendheid is. Die winsgedrewe aard en die onderrigfokus het my laat twyfel of ek in werklikheid 'n 'akademikus' was. Dit het my na die die doel van die studie gely, wat ondersoek ingestel het na wat die akademiese identiteit van deeltydse dosente in 'n privaat hoër onderwys instelling behels en op watter wyse hierdie akademiese identiteit ontwikkel het. In navolging van hierdie belangstelling het ek begin lees oor identiteit, en ek het Goffman se teorie van dramaturgie teëgekom, wat daarop dui dat die daaglikse lewe vergelyk kan word met 'n teaterproduksie. Toe ek later uitsluitlik op akademiese identiteit fokus, het ek Henkel se werk rondom akademiese identiteit in 'n veranderende omgewing ontdek. Sy het voorgestel dat drie bronne van akademiese identiteit gevind kan word: dissipline, instelling en beroep. Die werk van hierdie twee geleerdes vorm die teoretiese raamwerk vir hierdie studie. Die navorsingsbenadering was interpretiewe fenomenologiese analise is gevolg. Interpretiewe fenomenologiese analise was ‘n gepaste benadering aangesien dit 'n mens toelaat om te beskryf hoe die respondent die verskynsel ervaar, gegewe die konteks waarin dit plaasvind. 'n Geriefssteekproef van vyf deeltydse onafhanklike kontrakdosente op die Kaapse kampus van 'n groot privaat hoëronderwysinstelling is vir die studie gekies. Semi gestruktureerde onderhoude is met die vyf respondente gevoer. Die versamelde data is geanaliseer deur 'n proses van ses stappe te gebruik wat die onderhoud van elke respondent aanvanklik ontleed het om temas te vind. Die temas van elke onderhoud is daarna vergelyk om ooreenkomste te vind en oorhoofse temas te skep. Om bevindings te kon maak is hierdie temas is geïnterpreteer en geanaliseer. Die bevindinge dui aan dat die respondente 'n definitiewe akademiese identiteit toon, alhoewel die meeste ontken dat hulle akademici is. Dit is duidelik dat alle respondente 'n professionele identiteit toon. Respondente het getoon hoe maklik en gemaklik hulle tussen hierdie twee identiteite wissel, afhangende van wat die situasie vereis. In sommige gevalle is die akademiese identiteit in die professionele omgewing toegepas en vise versa. Laastens is getoon hoe identiteit tyd neem om te ontwikkel en dat agentskap 'n belangrike rol speel in die ontwikkeling van hierdie identiteit, wat akademiese identiteitsontwikkeling uitbeeld as 'n deurlopende proses eerder as 'n statiese punt. Die studie dra by tot kennis in die veld, wat dit moontlik maak om 'n beter begrip te kry van hoe onafhanklike kontrakdosente in die privaat hoëronderwysomgewing funksioneer. Hierdie inligting kan in die toekoms gebruik word om te help met die aanstelling, opleiding, deurlopende ontwikkeling en bestuur van onafhanklike kontrakteurs binne hierdie instellings. 'n Grootskaalse kwantitatiewe opname word voorgestel as 'n moontlike toekomstige studie om vas te stel of soortgelyke resultate in die breër konteks gevind word. 'n Tweede studie wat oorweeg kan word, is om die akademiese identiteit van deeltydse dosente in private en openbare hoëronderwysinstellings te vergelyk, om te ontdek hoe dit of soortgelyk of anders is.

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