For academics in UK Higher Education (HE), professional learning (PL) is a complex endeavour involving a multitude of (in)formal learning encounters. However, these PL encounters are at risk as academics prioritised conflicting knowledge domains and negotiate various social and material engagements that can enable or encumber these encounters. This thesis reports on research that attempts to illuminate these sociomaterial entanglements using Actor-Network Theory and Non-Representational Theory as a theoretical framework.
A transformative mixed method case study of a single UK university using content analysis, questionnaire, interview and photovoice methods were undertaken. Twelve academic staff, with module leader responsibilities, were selected from the academic staff questionnaire (n:182) to be interviewed and photograph their PL experiences. Unique to sociomaterial investigation was the photovoice method, enabling the participants to become empowered as co-researchers.
The analysis of the data suggests that academics tend to be strategic in prioritising conflicting knowledge domains. In the case of knowledge not related to their subject discipline, academics will often fast-track information from a "knowledgeable other". Furthermore, academics will construct "surrogate" or "transient" spaces in which to seek refuge from the various disruptions and interruptions generated by their institution. Academics will use these spaces for uninterrupted learning or work and as a means for promoting self-care.
The study identified four interrelated spatial properties (transient, affective, controlled and immersive), which provides an explanation why some spaces were more conducive to PL than other spaces. Furthermore, space is composed of multiple and interconnected spatial configurations that coalesce into a single spatial configuration, which I call coalescent space. The study also proposes a number of future research directions involving the PL of early career academics and academics on sessional contracts