Call zum (englischsprachigen) Themenheft 11/5
"Development and Socialization of Academics"

Gastherausgeberinnen: Mònica Feixas (Universität St. Gallen), Ann Stes (University of Antwerp), Gerlese Åkerlind (Australian National University & University of Canberra) & Georgeta Ion (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Erscheinungstermin: September 2016


Entrance into the academic profession entails an intensive process of induction into the sociocultural, disciplinary and professional norms of academia, as well as a demanding development of attitudes, conceptions and competencies with regard to teaching and research functions. It is also a lengthy process, beginning with study as a doctoral student, then attaining a first academic appointment as a teacher and/or researcher, and reaching your first permanent or tenured position.

To a great extent, the motivation, satisfaction, professionalism and effectiveness of academics is dependent on how the higher education institution (HEI) addresses their process of development and socialization. Aware of this significance, most HEIs, schools and departments design specific programmes and support arrangements aimed to smooth and facilitate the process of socialization and development of, especially, new and novice academics. Integration into the collegiate life is probably a pre-requisite for the success of other attempts to support the teaching and research of full-time and part-time academics (GIBBS & COFFEY, 2004).

The examination of the process of socialization and development is crucial to understand how academics adapt to and learn about their work and academic/disciplinary culture; to capture the importance of establishing membership with a particular group of academics and their disciplines and recognize the teaching and research microcultures (MÅRTENSSON, 2014), as well as to understand the forms of agency – understood as the ability to identify and implement choices (ARCHER, 2008) – that academics employ to circumvent constraints and attain career progress.

A considerable body of research approaching the topic from various perspectives emphasizes the importance of academics’ socialization and enculturation in higher education. The sociological perspective has often used MERTON’s (1957) definition of socialization – understood as “the processes through which [a person] develops [a sense of] professional self, with its characteristic values, attitudes, knowledge and skills … which govern [his or her] behavior in a wide variety of professional situations” (p. 287) – to frame the research of socialization in higher education. Other scholars have contributed to its development suggesting that socialization “is a learning process through which the individual acquires the knowledge and skills, the values and attitudes, and the habits and modes of thought of the society to which he/she belongs” (BRAGG, 1976, p. 3). TIERNEY & RHOADES (1994) question the assumption of rationality and constancy of culture embedded in the previous definition because it ultimately contributes to assimilation and homogeneity, and suggest a non-linear, serial progression through a set of specified activities. Differently, THORTON & NARDI (1975) describe the stages through which novices move toward the goal of role acquisition, and WEIDMAR, TWALE & STEIN (2001) identify the core elements of socialization (knowledge acquisition, investment and involvement) that map onto the stages and constitute a model of doctoral student socialization.

Elaborating upon the interactions between academics and students as a significant frame, BAIRD (1993) examines the organization of the practices and processes of doctoral education, and TINTO (1997) and TIERNEY (1997) explore the link between doctoral persistence and socialization. Research on the experiences of socialization and development of underrepresented groups, namely women and doctoral students of color (ANTONY & TAYLOR, 2004) argue for a better clarity of what successful socialization entails, assuming the distinction between “developing an awareness of, versus developing a personal acceptance of, a field’s content, values and norms” (ANTONY, 2002, p. 373). BOURDIEU (1990) extends this discrepancy by emphasizing the experiences that students bring to doctoral education and how the efficacy of socialization practices can fluctuate across doctoral students and contexts. BECHER & TROWLER (2001) and BIGLAN (1973) also discuss the significance of disciplinary culture as a distinguishing variable.

From a broader perspective, research has addressed the topic of academics’ development of skills, competencies, conceptions and attitudes throughout their academic career, and the role of academic developers in improving it. In fact, for many years, academic developers have worked actively to develop an informed, worthwhile and robust initial professional development agenda for new academics. Programs on ‘teaching and learning in higher education’ or ‘academic practice’ are usually voluntarily (mandatory in a few countries as part of probation), mainly organized within every institution. They either focus on preparation for, and professionalizing of, the teaching role (GIBBS & COFFEY, 2004) or on the promotion of a holistic socialization to academic practice (BREW & BOUD, 1996).

