chapter  9
Learning to be an academic: tacit and explicit pedagogies
ByRUTH BARCAN
Pages 15

This chapter arises out of an on-the-ground interest in how young Australian scholars are currently learning to be academics, within the big picture context of a ‘legitimation crisis’ (Readings 1996: 2) affecting universities around the world. Learning to be an academic is an interesting case through which to consider cultural pedagogies. For the academic world is itself a quite distinctive culture – broken up into lots of more localised cultures. Becoming an academic is thus likely to involve a strong sense of entering a world somehow set apart by both its historical antecedents and its contemporary distinctiveness. Learning to be part of this world involves negotiating both a historically potent set of myths and fantasies (the idea of a university, the figure of the master) and a concrete set of ‘microenvironment[s]’ (Dahlgren and Bjuremark 2012: 57) reflecting national educational cultures, disciplinary norms and a host of local factors. Second, training as an academic has traditionally been a matter of preparation via acculturation rather than formal pedagogy. While scholarly content is learned formally, neither the technical skills needed to be an academic (lecturing, conference presentation, chairing committees, etc.) nor a broader sense of competence to fill out such a culturally weighty role has traditionally received much formal pedagogical attention. In the current era, now that universities also operate like other institutional forms (i.e. bureaucracies and corporations), some of the necessary technical skills are beginning to be addressed, albeit patchily, through explicit instruction. But the latter set of more intimate and nebulous questions – what does it mean to be an academic? How does one learn to juggle different roles? How do you become good enough? – receive scant attention, and thus tend to fall into the realm of tacit pedagogies, learned ‘osmotically’ via mechanisms that are at once more social and more private than explicit pedagogies, such as quiet observation, emulation or informal conversations between peers. Learning to be an academic is thus a ‘doubly’ cultural pedagogy: it is a cultural process of growing into a sense that one belongs in a particular culture.