Larger and more diverse group of students are now entering university (Prichard, 2006). To accommodate this, free up staff for research and to save money, most HEIs now use sessional lecturers to teach (Bryson, 2013; Crimmins, 2016). Literature which considers this group of staff, who may have come from another career path, focusses on the need to develop them as pedagogues (for example, Sutherland and Gilbert, 2013; Byers and Tani, 2014) and this seems valid given the need to develop teaching excellence, however it is defined. It discusses the need to provide training opportunities that can be accessed at convenient times, and to provide mentors and support from full time staff. This paper argues that whilst there may be some sessional staff for whom this is needed, there is also a group of qualified, sessional lecturers who have chosen to be professional teachers. This group, should they be able to become fully involved in teaching focussed research, conducted collaboratively with full time academics, could develop teaching excellence and become valuable resources for their employers, committed to improving the student learning experience. It presents the case study of two such sessional staff, working as part of a small research group, to illustrate how communities of practice can help them develop an academic identity (Webb, Wong and Hubbell, 2013; Seemiller and Priest, 2015) and, in doing so, improve student learning, develop teaching excellence and increase staff motivation and engagement levels.
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