Traditionally doctoral students are expected to work as sessional academics, however, they are not necessarily well-prepared for, nor confident about, the full range of academic roles expected of them upon employment. Since 2007, Flinders University has run a year-long Academic Internship Program (AIP) to provide academic training and support to 24 research higher degree (RHD) students who are employed as sessional teaching staff. This paper will outline the AIP Responsive Evidence-based Adaptable Assessed and Layered (REAAL) Framework before drawing on evaluation of the program to demonstrate how participation in the program supports both the preparedness of its participants to be responsive and adaptive professionals and helps to build academic confidence and skills so individuals are better equipped to navigate uncertainty and complexity.
Within the program quality learning and teaching is fostered through interactive workshops and program activities which also support the Academic Interns as they learn about scholarly, theoretical and practical approaches to teaching. Academic Interns face a number of challenges during the program and in their teaching that align with those in the sector: the requirement to address the internationalisation of the curriculum; the increasingly diverse profile of students; growing class sizes; and, the integration of educational technologies into all aspects of teaching. Addressing these challenges provides the basis of the program design and many of the program activities.
To date over 150 RHD students have graduated from the program with many now in academic roles. We have used a thematic analysis approach to explore survey and interview data from program participants and teaching staff. This qualitative research approach has informed the development of the REAAL framework. The REAAL framework is flexible and is not institutionally bound. It therefore provides a model for the development of other programs which prepare doctoral students for future academic roles which involve teaching.
The paper addresses the conference themes “Educating graduates to be responsive and adaptable professionals” and “navigating uncertainty and complexity”. It discusses a program which has been developed to support doctoral students as they gain the skills to become responsive and adaptable academics (professionals). The paper will outline the REALL framework and draw on participant feedback to explain how the program connects with one industry (higher education) to prepare graduates for changing workforce requirements within universities. The REALL framework is carefully scaffolded to help program participants build their own resilience; appreciate the importance of engaging effectively with diverse communities and support the building of their student resilience as well as developing the skills and dispositions required to access, filter and critically engage with new knowledge and new ways of knowing in a world that is complex. Finally, the program provides participants with opportunities to reflect on which pedagogies are most appropriate to help pass these abilities and dispositions on to the students they teach in contemporary and future higher education settings. The conference themes will therefore be addressed through our discussion of the Academic Internship Program (AIP), the REALL framework and participant feedback.