In this paper we explore an approach to academic development that focuses on developing and using research as a means of understanding the complexity of teaching and learning within specific discipline environments. This approach shifts the attention of the academic developer from the enhancement of teaching using traditional methods such as workshops, formal courses, or in-faculty curriculum and assessment advice, to encouraging and supporting participant research on learning and teaching, and disciplinary-based research. Focusing on research development gives academics the opportunity to develop their teaching scholarship, prepare publishable work, and cultivate teaching and learning practices that are aligned with their specific discipline environments. We discuss the philosophy of this approach to the enhancement of academic work through the synergy between teaching and research. We illustrate our discussion with some recent examples in which we have used this approach successfully.