Who am I?

This post is an attempt to put into writing a few thoughts that were triggered by the recent discussions about EAP practitioners as researchers, and what they might be called. At the conference in Leicester, especially during the Symposium with Steve Kirk, Alex Ding, Susie Cowley-Haselden and Julie King, and through the very fact that there was a pre-conference event on doctoral EAP, there was this vibe that EAP practitioners need to be researchers. As a teacher with 20 hours on the timetable, this made me feel a bit uneasy, later developing into a feeling of (potential) professional inadequacy. There were further discussions about the distinction between “research” and “scholarly activity”. Bee Bond’s blog post struck a chord with me, and discussions with a colleague who is actually involved in doctoral research also helped to regain confidence in my role as a teacher (gasp!).

So, who am I?

Not a researcher.

A teacher. A higher education professional working with students in an academic context (as opposed to Student Services).

If I wanted to be a researcher, I would have pursued the academic route. I started a PhD in 2008 but didn’t really want to do it, so stopped very soon.

I would be fine being called a lecturer. I want to be a teacher with an interest in lots of things: research (academic), professional development (theory and practice), interacting with colleagues in other contexts (online and at events).

I see how “visible parity is key” (Susie C-H) but at the same time I don’t want parity. I don’t want to be under pressure to do research. To bring in funding. To be REF-able. Yes, I do want to publish when I have something to contribute, but I prefer “research light” and contributing to the professional discourse to “publish or perish”.

More pay would be nice. Being called a “lecturer” would be nice, as long as this doesn’t have a research element in the contract that might imply REF-type pressure (some research hours/days would be very welcome, but I can’t see how this does not convert into pressure at some point). I’m fine with the option of working 9-5 for most of the year.

I’m not ruling out a PhD in Linguistics (yes, because that is my personal interest – although this might change more to EAP) when the time is right. I hugely enjoyed doing research for my MA, both times. But I don’t see myself as a researcher. If I choose to do research, on whatever scale (between a little bit of classroom/action research and a full-blown PhD), that is my personal choice, possibly informed by a professional field that encourages this step. My identity might change at that point, possibly temporarily. But I don’t think that everyone who teaches EAP, not even everyone who thrives teaching EAP and does it well, needs to “be a researcher” in any capacity. (For the record – I do believe that everyone teaching EAP needs to have been through the research process at least at MA level.)

I am grateful that we have a professional community that welcomes and encourages further research, and I have great respect for everyone taking the step to do formal research as part of a doctorate (or not) – I might join you later! Thank you for preparing, or maybe: fighting, the ground for us. But I do hope that it will still be possible to be an EAP teacher, rather than a researching EAP academic.


2 thoughts on “Who am I?

  1. I think you’re right to be proud of your teacherhood and to reject, at least for now, the personal need/desire to be a ‘researcher’ – though you might argue that a reflective practitioner may at some level always be ‘researching’ their classroom through exploratory practice / action research in locally, grounded ways that impact student and teacher learning, but which may well never become published work.

    On the BALEAP email list recently, I suggested that an EAP unit can be ‘collectively competent’, allowing for greater and lesser degrees of expertise across a teaching staff. I think the same is true of research in the EAP sector. I feel we need to be *collectively* researching, even if many individuals wish not to. This maybe cuts through the unhelpful binary between the ‘should’ and ‘should-not’ camps here.

    As a sector, we need to raise our academic profile and thus plausibility, visibility and acceptance as scholarly professionals. This has to mean contributions to knowledge, via conference talks outside EAP/ELT forums and via publication…but this does *not* mean making EAP practitioners feel guilty if they are not part of this. There are scales and gradations of ‘scholarliness’. I think we should all be on the continuum somewhere, but we should celebrate those, like you Bella, who wish to be the best teachers of EAP, just as much as those who wish to be researchers and/or profile raisers.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Steve.
    I hope that it’s OK if as a sector, we’re collectively researching, and that there doesn’t develop a social/peer-pressure dynamic similar to “why didn’t you vaccinate your child”, or “just teachers” viewed as betraying the discipline by not doing their bit. In the recent discussions, I sometimes get a hint of a feeling that this may be coming – even though at the moment we are probably very much at the other end of the scale.

    I think that the mere fact that I enjoy reading the methodology chapter of Hadley’s book on EAP in neoliberal HEIs makes me a researcher at heart, even if I am not one in my job at the moment. I wrote “I am not a researcher” in my original post with John William’s contribution to the discussion on Alex’s blog in mind:
    “It’s a tough ask but ambitious young EAP lecturers (not like me!) should look to be getting into this latter kind of research, building bridges with other researchers, and getting themselves published.” He also mentions REF. And I consider myself an ambitious young EAP practitioner, so is he asking me to become a researcher to rescue the discipline?

    Your reassurance that the sector should celebrate teachers as well as profile raisers, rather than asking everyone to be a profile raiser, is very helpful there.

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