tools I used most in 2011

Can technology enhance learning? Some people think this is not possible. And while I agree that cutlery can’t make a meal tastier, I think cutlery can enhance the eating experience.

always?... is there such a thing...

always?... is there such a thing...

Could we say the same about technology? Just wondering…

What I used most this year

What I used most this year

  • Flickr – storing images to capture moments, teaching and learning situations. Using in my practice and started sharing photos under a Creative Common Licence. But I am also using great images shared by others through Flickr and I have used many in my photovoices and blog posts. Also, feel free to access our PGCAP flickr space and explore the different sets we have for different purposes from capturing visual memories to creating resources for teaching. We also share the login details with our PGCAP participants so that they can experiment with Flickr and upload their photos. It was used for our mixed-reality game on the core module, for example.
  • WordPress – where my personal learning space is. Also using it as an e-portfolio on our PGCAP programme. Ok, lets give you some links to some of the public e-portfolios. Check out Neil’s, Sarah’s and Fabrizio’s for example.
  • Slideshare – sharing own presentations (also using QR codes to retrieve them easily on mobile devices) but also accessing presentations by others. Feel free to access our Academic Development Slideshare page and explore some of the presentations we have shared. We usually upload presentations in advance of a session, provide the link to it via Twitter (then people with a smartphone can also use them in class electronically or access them on the go before/after the session too – making mobile learning possible) and in Blackboard and don’t provide printed versions. Saving some trees this way.
  • Skype – getting together synchronously online with family, friends and colleagues. This has been very useful and I have had the opportunity to also use it during a session and connect with an expert remotely who couldn’t join us otherwise that day.
  • YouTube – creating and sharing videos but also accessing videos made by others and adding some to our favourite list. I have a personal and a PGCAP account. My personal one is mainly to share clips I record with my boys and keep track of some cool videos. The PGCAP account has multiple functions. First of all we upload clips in which  our participants talk about the programme, then we have the series “Food for thought” (this will grow further) were we invite specialists to briefly share their expertise with the viewers and engage in a discussion with them and then there are educational videos by others which we collect in our favourites. Then I started also usingit for a mixed-reality game we are playing on the core module. We also share the account details with the participants so that they can upload videos without having to create their own account.
  • Diigo – sharing my bookmarks there. My bookmarks can be accessed here. Also started creating lists now. This provides a good way to pre-select resources for a specific module, session, event, workshop etc. For an example see my current list for the core module of our PGCAP programme. I will use this feature more in the New Year. Also, what I haven’t tried yet is create shared lists.
  • Twitter – keeping up-to-date with the exciting things that are happening. At the moment, I have a personal account and one which we use for the PGCAP programme.  to keep in touch with our participants, share useful links and make announcements.
  • Dropbox – this is a really cool service! Most of my files are now there… Don’t remember last time I used a USB stick. Great! So easy also to collaborate with others and share folders. The good thing is, the more folders you share with others the more additional space you get ;o)
  • (Digital) camera -still using my little camera… forgot it recently in the cinema but found it again! Always with me in- and out-of class. I just love taking photographs and am using them a lot for digital storytelling and creating resources. Have made flashcards for PBL scenarios, to group people, use as triggers for discussions, reflection etc. etc. the opportunities are endless.
  • Camcorder – I think this is the first year I recorded so much video. New was recording teaching observation snippets which will be evaluated soon and the “Food for thought series” which will grow further in the New Year.
  • iPod – from which I can access most of the above (when I have wi-fi access) which is amazing. It was especially useful to access PGCAP e-portfolios on-the-go, as well as Twitter and Skype. However, my little iPod is getting a bit old and doesn’t have a camera. If it did, I could probably stop using the camera and the camcorder. Less stuff to carry around,  simpler to upload and share. Is there an iPod on 3G? Must investigate soon.

In 2011 I also got more into game-based learning, participated in the CMC11 MOOC and started using GoogleDocs much more for creating shared and collaborative documents but also surveys and for admin and to organise events and staff development too. We even started working on a module together remotely with a colleague from Sweden.

What about you?

Value 3 Working in and developing learning communities or together #SLEC2012


“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.” (Palmer, 2007, 11)

I agree with Palmer and his observations. Creating connections and links to people is the way forward. Carol Yeager reminded me recently, “if you want to go fast, go on your own, if you want to go further go with others” (African proverb) – this is so true and reflects my approach to what I do as an academic developer. Neame (2011) states that at the heart of academic development are people, networks and communities. Our role is to create opportunities for communities of practice to emerge, support and grow as defined by Wenger et al (2011). Kahn (2003) recognises that we gain credibility through participating in communities of practice. Democratic approaches have the power to make this to happen. Democratic means working together, creating together, learning together but also changing together. Imposed change, doesn’t work. Pennington (2003) says that “professionals and technical staff will tend to resist changes which are perceived to threaten their core values and practices, and which have a negative impact on individuals and which diminish group autonomy” (p.7). Especially in the HE context this is so true but I am sure it applies to all other professional groups as well. And by the way, does forced change last? Academic developers are not vampires (Shrives and Bond, 2003) but they do have to assist the implementation of policies and strategies and need to find ways to make this happen and the way forward is through “building up a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.” (p. 65).

