28 Co-Creating the Scholar-Practitioner Identity: An Applied Research Project
Doctoral programs that enable mid-career professionals to combine academic scholarship with practical applications of knowledge, and to become scholar-practitioners, have seen increasing enrollment in Canada and worldwide. In an interdependent world in crisis, scholar-practitioners apply knowledge from theory to address pressing practical problems. In scholar-practitioner doctoral programs, students discover they must resolve tensions arising from the contrasting values, assumptions, priorities and performance expectations of the two sub-cultures of practice and the academy. The traditional separation of practitioners from researchers has an impact on the ability of today’s universities to support the development of a student’s scholar-practitioner identity.
This article addresses the work involved in co-creating the scholar-practitioner identity through doctoral education, as a form of applied research on the self. Analytical auto-ethnography as a method of reflexive inquiry is used to examine questions of multiple identities from a theoretical perspective, comparing personal lived experience with documented doctoral journeys of scholar-practitioners from recent literature. The framework of social-symbolic work is applied to describe and analyse the scholar-practitioner identities and careers that are co-created by individuals and institutions together. Social-symbolic work focuses attention on the motivations, practices, resources, and effects of people’s efforts to construct the social world, which includes organizations, identities, and careers. Doctoral students, faculty, employers, and social networks are all actors that may be motivated to participate in the co-construction of identities and careers, at the intersection of the self, society, and economy. The data and analysis show how the social-symbolic work perspective can inform an applied research agenda to guide both theory and practice in the co-creation of a scholar-practitioner identity. Further research can benefit doctoral students, as well as the faculty and institutions that support them through scholar-practitioner doctoral programs. Proposed research themes include the use of social networks as multifaceted resources for identity work. More specifically, further empirical examination of the motivations, practices, and resources accessed by doctoral faculty and supervisors in the co-creation of the scholar-practitioner identity can advance applied research, since they represent a key stakeholder group in this creative process.