A qualitative case study of UK university academics’ collaborative practices: a social-psychological perspective

PhD Thesis

Lounaouci, A. 2021. A qualitative case study of UK university academics’ collaborative practices: a social-psychological perspective. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Centre for Languages and Lingustics
AuthorsLounaouci, A.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis analyses the social-psychological processes in the journey of the collaborative practices of 12 British University academics working at a university located in south-east England (henceforth, SEE University).

This study stresses the importance of what happens behind the scenes of collaboration. It endeavours to explore (i) the values and qualities of the partners with whom the participants collaborate; (ii) the spaces and disciplines wherein these collaborations take place; and (iii) their motives for choosing to engage in collaboration. To achieve the aims of the study and address the research questions, a qualitative case study methodology was used. The data were collected through a series of semi-structured face-to-face and online interviews before and during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The findings reveal that the participants seem to focus more on three main social-psychological processes shaping their collaboration journey rather than only the outcomes produced, and that their feelings and behaviours appear to determine the quality of their collaboration. Therefore, understanding the three core elements in the journey of collaboration – ‘who’, ‘where’ and ‘why’ – prior to initiating collaboration appears to be necessary. That is, this research strives to supply the missing piece of the collaboration puzzle.

Regarding the ‘who’, findings show that it is important for participants to choose the right academic collaborative spouses with whom they can collaborate effectively. As for the ‘where’, the data demonstrate that participants cross two types of boundaries when collaborating. These are ‘spatial’ and ‘disciplinary’. The ‘why’ findings describe the motives triggering participants to collaborate. These are ‘expressive’ and ‘instrumental’. However, participants’ accounts show that the ‘who’ seems to outweigh both the ‘where’ and ‘why’.

The originality of the study lies in that the latter takes a novel approach to exploring how the participants collaborate – social psychology, wherein the focus is on how academic Selves and Others influence one another’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours when collaborating. This thesis, therefore, attempts to produce a reaction to the collaboration that the participants build to gain a deeper understanding of what occurs in the journey of producing intangible as well as tangible outcomes. Contribution-wise, all my participants and I co-developed a flexible 3W model (Who, Where, and Why) that future researchers can apply when studying collaboration or similar social or academic phenomena.

In light of the research findings, there are implications at two levels – theoretical and practical implications. Implications at the theoretical level concern the new social-
psychological insights that the findings can add to the concepts that were used to make sense of the data, namely, Social Capital (SC), Human Capital (HC), Communities of Practice (CoPs), and Oldenburg’ Concept of First, Second and Third Place. Implications at the practical level are related to implications of the findings on academics to consider when engaging in collaboration. These implications have to do with the significance of ‘understanding the social psychology of collaboration’, ‘personality compatibility in collaboration’, ‘nomadicity’, ‘university financial support for international collaboration’, ‘implications of Covid-19 on collaboration’, and ‘balancing expressive and instrumental collaboration’.

Overall, the findings of the study can be used to help academics reframe and rethink collaboration at tertiary level and raise their awareness about the significance of the ‘right’ academics with whom they should collaborate, ‘where’ they need to collaborate, and, most importantly, ‘why’ they choose to collaborate.

KeywordsUK Universities; Collaborative practices; Social-psychological perspective
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Deposited13 Dec 2021
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