Today I was part of an Educational Leadership Special Interest Group panel at the Australian Association of Education Research (AARE) 2021 conference, entitled, ‘Do we need pracademics?’ Fiona Longmuir was the moderator, and guest panellists were Scott Eacott, Virginia Moller, Dorothy Andrews and me.
The panel addressed questions such as:
- Do we need pracademics?
- Is labelling people ‘pracademics’ divisive and reductive, or full of productive possibility?
- Do we care about pracademia?
- To what extent might pracademia develop or dilute the rigour of scholarship and practice?
- What role might pracademia play in the field of educational leadership specifically?
There was general agreement that the terms ‘pracademia’ and ‘pracademic’ require definitional clarity, and that a conversation about pracademia is worth having and worth continuing.
Scott challenged the motivations of those who might self-identify as pracademics, and suggested a focus on the inclusion of voices.
I explored the work I have done with Trista Hollweck and Paul Campbell (Hollweck et al., 2021, as our most thorough example) in defining and exploring the space of pracademia and the notion of an individual as a pracademic. For me, pracademia is about doing good work and about valuable networks and constructive collaboration between educators across and between education spaces.
Virginia described her role as ambiguous, complex and frowned upon, and explained that she was trying the identity of ‘pracademic’ on for size, to see if it fits. This notion of identity work, outsider-ness, and the nature of pracademic community is something I have heard from others who feel that their boundary spanning work is not valued or acknowledged in their professional contexts.
Dorothy challenged us to consider we needed to ‘just get over it’, and—as David Gurr suggested in the chat bar—do good work regardless of in what sphere someone works or what professional label is attached to them.
I asked the question about whether our systems and structures might be reimagined to allow for the valuing of work in multiple spaces.
Virginia and Scott discussed the notion of co-design between those in the academe and those in practice spaces. I mentioned the gap that Trista, Paul and I have noted around the need for policy to be explored more fully in the space of pracademia.
As in the other pracademia-focused conference panels and symposia of which I have been a part, the discussion was rich, energising, and resulted in calls from panellists and the audience for further exploration.
I will leave you with an excerpt from the final paragraph of our paper for the Journal of Professional Capacity and Community Special Issue (‘Pracademia: Exploring the possibilities, power and politics of boundary-spanners straddling the worlds of practice and scholarship’) we co-edited, that is mostly available via EarlyCite:
“The pandemic showed the possibilities of what collaboration between and working across multiple spaces in a field can accomplish. The concept of pracademia, and of working as a pracademic across and between spaces, suggests that we may be able to reimagine boundaries, fields, and roles in education and in other fields. For the work of pracademia to be sustainable, the space between practice and academia needs to be valued in terms of legitimacy, credibility, and even paid work. … Embracing the concept of pracademia may go some way to dissolving traditional dualisms of spaces that educators operate within, and increasingly across. It may be part of liquefying boundaries, so that rather than boundary spanning or boundary crossing, educators move back and forth along the Möbius-strip-style continuum comprising the multiplicities of research, practice, and policy. It may be engaging in multiple modes, spaces, and communities that open up learning, knowledge exchange, and mobilization of ideas and practices. It may be structural affordances from schools, universities, and policy bodies such as time, resources, avenues for recognition, and institutional support. For we authors, exploring and embedding ourselves in the identities and communities of pracademia is about making a positive difference in education; advocating for empowerment beyond the often-rigid structures, expectations and silos; and encouraging a valuing of alternate networks, contributions, and influences.” (Hollweck, Netolicky, & Campbell, 2021)