In this regard, ÅKERLIND (2003) argues that individual academics experience the world of teaching differently and, therefore, have different conceptions of it. Importantly, academic development programmes might influence changing conceptions of teaching with consequential changes in teaching practice and student approaches to learning (STES, 2008; STES et al., 2010). Moreover, academics’ teaching approaches and conceptions can change and develop towards a learning-centered approach if the provision of academic development programmes fit the teachers’ particular needs and concerns at the different phases of their professional development as teachers (FEIXAS & EULER, 2013). However, although academic developers can facilitate and contribute to educational development, they cannot do it on their own; teachers’ engagement must also come from within. In thinking systematically about teaching and learning the conditions under which teaching and learning are embedded in our institutions, academic development has the potential to influence organizational development (EULER, 2015). MÅRTENSSON (2014) suggests increasing the number of signification relations within microcultures as well as between them, so that academic teachers are mutually influenced by, and can influence their collegial context. BOUD & BREW (2013) maintain that the most powerful influence is not the provision of learning opportunities but changing work demands to drive learning. In sum, this scope of institutional programming is needed to continue addressing emerging issues as articulated by students, faculty members and institutions as it may encourage new academics’ professional development and retention.

Meanwhile, the development of university league tables and global competition between universities is putting increasing pressure on development of the research aspect of academic roles (LUCAS, 2006). Yet literature on academics’ development and socialization as a researcher beyond doctoral studies is not yet well developed (BREW & LUCAS, 2009; McALPINE & ÅKERLIND, 2010). As much as with the world of teaching, the world of research is also experienced differently by different academics (BREW, 2001), though with clear signs of integration between experiences of teaching and research (ÅKERLIND 2005, 2008; PROSSER et al., 2008).

Building on the above-mentioned insights from previous research, the aim of this issue of the Zeitschrift für Hochschulentwicklung is…

  1. to contribute to the state of the art about the process of development and socialization of academics, the construction and development of academic identity and the forms of agency academics employ to attain career success.
  2. to highlight approaches to supporting the development of academics as teachers and researchers that positively impact professional growth during their academic career.

The issue focuses on the socialization and development of novice academics, including particular groups of academics such as part-time, international, female and academics from minority groups, and how they negotiate institutional cues and adapt to the institution to define their professional role. The focus is on both the teaching and research role of academics. Excluded topics in this issue are processes of faculty selection, evaluation and promotion in academia, and the administration, service and leadership roles of academics. The following questions may provide guidelines for authors to focus their contributions:

  • What kind of challenges do new academics encounter during their socialization to the Higher Education Institution?
  • How do specific groups of academics (part-time, international, novice, female teachers, minority groups, etc.) adapt to the Higher Education environment?
  • How do novice academics develop throughout the initial phase of their career concerning e.g., motivation, emotions, attitudes, approaches to teaching and learning, approaches to research?
  • What does evidence say about the quality, impact and outcomes of programmes and initiatives designed to support academics’ development?
  • How can support for beginning academics be implemented in order to both address individual needs and match the disciplinary culture?
  • How does the institutional environment enhance or impede beginning academics’ socialization, development, success, and academic progress?

With regard to empirical contributions, we encourage both qualitative and quantitative approaches and mixed-method studies as well as design-oriented studies. We especially encourage innovative research designs that are suited to address the challenging topics of (a) development of academics’ identity, conceptions about teaching and research, attitudes, motivations and (b) development of microcultures and the social interaction among peers. Conceptual contributions should preferably address the development of academics over time and provide clear references to underlying theoretical considerations.
We are keen to receive empirical or conceptual contributions which aim to enhance academic socialization and development and especially where there has been evaluation of practice. We look forward to your article referring to one of the above guiding questions.


