Developing an Academic Director’s professional identity

Project Complete Published by on the 21 June 2017


Beyond practice: Developing an academic director’s professional identity and platform

The career path for most Academic Directors is from their discipline, with a good reputation for being a great teacher by their students and peers. However, it is often their research that defines their identity. This academic identity typically weakens when they leave their discipline and move into a unit that is focused on improving learning and teaching. ‘Who they are’ may get lost in the transition and they struggle to form a new identity and standing in the learning and teaching space.

This scholarship will build on key theoretical frameworks that underpins career planning and development to present fresh insights on ways in which Academic Directors can develop their learning and teaching identity and standing, and how that can be strengthened through an online presence.

PART ONE: Framework for Career Planning and Development for Academic Directors

During the transition from their discipline to learning and teaching units, Academic Directors need to reaffirm (or even recreate or reinvigorate) their professional identity and standing. As leaders of learning and teaching in higher education, there is a need to support Directors in determining who they are and what they will do. This includes confirming expertise, fields of study, key debates to contribute to, networks to form and communities of practice to be part of. Supplementary to this is the determination of knowledge and skills that need to be developed for being an effective Director of academic development.

The outcome of this phase is to research, consider and select a suitable Framework for Career Planning and Development that can be applied to the role of an Academic Director. It is anticipated that the framework will outline the knowledge, skills and aspirational domains of the Academic Director’s role so to guide the articulation of professional identity and career development needs.  The selected framework will be presented in a report that will include the literature review and key findings from consultations.

The key activities will be to:

  • Conduct a literature review on 1) professional identity, 2) career development and planning frameworks and 3) the role of the Academic Director (such as, CADAD’s 2011 ‘Benchmarking Performance of Academic Development Units in Australian Universities’).
  • Analyse the research and select a career development framework that is best suited for the Academic Director’s role and provide a lens to guide the articulation of professional identity, strengths and opportunities for improvement.
  • Seek consultation with leaders in the field of professional identity, such as Professor Dawn Bennett of Curtin University and Professor Amanda Sinclair of the Melbourne Business School.
  • Present a draft framework for review by the CADAD Board that can be trialled in a case study (Part Two).

PART TWO: Case Study Trial  

The purpose of this phase is to advance the draft framework (created in Part One) through a trial with a current Academic Director (Associate Professor Angela Carbone) to determine the framework’s strengths and opportunities for improvement. In applying the framework, it is anticipated that the case study participant will be able to clearly articulate their professional identity, determine career development opportunities and establish a plan.

The outcome of this phase is to draft a Professional Identity Plan for Academic Directors. The Plan will use the framework (from Part One) to establish a professional identity statement and career development plan. How the framework was used, the results and lessons learned from the case study will be presented in a report.

To key activities will be to:

  • Align institutional requirements into the framework, such as mapping the domains of the role with targets and performance review structures.
  • Draft and trial a Self-Assessment activity, providing the Director with a process to systematically reflect and consider their strengths and opportunities against the domains in the framework.
  • Draft and trial an Online Survey that the Director can disseminate to CADAD members and others to obtain a broader view of how they are perceived today, their strengths and opportunities for the future.
  • Draft a Professional Identity Statement that 1) draws together key findings from the self-assessment and online survey into a clear statement of professional identity and 2) an action plan that will determine priority development needs and how they will be addressed in line with institutional processes.
  • Review the draft framework and suggest opportunities for improvement.
  • Prepare key learnings from the case study trial.

PART THREE: Create an Online Platform (subject to further funding in 2016)

The purpose of this phase is to determine the potential and possibility of an independently managed online platform for Academic Directors that will assist them in advancing their professional identity and standing. The potential of an interactive website (integrated with social media and apps) may assist Directors in presenting their professional identity and improve their international standing as it will allow for quick and effective participation and active dissemination of ideas and information.

The outcome of this trial and draft an Online Platform for Academic Directors. The draft Online Platform will be document, including key findings from a literature review, what the Platform entails and how to establish and manage it, how to measure impact and reach, lessons learned from a case study and templates.

To key activities will be to:

  • Conduct a synthesis and analysis of the literature on the merits of online platforms that promote professional identities (such as Academia, LinkedIn, WordPress, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook). The literature review will also include the Social Media Toolkit developed in 2014 which was sponsored by CADAD as part of the Network of Australian Tertiary Associations funded project.
  • Source examples of how Academic Directors are currently utilising online platforms, social media and apps.
  • Develop the scope of an online platform, including a website and social media and preliminary content.
  • Establish a draft online platform with the Academic Director involved in Part Two for review and feedback by the CADAD Board and others.

PART FOUR: A Professional Identity and Development Guide for Academic Directors (subject to further funding in 2016)   

As a result of the first three parts to this scholarship, a Professional Identity and Development Guide for Academic Directors will be developed for CADAD that will capture key learnings from this experience and provide a process, suggestions and templates for other Directors. This Guide will evolve the processes and templates used, based on feedback from CADAD and insights gained from the case study trial with an Academic Director.

The Guide may include:-

  • Definition and importance of a professional identity, career planning and development for Directors.
  • Key findings from a literature review on professional identity, career development and planning and the benefit of online platforms.
  • The Framework for Career Planning and Development for Academic Directors (Part One of this scholarship), its purpose, how to map it against institutional requirements and how to apply the framework for articulating professional identity and career development needs.
  • The Professional Identity Plan for Academic Directors (Part Two of this scholarship) that includes templates for self-assessment, the online survey, establishing an identity statement and professional development action plan.

The Online Platform for Academic Directors that will provide guidelines on how to scope and create a Director’s platform, how to establish an annual schedule for posting content (outlining opportunities for specialised content, such as relating blog themes to key conferences and events) and how to best measure online impact and reach. A template online platform and samples will be provided. In addition, a CADAD-suggested code of conduct for professional online behaviour can be included.

The outcomes of this project will include (but not limited to):

—       Drawing on literature, a framework will be created that will articulate professional identity and guide career planning and development that will improve a Director’s international standing.

—       Outlining the potential and possibilities of integrated online platforms for Academic Directors, through a review of the literature, examples and a case study trial.

—       Provision of reports, insights and templates resulting from a case study trial with an Academic Director.

—       Promotion of CADAD’s work on innovation and excellence in academic development and representation in the field.

Project Resources

Developing Academic Directors Professional Identity booklet