by Amanda Roberts
I joined my current university mid-career. Having begun my teaching career as an English teacher, I ended this phase of my working life 20 years later as a headteacher of a closing school. I used this formative experience to set up an educational consultancy company, supporting the development of schools in challenging circumstances. Consultancy provided me with the opportunity to put into practice what I had learned as an educational professional. I was secure in my professional identity and felt confident and purposeful. In 2009, on joining a School of Education at the University of Hertfordshire, I was excited by the opportunity to develop my expertise in a new sector. However, the first year in my new role proved very challenging. I found it difficult to understand how the organisation worked or my role within it. The culture of the university, its language and structures were all alien to me. I was now an ‘academic’ and had no idea what that meant. I felt professionally disempowered and unsure of my way forward.
I was interested to discover that others felt this way too and that for many this alienation stemmed from their feelings about academic writing. Many colleagues appeared to place themselves in one of two camps – those whose focus was undertaking research and producing publishable written outcomes or ‘the others’, who did not publish and who were characterised by their focus on teaching and supporting student learning. For the most part, those who did not publish attributed this to their lack of confidence in writing at an acceptable level for publication.
The development of LINK, an open access online journal, was one of a series of interventions initiated by myself and colleagues to support colleagues in writing for publication. I designed LINK with my co-editor, Professor Philip Woods, as a vehicle for making visible the research and scholarship undertaken by colleagues within and linked to the School of Education. These include academics, professional staff, visiting lecturers and our partners in schools and other professional settings as well as current and past post-graduate students. LINK aims to support contributors in developing confidence and skills in writing for publication whilst also exploring their developing professional voice. Collaborative writing is strongly encouraged.
The journal consists of two parts. Material published in Part 1 comprises articles which are well-developed works in progress. The articles are based in scholarly activity or research which authors have been recently engaged in and are peer reviewed and revised where necessary before publication. Material published in Part 2 comprises thought-pieces which describe work in an early stage of development or work intended to be developed for publication in professional magazines.
Although the material presented in LINK is predominantly in written form, its online nature also facilitates the presentation of non-written modes of communication including art-based works and video.
The journal has been extremely successful, with its third volume published in March 2018. To date we have presented 22 articles and 22 thought-pieces, by 77 academics, school partners and post-graduate students. We are particularly pleased by the range of topics considered and by author feedback which demonstrates how exposure of ideas through LINK is leading to opportunities for colleagues to contribute to knowledge and practice-building more widely. Feedback from partners in schools indicates its impact on practice, whilst internal colleagues have commented that the process of peer review has prepared them well for the rigours of external publication.
Although we particularly encourage contributions by new writers, we are delighted that LINK is also chosen by experienced authors as a vehicle to explore their current educational thinking. Joy Jarvis’ article on pedagogic frailty, for example, has attracted sector-wide comment.
Amanda Roberts is a Senior Lecturer in Learning and Teaching (Degree Apprenticeships and Workplace Learning) in the Centre for Research in Professional and Work-Related Learning, part of the Vice-Chancellor’s Office at the University of Hertfordshire.