Åkerlind, G.S. (2003). Growing and developing as a university teacher: Variation in meaning. Studies in Higher Education, 28(4), 375-390.
Åkerlind, G.S. (2005). Academic growth and development: How do university academics experience it? Higher Education, 50(1), 1-32.
Åkerlind, G.S. (2008). Growing and developing as a university researcher. Higher Education, 55, 241-254.
Antony, J. S. (2002). Reexamining doctoral student socialization and professional development: Moving beyond the congruence and assimilation orientation. In J. C. Smart & W.Tierney (Eds.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research, 17, 349-380. New York, NY: Agathon.
Antony, J. S., & Taylor, E. (2004). Theories and strategies of academic career socialization: Improving paths to the professoriate for black graduate students. In A. Austin & D. Wulff (Eds.), Paths to the professoriate: Strategies for enriching the preparation of future faculty (p. 92-114). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Archer, L. (2008). Younger academics’ constructions of ‘authenticity’, ‘success’ and professional identity. Studies in Higher Education, 33(4), 385-403.
Baird, L. L. (1993). Using research and theoretical models of graduate student progress. In L. L. Baird (Ed.), Increasing graduate student retention and degree attainment. New Directions for Institutional Research series, 80, 3-12. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Becher, T., & Trower, P. (2001). Academic tribes and territories (2nd ed.). London, UK: Open University Press.
Biglan, A. (1973). The characteristics of subject matter in different academic areas. Journal of Applied Psychology, 57(3), 195-203.
Boud, D., & Brew, A. (2013). Reconceptualising academic work as professional practice: implications for academic development. International Journal for Academic Development, 18(3), 208-221.
Bourdieu, P. (1990). The logic of practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Bragg, A. K. (1976). The socialization process in higher education. Washington, DC: The American Association of Higher Education.
Brew, A. & Boud, D. (1996). Preparing for new academic roles: An holistic approach to development. International Journal for Academic Development, 1(2), 17-25.
Brew, A., & Lucas, L. (Eds.) (2009). Research and Researchers. Berkshire and New York: McGraw Hill, SRHE and Open University Press.
Euler, D. (2015). Mejorar las competencias docentes del profesorado universitario es necesario, ¡pero la innovación sostenible requiere algo más! Educar, 51(1),149-165.
Feixas, M., & Euler, D. (2013). Academics as teachers: New approaches to teaching and learning and implications for professional development programmes. International HETL Review, 2, Article 12.
Gibbs, G. & Coffey, M. (2004). The impact of training of university teachers on their teaching skills, their approach to teaching and the approach to learning of their students. Active Learning in Higher Education, 5(1), 87-100.
Lucas, L. (2006). The research game in academic life. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press and the Society for Research into Higher Education.
McAlpine, L., & Åkerlind, G. (Eds.) (2010). Becoming an Academic: International Perspectives. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
Mårtensson, K. (2014). Influencing teaching and learning microcultures. Academic development in a research-intensive university. Lund: Media-Trick, Lund University.
Merton, R. K. (1957). Social theory and social structure. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.
Prosser, M., Martin, E., Trigwell, K., Ramsden, P., & Middleton, H. (2008). University academics’ experience of research and its relationship to their experience of teaching. Instructional Science, 36(1), 3-16.
Stes, A. (2008). The impact of instructional development in higher education: Effects on teachers and students. Gent, Belgium: Academia Press.
Stes, A., Min-Leliveld, M. J., Gijbels, D., & Van Petegem, P. (2010). The impact of instructional development in higher education: A state-of-the-art of the research. Educational Research Review, 5(1), 25-49.
Thornton, R., & Nardi, P. M. (1975). The dynamics of role acquisition. American Journal of Sociology, 80(4), 870-885.
Tierney, W. G. (1997). Organizational socialization in higher education. Journal of Higher Education, 68(1), 1-16.
Tierney, W. G., & Rhoads, R. A. (1994). Enhancing promotion, tenure and beyond: Faculty socialization as a cultural process. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report 6, 1-126. Washington, DC: The George Washington University.
Tinto, V. (1997). Toward a theory of doctoral persistence. In M. Nerad, R. June, & D. Miller (Eds.), Graduate education in the United States (p. 322-338). New York, NY: Garland.
Weidman, J., Twale, D., & Stein, E. (2001). Socialization of graduate and professional students in higher education: A perilous passage? ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report 28, 1-138. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Guidelines regarding the journal

