Academic vulnerability and work related stress: exploring the potential of writing retreats to enhance wellbeing and promote positive academic identities

Alison Eardley, Emma Banister, Marie Fletcher

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

In this paper we explore the potential for structured writing retreats (Murray and Newton 2009) to improve the resilience and coping mechanisms of academic staff and students in Higher Education institutes. Recent definitions of vulnerability draw on the complexity of interactions between individual characteristics, states and social structures, which inform experiences of powerlessness and the potential for harm (Baker et al 2015). For those who experience vulnerability, the impact can be felt widely; for example consumer vulnerability informs the distribution of social and economic resources (Baker and Mason, 2012). We develop a new concept, which we term ‘academic vulnerability’. Academic vulnerability encapsulates potential threats to academics’ or students’ sense of self and well‐being, which emanate from a range of sources. For academics this includes considerations of job (in)security, status, promotion and salary; all of which represent significant challenges to the formation of positive academic identities. We report findings from an exploratory study: longitudinal survey data was collected from a cohort of attendees at a series of structured writing retreats. In this paper we specifically focus on those findings that shed light on attendees’ perceptions of well‐being. Our preliminary findings suggest that in providing safe nurturing writing spaces, structured writing retreats function as important support mechanisms allowing attendees to cope with stress and other potentially adverse aspects of academic life, potentially reducing experiences of academic vulnerability. We therefore suggest that writing retreats and other academic‐related communities of practice could offer important opportunities for the development of ‘strong’ ‘successful’ academic identities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2017
Event9th Conference of the European Association of Teaching Academic Writing: Academic Writing Now: Policy, Pedagogy and Practice - Royal Holloway University, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 19 Jun 201721 Jun 2017
http://eataw2017.org/ (Conference website)
https://eataw.eu/conferences.html

Conference

Conference9th Conference of the European Association of Teaching Academic Writing
Abbreviated titleEATAW 2017
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityLondon
Period19/06/1721/06/17
Internet address

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