Wandering around without direction? Who says so?

Wandering around with(out) direction? Who says so?

Pennington (2003) notes that “commitment to self-identified and self-initiated change is always greater than change deemed necessary by others or imposed from external sources.” (p. 5) So where are institutions going wrong? Could it be that organisations feel that imposed strategies have the power to make change happen more rapidly and on a bigger scale? Is it about wanting results now now, as I would say? Are quick fixes the answer? Shrives and Bond (2003) actually remind us that “quick fix solutions that many sought in the 1980s often failed.” (p. 61) So, what kind of quick fixes can actually work? Does any of them really work? How can academic development appeal to the masses over night? Is there a magic formula? Pennington (2003) doesn’t think that this can work and reminds us that “where processes have failed, the change agents have frequently rushed […] and pushed ahead too quickly with operational issues, such as ‘how do we do it?’. It’s an obvious point, but clarity about the rationale and objectives of a change should lead and shape practicalities of future activities and new procedures and structures.” (p. 8) He suggests “where rapid change is required, create urgency and momentum – but not of the magnitude which causes destabilisation.” (p. 11)

a helping hand

A helping hand?

We academic developers are not vampires but can be seen as intruders – in reality we are not. We are people keen to help others develop and grow and infect our passion for teaching and learning to transform practices and the student experience. In order to make this happen we need to understand the people we work with, accept and respect our differences and identify opportunities to connect with them to make necessary change a shared owned activity in a community of practice that has a clear purpose and benefit for all so that change becomes motivational and meaningful.


Kahn, P. (2003)Developing professional expertise in staff and educational development, in: Kahn, P. And Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 212-226.

Neame, C. (2011) Exploring Models of Development of Professional Practice in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: What Can We Learn from Biology and Marketing? Educate~ Vol. 11, No. 1, 2011, pp. 9-19.

Palmer, P. J. (2007) The courage to teach. Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pennington, G. (2003) Guidelines for Promoting and Facilitating Change, Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) Generic Centre.

Shrives, L. and Bond C. (2003) Consultancy in educational development, in: Kahn, P. And Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 61-75.

Wenger, E., Trayer, B. and de Laat, M. (2011) Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks: a conceptual framework, Rapport 18, Ruud de Moor Centrum, Open Universiteit, available at

playing is good for us!

celebrating food

celebrating food and life

… I am in the middle of cooking, but couldn’t help myself…

Using some recipes for inspiration but not sticking to the instructions… not a surprise really.

Please note, we won’t be eating the above in this order… ;o( but maybe we could… ;o)

Other bits and pieces under development and loads ready in the fridge, such as dragon breath tzatziki, spiced-up olives, super-yummy potato salad and loads more… no ready-made meals on our table.

Something is smelling… or burning… back to the magic kitchen.

Wishing you a creative Christmas everybody. What have you done differently this year?

Value 6 Developing people and processes #SLEC2012


Please note this post is a draft.

For Anderson (1995) Academic Developers are peer-consultants. Elton (1995) calls us strategic agents for change and Roche (2010) refers to us as agents of transformative change. There definitely seems to be a ‘change theme’… and everybody seems generally to agree that our role is to support academics and other professionals who support learning, individuals, groups and whole schools and departments, on a day-to-day basis, to develop and enhance academic practice, teaching and pedagogical research in order to provide a richer student experience to their students and grow as individuals and professionals. But developing people is not a passive state and can not happen if the people are not actively involved and deeply engaged. I can’t develop anybody and maybe the word ‘developer’ is not the right one to describe what we do… Processes are designed and implemented by people, so the same applies to developing these.

The challenges are enormous and the benefits are also of the same magnitude if we get it right. And when I say ‘we’ I mean us Academic Developers and the wider academic community. I feel that this is the best way to get buy in, maximise engagement and effectiveness. We need to focus our efforts to create shared ownership, collaborations and partnerships and I am so pleased that this also seen as valuable by Roche (2003) who also states that

“The change readiness period must be taken seriously, so that transitional stages such as denial, resistance and exploration are accepted as normal reactions to change” (p. 174).

Where is our heart and why do we try to hide it so often?

Where is our heart and why do we try to hide it so/too often?