The ZFHE is a peer-reviewed online journal that publishes scientific contributions of practical relevance concerning current higher education development issues. The focus is on didactical, structural, and cultural developments in teaching and learning. Topics that are innovative and still regarded as open in respect of their design options are preferred.

The ZFHE is published by a consortium of European researchers and funded by the Austrian Ministry for Science, Research and Economics. For more information, see

Submission information

English contributions may be submitted in two possible formats:
Scientific contributions: Scientific contributions within and beyond the main theme should comply with the following criteria: The contribution...

  • presents innovative perspectives, arguments, problem analyses etc. on the key topic;
  • focuses on essential aspects of the key topic;
  • is theoretically supported (i.e. it offers a clear connection to the scientific discourse of the topic under discussion);
  • provides scientific insights with added value at least in some parts;
  • clearly elucidates the methodology used to acquire knowledge;
  • follows the relevant citation rules consistently (APA style, 6th edition);
  • comprises up to 33,600 characters (incl. spaces, as well as cover page, bibliography and author information).

Workshop reports comprise the instructional presentation of practical experience, good practice examples, design concepts, pilot projects, etc. Workshop reports should comply with the following criteria:

  • demonstrates potential for knowledge transfer;
  • describes illustrative aspects and factors for the purpose of theory formation;
  • systematically and transparently presented (e.g., no incomprehensible clues to details in an area of practice);
  • follows the relevant citation rules consistently (APA style, 6th edition);
  • up to 21,600 characters (incl. spaces, as well as cover page, bibliography and author information).

Submission and review schedule

11 März 2016 – Extended submission deadline for complete articles:
Please upload your contribution(s) to the ZFHE journal system ( in the corresponding section (scientific contribution, workshop report) of ZFHE 11/5 issue in anonymous format. To do so, you must first register as an author in the system.
25 April 2016 – Feedback / Reviews: Scientific contributions and workshop reports are evaluated in a double-blind process (see below).  
10 June 2016 – Revision deadline: Where necessary, contributions may be revised according to feedback and recommendations from the reviews.
9 September 2016 – Online publication: In September 2016, the finalized contributions are published under and also made available in print.

Review Process

All submitted contributions will be examined in a double-blind peer review process to guarantee scientific quality. The editors of the current issue propose the reviewers for the respective theme and allocate individual contributions to the reviewers; they also determine which contributions will be accepted. The selection of reviewers and the review process for each thematic issue are always supervised by a member of the editorial board.

Formatting and submission

In order to save valuable time with the formatting of the contributions, we kindly ask that all authors work with the template from the beginning. The template can be downloaded from the ZFHE website under the following link:

Since we must be able to edit the texts, they must be submitted unlocked/unprotected in in Microsoft Word (.doc), Office Open XML (.docx), Open Document Text (.odt) or Plain Text (.txt) format. Please do not submit any PDF files! Submissions in the “Scientific Contribution” and “Workshop Report” categories must first be made in anonymous format in order to guarantee the double-blind review process. Please remove all references to the author(s) of the document (including in the document properties!). Upon a positive review result, this information will be re-inserted.


If you have any questions regarding the content of the issue, please contact Mònica Feixas (
For technical and organizational questions, please contact Michael Raunig (

We look forward to your submissions!
Mònica Feixas (Universität St. Gallen)
Ann Stes (University of Antwerp)
Gerlese Åkerlind (Australian National University & University of Canberra)
Georgeta Ion (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)