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Virtuous Educational Research

Conversations on Ethical Practice


Julian Stern

This is a book of conversations with researchers working across Europe, the USA and Africa. It aims to illuminate the lived reality of educational research on a wide variety of topics, including family life in rural South Africa, support for self-harming students in the UK, character development in the USA and Korea, educational leadership in the UK and China, philosophical analysis of education policy, and much more.
The book is for and about researchers and is built around a set of conversations with the author – a fellow researcher. Researchers work at the frontiers of our knowledge and understanding of the world, and frontiers can be dangerous places. How are the researchers’ personal qualities – virtues such as courage, honesty and kindness – tested and exemplified in their work? The conversations presented here explore the experience of research and ask what qualities are needed, or wished for, in order to successfully face its challenges. There are many books that include lists of what to do and what not to do when carrying out research. Here, in contrast, we find out what really happens and why – and what it takes to keep going.
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Chapter 6 Just Work: Professing as Professor and as Professional


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Just Work: Professing as Professor and as Professional


To profess is to make a public declaration, and this is linked to being a ‘professor’, a title for a senior, well-established, academic in higher education (Best 1996, p. 2). There is a further link, to being a ‘professional’ – a member of a practice-based community requiring an explicit work-related ethical code. Professors and professionals are also linked through the need for advanced learning. In English, the earliest use of ‘profess’ was as a religious profession, joining a religious community. That is an interesting web of meanings. The central definition of research I am using in this book is ‘a process of investigation leading to new insights, effectively shared’ (Hefce 2011, p. 48). The ‘effectively shared’ phrase is not an additional – optional – requirement, once the research is completed. Sharing insights, through publishing and teaching, is part of the research. What is the significance of this? Research is not – not only – a private matter, the accumulation in the researcher’s head of insights acquired through investigation. Many researchers see research, either positively or negatively, as precisely private, even self-indulgent or solipsistic. I saw it like that myself. Completing a postgraduate degree (Stern 1982), I had funding to continue to complete a doctorate, and chose instead to become a schoolteacher, frustrated – after twenty years of full-time education – with the idea of continuing to accumulate knowledge and generate ideas, without passing them on. It...

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