At the heart of these interventions are people and I can see very clear links between this approach and coaching. If we want others to transform their practice, we need to have them on board. We can’t change anybody… we can only change ourselves if we really want to and this applied to everybody else to and our practices. What we can do is to find ways that enable individuals and teams to envisage how success looks like but also how this would feel for them. We need to make people feel that they are in a safe environment and that it is ok to take risks. Not all ideas and intervention will work in practice and the hardest is actually to implement them (Scott,2003).

Still growing... but for how long?

Still growing... but for how long?

And this is where coaching can be effective. Coaching is usually a one-to-one development activity and some might think that this is not scalable and have organisational impact but we need to remember through coaching transformational changes for the individual have a ripple effect on a whole team, a whole school or organisation and change of behaviours and attitudes by one person will influence the behaviours and attitudes of whole teams. The word ‘relationships’ comes in my mind again. This is a word I seem to use a lot but it does mean a lot to me in the context of academic development. But it is not just me, the literature also emphasises on these. For example, Shrives and Bond (2003) state that “the educational development unit, […] needs to maintain its good relationship with the rest of the institution over the long term, prefers to avoid confronting, so as to prevent damage to that relationship.” (p. 62) And educational development unit consists of people so Shrives and Bond actually talk about people’s relationships. Peter Kahn also reminds us that  “tutors who adopt a process-focused approach see their role as creating an environment in which the students can learn. This may involve developing an effective relationship with your students and challenging their preconceptions of your subject.” (online) And this is definitely how I see things and would like to continue operating because I can clearly see that this works and can lead to fruitful collaboration, innovation and transformative change, development and learning.

Where are the real opportunities to make a difference today? Working with the enthusiasts is great but what about all the other people who  keep ignoring us and don’t really see value in what we are doing… is there a need to win them over, or should we just forget about them? They are often reminded to work with us. Some are even forced and I see a danger in this… Will this approach de-value  academic development and turn it into a tick-box exercise  to please masters and number crunchers… I am wondering. Neame (2011) notes that interventionalist approaches can work at initial stages but should move towards democratic development and focus on the creation of learning communities. This rationale enabled me to see things from a different perspective, I have to admit. Initially, I thought that interventionalist modes of staff development would not work at all, but they can actually provide a useful way in. If we recognise that interventionalist modes are of temporary or transitional nature and use the time effectively to identify and offer some real hooks then there is hope, a lot of it!!! that what we do can actually have an impact, a massive one.

We are no robots... are you?

We are no robots... are you?

Sometimes (well, actually more than sometimes) I wonder, how we can motivate the de-motivated, the un-motivated to recognise what we could achieve together? And yes, I am probably very (too?) romantic and see academic development as a partnership between academics, students, institutional leaders and academic developers.  But is this really a bad thing? Too often human communications are seen as more de-personalised, de-humanised activities. But we are not robots. We are not machines. Is there a need to remember this a bit more and a bit more often?

Ok, so what could be a hook? I think is also to recognise that everybody contributes somehow to what we call the student experience and there is no academic with bad intentions . Everybody is doing something well. Some might have lost their interest in teaching over the years, others have not discovered it yet despite the fact that they might be teaching for ages. I think, in order to achieve anything through the work we, academic developers, are doing, we need to magnify all the good things that are happening at micro-level. Only then, will we be able to draw people in, attract the ones who look the other way when they see us. Recognising their strength is so important and will boost their will to do even more, even better. We all want recognition for what we do! It is human nature! If we keep saying “you should be doing this”, “you don’t do this right” etc. etc. we have no hope. I used to hear these phrases and my ears were hurting. I don’t think that people will actually switch-on. In the contrary, the will switch-off completely. Nobody will feel suddenly hooked on staff development, enthused or  motivated if we keep telling them how bad they are.



Achievements at macro-level in an institution are therefore only made possible when there is deep, meaningful and most of all wide-spread and infectious engagement at micro-level and academic developers can play a key role in this to happen, to develop people and processes, we need alias.

Is together better?

All for one and one for all? Remember?


Andresen L (1995) Accredited Courses in Teaching and Learning, in Bashiran, A. and Kader, A. (2005) Implementing PBL in Aikol, Iium: A paradigm shift?, in: proceedings PBL in Context – Bridging Work and Education,  International Conference on Problem-Based Learning, 9-11 June Lahti, Finland, available at [accessed 22 Dec 2011]

Elton, L. (1995) An Institutional Framework, in: Brew, A (ed.) Directions in Staff Development, Buckingham: The Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press, pp. 177-188.

Neame, C. (2011) Exploring Models of Development of Professional Practice in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: What Can We Learn from Biology and Marketing? Educate~ Vol. 11, No. 1, 2011, pp. 9-19.

Roche, V. (2003) Being an agent of change, in: Kahn, P. and Baume, D. (eds.) A guide to Staff & Educational Development, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 171-191.

Scott, G. (2003) Effective Change Management in Higher Education, EDUCAUSE review, Nov/Dec. pp. 64-80.

