Enhancing the agency of early career academics

Main Article Content

Brian Henry Leslie https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1682-5336 Mark Breslin https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1757-5196 Julie Harvie, PhD https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8244-1237 Evelyn McLaren https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2975-9523


This article explores the lived experiences of four early career academics transitioning from school educators (within the primary and secondary sectors) to lecturers in initial teacher education in a United Kingdom Higher Education institution.  These early career academics were established teachers with strong practitioner identities within their field of education and experienced in reflective practice. The concept of agency is firstly explored, and an ecological model presented and used as a framework in this study.  A collaborative autoethnographic methodological approach is used to structure personal and professional reflections in order to gain an insight into the evolving identities of the early career academics as they embrace and develop new careers within Higher Education as lecturers. Factors emerge which have both hindered and enhanced agency and this paper sets out some recommendations for change.  It is hoped that Higher Education establishments may find these findings useful to consider when inducting new staff and helping them develop and flourish in the early stages of their academic careers.

Article Details

Reflective Analysis Papers
Author Biography

Brian Henry Leslie, The University of Glasgow

School of Education (The Univeirsty of Glasgow)

Lecturer in Technology Education


Archer, M. (2000). Being human: The problem of agency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511488733
Archer, M. (2003). Structure, agency and the internal conversation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139087315
Bazeley, P. (2009). Analysing Qualitative Data: More Than Identifying Themes in The Malaysian Journal of Qualitative Research, 2(2), 6-22.
Boyd, P. & Harris K. (2010). Becoming a university lecturer in teacher education: expert school teachers reconstructing their pedagogy and identity in Professional Development in Education, 36 (1-2), 9-24. https://doi.org/10.1080/19415250903454767
Boyd, P. & Lawley, L. (2009). Becoming a lecturer in nurse education: the work-place learning of clinical experts as newcomers in Learning in Health and Social Care, 8 (4), 292-300. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1473-6861.2009.00214.x
Brooks, S., Franklin-Phipps, A., & Rath, C. (2018). Resistance and invention: Becoming academic, remaining other in International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 31(2), 130-142. DOI:10.1080/09518398.2017.1349956
Chang, H., Ngunjiri, F. W., & Hernandez, K. C. (2013). Collaborative ethnography. Walnut Creek, California: Left Cross Press. https://doi.org/10.1080/08989575.2017.1288892
Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. (2018). Research methods in education, Eighth edition. London: Routledge.
Daniels, J. R. & Varghese, M. (2020). Troubling practice: Exploring the relationship Between whiteness and practice-based teacher education in considering a raciolinguicized teacher subjectivity in Educational Researcher, 49 (1), 56-63. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X19879450
Day, C., Kington, A., Stobart, G. & Sammons, P. (2006). The personal and professional selves of teachers: stable and unstable identities in British educational research journal, 32 (4), 601-616. https://doi.org/10.1080/01411920600775316
Delamont, S. (2009). The only honest thing: Autoethnography, reflexivity and small crises in fieldwork’ in Ethnography and Education, 4(1), 51-63. DOI:10.1080/17457820802703507
Ellis, C., Adams, T. E., & Bochner, A. P. (2011). ‘Autoethnography: An overview Forum’ in Qualitative Social Research, 12 (1), 345-357.
Emirbayer, M. & Mische, A. (1998). What is Agency? in The American Journal of Sociology, 103, 962-1023. https://doi.org/10.1086/231294
Etelapelto, A., Vahasantanen, K., Hokka, P & Paloniemi, S. (2013). What is agency? Conceptualising professional agency at work in Educational Research Review, 10, 45-65. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2013.05.001
Hamilton, M. L., Smith, L. & Worthington, K. (2008). Fitting the Methodology with the Research: An exploration of narrative, self-study and auto-ethnography in Studying Teacher Education, 4(1), 17-28. https://doi.org/10.1080/17425960801976321
Hernandez, K. C., Ngunjiri, F. W. Chang, H. (2015). Exploiting the margins in higher education: a collaborative autoethnography of three foreign-born female faculty of color in International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 28 (5), 533- 551. https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2014.933910
Higher Education Statistic Agency (2020). Higher Education Student Data: Data Collection Retrieved from https://www.hesa.ac.uk/collection
Hitlin, S. & Elder G.H., (2007). Time, self and the curiously abstract concept of agency in Sociological Theory, 25 (2), 170-191. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9558.2007.00303.x
Izadinia, M. (2014). Teacher educators’ identity: A review of literature in European Journal of Teacher Education, 37(4), 426-441. https://doi.org/10.1080/02619768.2014.947025
Korsgaard, C.M. (2009). Self-Constitution: agency, identity and integrity, New York: Oxford University Press Inc. DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199552795.001.0001
McAlpine, L. & Åkerlind, G. (2010). Becoming an academic: international perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
McAlpine L., Amundsen, C. & Turner, G. (2014). Identity-trajectory: Reframing early career academic experience in British Educational Research Journal, 40 (6), 952–969. https://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3123
Moloney, S. (2011). Focus groups as transformative spiritual encounters in International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 10 (1), 58-72. https://doi.org/10.1177/160940691101000105
Pollard, A. (2014). Reflective teaching in schools, 4th edition. London: Continuum.
Priestley, M., Biesta, G. and Robinson, S. (2015). Teacher Agency: An Ecological Approach. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Smith, C. & Boyd, P. (2012). Becoming an academic: the reconstruction of identity by recently appointed lecturers in nursing, midwifery and the allied health professions in Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 49 (1), 63-72. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2012.647784
St. Pierre, E.A. (2000). Poststructural feminism in education: An overview in Qualitative Studies in Education, 13 (5), 477-515. https://doi.org/10.1080/09518390050156422
Tomlinson, M. & Watermeyer, R. (2020). When masses meet markets: credentialism and commodification in twenty-first century higher education in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 1-15. DOI:10.1080/01596306.2020.1814996
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511803932