Developing Lecturer Practitioner roles using action research

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Abstract

Background

Lecturer Practitioner roles are well established in the United Kingdom. The national literature demonstrates that these staff are valuable to National Health Service trusts and universities however, their roles are busy and demanding, with conflicting expectations from the two employers. In addition, their role in addressing the theory–practice gap – a major reason for their establishment – is at best unclear. Although a number of qualitative studies have explored the topic, there have been no systematic attempts to develop the role or to quantify the effects on postholders.

Aim

This paper reports a study that aimed to develop aspects of Lecturer practitioners' work roles, examine the effects of this on individuals at one English university, and to quantify Lecturer practitioners' occupational stress and burnout.

Methods

A flexible, ‘spiral’ action research framework and ‘collaborative group approach’ were used, with mixed methods of data collection. Data were collected through focus groups, meetings and participant feedback, and participants' reflective diaries. A questionnaire using previously validated psychological attitude rating scales was also used to measure occupational stress and burnout, the extent to which the project influenced these, and the influence of Lecturer practitioners' experience and qualifications. Six null hypotheses were constructed to measure these ideas. Findings from qualitative and quantitative perspectives were triangulated to give depth to the analysis.

Findings

Five themes emerged from the focus groups: personal motivation, workload pressures, role clarity, preparation and support, and gains from the role. Specific policies and documentation were developed as a result of this initial project planning work. The findings from the questionnaire indicated that Lecturer Practitioners were no more stressed or burnt out than comparable workers. Synthesis of findings indicated, broadly speaking, that these LPs were ‘thriving rather than just surviving’.

Conclusion

Action research was an effective methodology for uncovering new knowledge, and bringing about organizational change in this project.

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