The Society for Research into Higher Education

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‘Academics in the arena’ – showcasing conferences research at SRHE 2017

Emily Henderson writes on fulfilling her dream of convening a symposium on conferences research at the Society for Research into Higher Education annual conference.

This post was first published on Emily’s blog, and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

When we set out to create an academic blog on conferences, it was in part because conferences research is so disparate – in terms of discipline and geographical location. The Conference Inference blog has provided us with a wonderful platform to share research and comment on conferences over the course of 2017, including from a fantastic array of guest contributors – and we will be thinking more about this first year in our 1-year anniversary celebrations in early 2018. However this post reports back from a very special treat – namely, five papers on conferences grouped together in the same room at a conference! The symposium, entitled ‘Academics in the Arena: Foregrounding Academic Conferences as Sites for Higher Education Research’ (see information here, pp. 25-27) brought together a variety of critical perspectives on conferences, along with a discussant contribution from Helen Perkins, Director of SRHE (Society for Research in Higher Education).

The first paper presented early analysis from an ongoing research project on fictional representations of conferences by Conference Inference co-editor Emily F Henderson and guest contributor Pauline Reynolds (see Pauline’s guest post). The paper, entitled ‘“Novel delegates”: representations of academic identities in fictional conferences’, focused in particular on academic identities at conferences as they are portrayed in novels, short stories and graphic novels. Fictional conferences act to both equalise and reproduce academic hierarchy; delegates are homogenised as masses and crowds, uniformly badged and seated, just as delegate-professors are singled out for VIP treatment and delegate-students are denied access to certain spaces and conversations. Continue reading

Ian Kinchin

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Teaching and Learning: “I pitch, you catch”.

By Ian Kinchin

Sometimes I wonder what I am doing here“.

A sentiment that can be heard from time to time in the corridors of academia. Young and enthusiastic academics are often drawn to a working life in universities because they are passionate about their subject, they love to teach, or they enjoy the cut and thrust of intellectual debate and the possibility of moving the frontiers of knowledge. I rarely hear anyone say that they came into the role because they love sitting on committees or they are fascinated by the implementation of regulations. You see where I am going here. Many of the  distractions of academic life are necessary, but they can be overwhelming, and sometimes they seem to suck the energy away from the things we enjoy doing – such as teaching.

Recently reading some sections of a book by Fanghanel (2012), there are some sections which resonate strongly with conversations that I have been having recently with colleagues on teaching development programmes. Continue reading