The academic developer’s role is the focus of a growing body of literature. This paper builds the literature by arguing the importance to our current practice of making our theoretical underpinnings explicit. We excise and describe fragments of practice from the work of individual academic developers in order to discuss and consider the relationship between particular theories of academic development and particular approaches that these theories support. The three fragments of academic development practice we detail are related to reflective practice, collegiality and the scholarship of teaching. We also provide a fourth, more fulsome description of an approach to illustrate a highly responsive model of academic development: “Elastic Practice”. Elastic Practice describes the process of tailoring a specific approach or instance of academic development from the full professional ‘toolkit’ (techniques, experiences, ideas, values, theories) that academic developers collect during their evolution as practitioners. The idea of Elastic Practice is that multiple theoretical bases are melded or successively employed to support an adaptive, responsive approach to practice. We suggest Elastic Practice is particularly appropriate for the complex, at times contested, environment within which academic developers work.