I have been on the Academic BEtreat all week (today is the last day) and realize that I am not at all clear that we have a common understanding of what we mean by ‘academic’ on this BEtreat. What does it mean to be an academic?
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, there is a wide mix of people on the BEtreat – 16 of us in total.
- Some have openly said they are not academics.
- Some are as interested in the process of the BEtreat as in the academic content.
- Some are more interested in the application of the ideas surrounding communities of practice and social learning theory, to their practice (be it in business or academia) than discussing the theory.
- Others feel that they have come to the BEtreat to discuss theory and feel short-changed if we are not doing that.
- What is a superficial activity for one is a meaningful activity for another and vice-versa.
The BEtreaters seemed to have come to the BEtreat with specific expectations related to their personal understandings of what an ‘Academic’ BEtreat might offer.
I have looked up the word ‘academic’ as a noun in the dictionary and here are two definitions.
- A teacher or scholar in a university or institute of higher education
- An intellectual
Well we are not all teachers in the BEtreat, and I think this probably applies to scholars and intellectuals as well. I wouldn’t count myself in either of those categories.
But looking up the word ‘academic’ as an adjective yields many more definitions. Here are some:
- Belonging to or relating to a place of learning
- Of purely theoretical or speculative interest
- Having an aptitude for study
- Excessively concerned with intellectual matters
- Conforming to set rules and traditions
- Theoretical or hypothetical; not practical, realistic, or directly useful
This is a strange list and makes me think that it’s not helpful to think in terms of academic or not an academic – but maybe more useful think about academic behaviours or academic identities.
I wonder whether if the BEtreat had had a different name, it would have attracted a different group. For example:
- Educators’ BEtreat
- Learning, Meaning and Identity BEtreat
- Learning Theory BEtreat
- Social Learning Capability BEtreat
- Cultivating Communities BEtreat
- Pedagogy BEtreat …….
…… and so on. How much difference does the name make to who is sitting round the table?
When I signed up for the Academic BEtreat, my expectations were guided by the outline on the Academic BEtreat workshop.
The “academic Betreat” is open to researchers, lecturers, doctoral students, evaluators, and others involved in teaching and research. We envision a small group of 10-20 people, face-to-face and online.
This BEtreat is an invitation to come together and explore key concepts and issues in social learning theory. We take time to go deep into the questions brought to the table by everyone. We discuss concepts and methods, analyze frameworks, and compare theories. People will have a chance to discuss their research with the group and get some help on their work in progress.
Despite the clarity of the BEtreat outline, I know that some people think they have had too little theory, some too much, or some people think they have had too little application to practice and some too much and so on. It’s impossible to please all the people all the time, but it’s interesting to consider why mismatches in expectations occur.
I hoped to have in depth discussions about learning and I have more than enough to take away with me. It’s been exhausting – but time very well spent