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Transforming Learning Cultures in Further Education

Grant reference: L139251025

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Conference paper/presentation details

TLRP: 'Underground working': types of silence
We are all researchers who have been working on an ESRC TLRP Phase two project – Transforming Learning Cultures in Further Education. Now drawing to its conclusion, the Project is in a very reflective stage. What have we found? One part of the answer to that seems to be about finding what we initially termed 'underground working'. For instance, our data points to many ways in which FE tutors survive and do a good job – but only by doing things that they are not supposed to be doing. As we explored this idea of the importance of 'silent' work in our data, we also became increasingly aware of our own 'silent' or underground work, as researchers. Whilst we are working on a longer paper that will review all the aspects of underground working in the TLCFE project, in these notes for this contract researchers’ conference, we will primarily focus on the latter aspect of underground working, contextualising it first through our project. We need to emphasise that this is not a fully-worked up paper about Contract Research Staff (CRS) but, rather, thoughts for discussion deriving from our own varied experiences of working as contract researchers. It is that diversity of experience that we would like to stress. Whilst we have all been employed together on the same project, we have all come to it from differing backgrounds and experiences. However, some things we do have in common - none of us has followed what might be described as a conventional career path; we are all middle-aged; and we are all women. Furthermore, by working part-time on a fixed contract we also fit in rather neatly to an educational research workforce demographic, which is female, casualised and older. So much for the RCBN’s ‘Early career’ part of the conference – or perhaps it is because they know something about government plans for extending the official retirement age to 70 years that we don’t! Additionally, the HEFCE insistence on "junior" researchers is also a little surprising, not to say irksome. The recent THES article by Bassnett similarly assumed that all CRS are young, apprenticed and on the bottom rung of a career ladder that will take them into teaching . (We should apparently all smile more; get up to speed with Power Point; and shadow the teaching of our superiors!) In the conference discussion, we wish to look at some of the issues facing Contract Research Staff – of all ages and gender – that have come to light through our own specific experiences of contract research.
Original Document

Primary contributor

Author M Wahlberg

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