Playing tertiary tetris: Valuing the voices of casual educators in higher education

Davis, Ian ORCID: and Abel, Susan ORCID: and Feldman, Courtney ORCID: and Bedford, Alison ORCID: (2022) Playing tertiary tetris: Valuing the voices of casual educators in higher education. In: 44th Annual Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA 2022), 27 June - 30 June 2022, Melbourne, Australia.


Working as a casual educator in the HE environment has parallels with playing a game of 'Tetris'. To survive the game, and build a cohesive professional identity, casual educators must strategically negotiate the numerous demands of their role, and battle to create order out of chaos. 'As sessional academics become the new normal' (Cowen, 2018, p. 7) this research explores how casual educators within a regional Australian university are valued, developed, and supported in their work. The 'Foundations of Learning and Teaching' (Foundations) program at the University of Southern Queensland was developed as a strategic solution to address key issues faced by casual educators including communication, isolation, and remuneration (Biak, 2018). Through a 'whole-of-institution approach' (Biak, 2018, p. 385), and with a 'sustainable, holistic long-term strategy' (p. 385), Foundations also sought to ensure this workforce’s competence in the design and delivery of learning. This research explores the lived experiences of casual educators to understand the benefits of participation in the Foundations program. Using a narrative inquiry framework, data is presented in narratives by three of the co-authors as co-makers, to explore the contextual landscape of the diverse motivations, identities, and complexities attached to the conditions of this workforce. An 'analysis of narratives' (Polkinghorne, 1988) was undertaken to gain an understanding of how professional development opportunities impact on casual educators’ performance and ongoing development. The findings offer a variety of perspectives on casual educators’ work experiences and career aspirations and highlight the precarious employment conditions of this workforce. With limited opportunities for networking, social support, professional development, or mentoring within the university community, Foundations enabled casual educators to 'connect with other players', and 'know the winning moves', supporting them to confidently 'play by the rules' and survive the game of 'Tertiary Tetris'.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Speech)
Refereed: No
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Files associated with this item cannot be displayed due to copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - No Department (1 Jul 2013 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Education (1 Jul 2019 -)
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2022 00:53
Last Modified: 21 Aug 2022 23:30
Uncontrolled Keywords: sessional educator, casual educator, precarity, narrative inquiry, higher education
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390303 Higher education
39 EDUCATION > 3904 Specialist studies in education > 390403 Educational administration, management and leadership
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 16 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 1603 Teaching and curriculum > 160303 Teacher and instructor development
16 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 1601 Learner and learning > 160102 Higher education

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