Dialogues of Space, Time and Practice: Supporting Research in Higher Education

Julian Stern


Dialogue can be seen as entirely functional, as a way of disseminating research or increasing the effectiveness of teaching and learning. Here, it is seen as of value in its own right; as having a central role in the nature of learning and of research. This second model of dialogue in higher education is associated with work on the nature of learning communities or communities of practice. In consequence, the model can contribute to discussion of the purpose of higher education and its role in society. Recent work theorising dialogue using the approach of Buber, has looked more specifically at the dialogue that takes place in particular settings and circumstances in higher education. The article presented here concerns dialogue related to support for staff research, complementing previous work on dialogue in assessment contexts, and dialogue in times of crisis. Despite the challenges of supporting staff research in higher education, this paper is not crisis-oriented, but builds on the experience of those with formal responsibilities for supporting staff research, to describe some patterns of dialogue, and the significance of those patterns. The paper is based on experience of dialogue in higher education institutions in the UK, US, China (Hong Kong) and Germany.  There appear to be three typical patterns of dialogue: dialogues of space (places to do research, including offices, homes, lunches, conferences, bars), of time (times to do research, including the labelling of time and the prioritising of time), and of practice (how to become expert, in writing and presentations). As well as theorising and describing dialogue, this work also involves theorising and describing the nature of research itself, including its “banding” (for example into “research” and “scholarship”). This paper is intended to contribute a distinct alternative to debates on research policies and practices in higher education, at a crucial time in policy development in the UK and internationally.


education; educational research; researcher identity; researcher development

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