Scholar-Practitioner Identity — Maintaining a Conscious, Conceptual Plasticity

In his essay titled “Scholar-Practitioner Identity — A Liminal Perspective,” Gregory M. Bouck draws heavily from his own experience in the educational field to explain how a person would go about developing a scholar-practitioner identity, and what aspects that identity possesses. Bouck describes scholar-practitioners as “bricoleurs” and “criticalists” who go through the world with a liminal mentality (Bouck, 2011). He further argues that this unique position — straddling the line between cutting-edge research and practical, cultural application — gives scholar-practitioners a responsibility to be social justice leaders.

I agree with Bouck about social responsibility. I believe this responsibility arises because liminality is what I’d call conscious, conceptual plasticity (as opposed to the physiological plasticity of the brain). It gives scholar-practitioners the rare opportunity to break out of the status quo mentality and gain a more logical and fair perspective on our culture­ — an opportunity that our world cannot afford to waste.

As humans, we can’t consciously choose to have a plastic brain; that seems to be dictated largely by developmental life-stages and physiologically tied phenomena (Furhmann et al., 2015; Kolb et al., 2017). But as scholar-practitioners, we can consciously choose to have a plastic identity. It is simply a matter of deciding that open-mindedness and self-reflection are important to us and using our willpower to maintain them.

However, just like physiological plasticity, our conceptual plasticity is merely the potential for good results, not a guarantee of them; and our responsibility centers on not wasting this great potential. For if you’re not watchful, healthily cynical and self-aware, your plastic identity will mold to the status quo, and your potential as a change-leader will be lost. But if you can use your critical thinking skills to place yourself outside of the status quo and instead mold your opinions to what your scholarly knowledge and logic tell you, you will be able to use your new identity to “fact-check” the status quo and clearly see the instances where it should be improved.

I can see such fact-checking being particularly applicable in the psychology realm. We study what can make or break a human psyche; therefore, it is our responsibility to remain critical and speak up when we see cultural trends that undermine the psychological health of any individual or population.

I intend to make a career of gathering, synthesizing, and translating psychological knowledge into a format that the general public may easily comprehend and integrate into daily life. Thus, my professional goals require my full commitment to the scholar-practitioner identity, and I am thrilled to take the leap.


Bouck, G. (2011). Scholar-practitioner identity. Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly, 5(2), 201–210.

Fuhrmann, D., Knoll, L. J., & Blakemore, S. J. (2015). Adolescence as a sensitive period of brain development. Trends in cognitive sciences, 19(10), 558–566.

Kolb, B., Harker, A., & Gibb, R. (2017). Principles of plasticity in the developing brain. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 59(12), 1218–1223.

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