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Authors: Sarah Mercer, Martin Glatz, Christiana Glettler, Anita Lämmerer, Astrid Mairitsch, Silke Puntschuh, Eva Seidl, Katja Težak and Sabrina Turker

Background and aims

In this paper, we report on research conducted as a project, which was part of a PhD course on research methodology. The aim of the course was to develop participants’ practical researcher competence and to enhance their critical thinking skills. To meet these aims, the group collectively engaged in an empirical study into the shifting and potentially conflicting identities of teachers choosing to engage in occupation-based PhD studies (i.e., PhD studies with a professional focus, undertaken additionally to full- or part-time teaching jobs) at a university in Austria.

Methods

The study was based on a series of in-depth semi-structured interviews conducted with eight PhD candidates, who are all studying toward a PhD in “Fachdidaktik” (“subject-specific teaching and learning”) in different disciplines. To better understand the multiple identities, perceived dynamics, and role of diverse social settings, we took an ecological perspective.

Results and conclusion

The findings revealed how the participants’ academic identities were shaped within their own unique ecologies comprising their own personal, professional, and academic contexts, social relationships, attitudes toward each of these domains, perceived demands on their time, and their own initial and ongoing motivations for doing the PhD. Although the participants’ multiple identities and roles can function in synergistic ways, the data suggest that more often they experienced competing demands for time and attention with sometimes a lack of understanding or support from the respective professional or academic domains.

Open access