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An exploration of academic identity through the COVID-19 pandemic

Smith, Sally; Plum, Kris; Taylor-Smith, Ella; Fabian, Khristin


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Prof Sally Smith
Head of Graduate Apprenticeships and Skills Development and Professor

Kris Plum


The COVID-19 global pandemic precipitated migration to online learning and teaching for students and universities. This study explored the change in self-identification in an academic role through the significant disruption caused by the urgent migration from on-campus teaching to online teaching in the face of lockdowns designed to limit the spread of the virus. Drawing upon identity theory, this study explored the impact of the swift change in work practices on the academic identities of staff (n=33) at a UK university. Three themes were identified: identity disruption, sensemaking and nostalgia for what had been lost. Hearing directly from academics is important because academic identity, in an increasingly managerial and key performance indicator-driven sector, was already a topic of interest, with tension and insecurity affecting work practices, including interactions with students. The experiences of the disrupted academic sessions could result in significant changes in practice, and a re-shaping of the academic role to build upon online pedagogies, interactions with students, and peers. If so, what it means to be an academic will change with consequent implications for prioritisation, workloads, attracting and retaining academics, and student experience. The themes arising from this study are discussed and implications for future practice are presented.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 25, 2022
Online Publication Date May 16, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Apr 27, 2022
Publicly Available Date May 16, 2022
Journal Journal of Further and Higher Education
Print ISSN 0309-877X
Electronic ISSN 1469-9486
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 46
Issue 9
Pages 1290-1303
Keywords academic identity; teaching practice; online teaching; identity work
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