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December.1.2017

I was excited to be interviewed for a permanent lecturing job and then this happened

By George Variyan

As a doctoral candidate coming to the end of my journey, the ever present need to find a job post studies is a challenging position to be in, as many before me can no doubt attest to. Talking to fellow participants at the 2017 Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) conference it would seem that insecure work arrangements and opportunism is the only pathway to the ultimate role of a tenured position lecturing. Nevertheless I was filled with quite a bit of excitement at my good fortune last week when I secured a job interview for a permanent lecturing position – a bit of foraging for a job certainly seemed fruitful.

The interview proceeded with the usual back and forth about practice, my experiences and perspectives on educational issues. I was suitably charming and energetic, while the panel played their role in the to and fro of interviewing that we all have had to perform at one time or another. However, when it got to my turn to ask questions, I simply wanted to ask, as any keen AARE conference attendee would want to, about the research component of the position. Curiously, I was told that there was no research role whatsoever.

Considering I had been just asked about how I stayed up to date as an educator, to which I had replied that it was research and links with the academy that gave me a broader perspective on my practice, I wonder how a ‘teaching focussed’ academic is expected to stay abreast of developments in the field if they aren’t ‘in the field’ themselves. I also wonder why early career researchers would take these roles on other than out of desperation, underpaid as they are considering a standard teaching position in a school would offer me $15,000 more than a starting academic. Perhaps more importantly my question is why would incumbent academics actively position their future co-workers in these less than agreeable roles? Not only less agreeable, but I would argue that these role definitions imply, one would think, that research doesn’t matter. One would think this would be anathema to the spirit of the academy itself and importance of research to academic teaching.

In the spirit of the conference (Education: What’s politics got to do with it?) and in sight of the wider unrest of the current moment in Australian politics here in Canberra, one surely has to ask the question, how are we as intellectuals, or at least in my case a ‘wannabe’ intellectual, becoming complicit in our own demise? When do we speak truth to power instead of just writing about it? When do we stay the pen and pick up the pitchfork?

 

George Variyan is a doctoral student with Charles Sturt University working in the sociology of teaching, looking at teachers in elite private schools in Australia. George is also a Maths and Science teacher himself, and has worked in diverse school settings such as independent schools dealing with students at-risk, the elite private school sector as well as further afield in international schools. George currently lives in Perth with his young family, enjoying the warm climate and extended family nearby.

 

 

George is one of the hundreds of educational researchers who attended the 2017 AARE Conference in Canberra all this week.

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9 thoughts on “I was excited to be interviewed for a permanent lecturing job and then this happened

  1. Ania Lian says:

    Thanks George
    good points, I think. you are describing a particular case as in our university, CDU, a teaching-focused academic must do research. The difference is that they are expected to take a leadership role in teaching and do more of it. Personally i too am confused by these distinctions, but they are now part of the system and people seem to work with them comfortably..
    What I take from your posting is the word “intellectual”. I think we see this word too rarely, but it was mentioned recently on this blog: and generated responses arguing that “teachers-in-training are most likely to require to effectively practise their craft”. Here is the response to this idea of teacher education being about instrumental conditioning of pre-service teachers by Merrilyn Goos who co-wrote the original posting., :
    November 13, 2017 at 7:44 pm
    Thanks for your comments, We’re certainly not arguing that graduates should enter the classroom without feeling confident, well prepared, and “ready” to teach their students. But is this all that teacher education is about? Producing teachers from a production line who just slot in to schools and practise their unchanging craft for evermore? I’m not sure this view is helpful in promoting teaching as an intellectually and emotionally demanding profession. Teachers are learners too – and engaging in research is a powerful way for teachers to model what lifelong learning means

    best wishes
    Ania Lian
    CDU

  2. George Variyan says:

    Hi there Ania, thanks for taking the time to write a response to my post. I guess I too have a particular view of the role of the academy as one that isn’t reduced to a training/credentialing factory – or maybe I just read too much Foucault!

  3. Australian universities produce many times the number of doctoral graduates as there are tenured positions. As a result, no doctoral student should plan on having a permanent position at a university. They need skills which can be applied outside academia. Universities have a few tenured staff to supervise research and teaching. Most of the research and teaching is done by students and short-term part time staff.

  4. George Variyan says:

    Hi Tom, thanks for your comment. Interesting points. I wasn’t suggesting that every doctoral candidate should get an academic position, but that academic positions aren’t very academic if the incumbent isn’t getting the opportunity to do research. In this sense, I’m personally not interested in skills alone, but pushing out the boundaries of knowledge, making a contribution and having a lot of fun doing it! And research/writing is really the ‘fun’ bit to me and the conception of academic positions sans fun is just ….

  5. George, if you apply for a teaching position, then you should expect to spend most your time teaching. If you can obtain funding for research from an external source, the you will be able to do some research.

  6. Dr Ann Lawless says:

    Your union can provide you with many collectivist opportunities to speak back to power!

  7. George Variyan says:

    Hi Ann, thanks for commenting. I am curious how enthusiastically academics embrace collective agency in the contemporary university.

  8. RT says:

    My case – 6 people apply for a lecturing job, only one has a completed doctorate. There are 5 jobs. Guess who doesn’t get the job? Could it be politics? To what extent do universities want lecturers to engage in deep understanding and examination of their field?

  9. George Variyan says:

    Thanks for the comment. My actual title submitted for this blog post was ‘the curious case of the “teaching focussed” academic’. Probably not provocative enough for the blogosphere, it’s all about ‘likes’ and ‘views’ after all. That said, it certainly was a curious and particular ‘case’ in my situation, about which I wouldn’t be too comfortable making broader generalisations beyond the fact that any erosion of the centrality of research to the academy, should be resisted, and resisted fiercely.

    With some relief and excitement this morning I have discovered a similar Level B lecturer position advertised more locally, which foregrounds ‘scholarly research outputs’ as the priority of the role/position. Now, while I’m still aware that there are a myriad of performativities or ‘outputs’ within the academy, I’d still prefer to play that game, rather then throw in the towel completely on research.

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