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STEM faculty members' experience of sabbatical leave: a narrative study

Naser Shirbagi (Department of Education, University of Kurdistan, Sanandaj, Iran)
Parisa Gholami (Department of Education, University of Kurdistan, Sanandaj, Iran)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 23 July 2020

Issue publication date: 7 June 2021




In this research, which has involved collecting Iranian faculty members' accounts of their experiences of sabbaticals, the authors are seeking to understand how faculty members make sense of events throughout the process of sabbatical, construction these events into episodes and thereby maintaining unity within their lives.


Using narrative qualitative method and episodic interviews the researchers collected and analyzed the data by applying MAXQDA 2020 software. In this study, the impact of sabbatical leave on faculty members' academic achievement was measured in three ways: individually, professionally and organizationally.


Sabbatical leave changed their academic and personal values. In addition, the results of the narrative analysis showed that sabbatical leave experience could enable faculty members to change themselves in terms of their lifestyle and attitudes. A considerable influence on their families was also found. Moreover, from individual dimension, it was found that participants' engagement with their colleagues and their sense of social responsibility especially in environmental protection zone area had increased. Furthermore, in professional and academic area, the participants reported tendency toward more team work, more creative approach and they developed a sense of innovation and willingness to take risks.

Practical implications

The findings of the study showed that faculty members sabbatical leave experience could stimulate their global thinking toward foreign overseas universities, their students and colleagues and they could have more publications in foreign languages. Based on the findings of the study some reconsiderations in administrative regulations should be taken into account in order to enable volunteer faculty members to take part in sabbatical leave programs.

Social implications

The authors demonstrate that how Iranian higher education regulations and dominated patriarchy, deprive female faculty members from sabbaticals. In addition, the results indicate that using sabbatical leaves by males, and mostly in STEM fields in Iran are fundamental in producing and reproducing inequalities regarding gender and academic field.


The paper addresses an important topic and by using a relevant qualitative method for examining participants' views in the study has added complementary information to the literature of faculty members' professional development. The study has been conducted in a particular context with a different understanding of the topic, since studying such a topic in Iran is missing almost in the literature.



Shirbagi, N. and Gholami, P. (2021), "STEM faculty members' experience of sabbatical leave: a narrative study", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 664-683.



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