Shrives, L. and Bond C. (2003) Consultancy in educational development, in: Kahn, P. And Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 61-75.

Value 1 An understanding of how people learn (I learn, you learn, we learn) #SLEC2012

Pick 'n' mix

We are all different, and therefore do and learn in different ways. Sometimes, however, we get stuck, we loose ourselves, don’t know how we learn best or haven’t discovered it yet.  We also have different preferences or strengths. Some call them learning styles and there is a big debate about these. Gardner (2009) talks about multiple intelligences and the different blends of different inteligences we all have (Would you like to do a test and find out about yourself? Then click here to complete an interactive test). Gardner states that it is important “knowing who we are and what we can do. Part of the answer lies in biology – the roots and constraints of our species – and part of it in our history – what people have done in the past and what they are capable in doing” (p. 115) and these factors are all very important to define who we are today, based on our yesterdays and what we have the potential to become tomorrow.

Just different!

Just different! Would it not be boring if we were all the same???

I sometimes call them learning habits or learning preferences. Some of them can be bad habits. Or could we not say this? Being aware of these, will help us use our strengths to develop further in other areas and this is the benefit I see from perhaps being aware of who we are and how we do things and learn. If we use them to box people and be judged, that is not good and will have a negative effect on individuals motivation and curiosity to learn and develop further (see also Coffield et al, 2004).

Not feeling good in here!!! Where is everybody?

Not feeling good in here!!! Why is everybody like me? Where are the others?

On top of all this, we recognise that the way we learn is changing. We can now learn non-stop if we choose to do so. Technological advancement in combination with new pedagogies mean that we carry learning opportunities in our pockets and we have access to information and can connect with others easily and constantly. Learning is no longer done mainly within Educational institutions. It extends to informal and non-formal spaces and places. Learning opportunities are everywhere. Was this always the case? I think it was, however, the opportunities have been massively magnified and there are definitely more now and for more people.

We learn best when we can build or construct new knowledge by linking to existing knowledge. But how does this happen? And the word ‘happen’ sounds somehow passive. Knowledge is not something we can spoon feed an individual or the masses. We definitely don’t absorb knowledge and it is painful reading and hearing that this is actually possible… Knowledge creation is a highly active, synthesised processes and requires deep engagement, critical and creative thinking. No, teaching doesn’t mean knowledge transmission eighter. It doesn’t even mean information transmission. Teaching is not a transmission of stuff full stop. Gardner (2009) says “ultimately, we must synthesize our understandings for ourselves.” (p. 115). So knowledge is not something we can just buy or get passively from somebody else. What does this all mean for teachers?

Is together an/the answer?

Is together an/the answer?

Is there an imperative need for educators (I don’t like this word, maybe teachers is better) to focus more on scaffolding and facilitating in order to stimulate thinking? And if this is true, or what we or some of us believe today, how can we stimulate thinking? Socrates and Plato did it through dialogue and conversations – with others and I think this is the key and has the potential to practice co-learning and co-creating. Lawson (2009) also refers to learning through regular dialogue to improve teaching and Academic Developers play a vital role in creating the conditions and the opportunities for dialogue with academics and other professionals who support learning in HE on a day-to-day basis. But what about  passion? Is learning infectious and can we motivate others to learn (more) through sharing our passion for teaching and learning? Can discoveries emerge this way, eureka moments and excitement lived. Do we have the power to experience transformative learning as defined my Mezirow (1997) through which a shift in attitudes and behaviours can be achieved and is far more than skills development, training and mechanical quick fixes which are not really benefiticial as Roche (2003) states.



The chameleon developer adopts a pick ‘n’ mix strategy and supports academics using a plethora of methods and tricks to enable and promote learning. We help others to become self-directed, self-organised and inter-connected learners and practitioners. We share our passion for teaching and learning (to model learning is especially vital!) but we also model (or should!) innovative practices and behaviours as well as peer learning. We have to be flexible, adaptive and probably elastic too and enthuse others to make changes to their practice that lead to personal and institutional growth and transformation. We should also empower all professionals teaching in HE to create stimulating learning experiences for their students and enable them to unlock and achieve their full potential.

It is also important for us academic developers to keep teaching or supporting ‘real’ students. This is something that has been overlooked for a while…


Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E. and Ecclestone, K. (2004) Learning Styles and Pedagogy in Post-16 Learning: A systematic and critical review: London: Learning and Skills Research Centre, available at

Gardner, H. (2009) Multiple approaches to understanding, in: Illeris, K. (ed.) Contemporary theories of learning. Learning theorists… in their own words, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 106 – 115.

Lawson, D. (2009) The CETL Experience, in: Ramsden, P (ed.) Teachers as learners – the development of academic staff, HEA: Academy Exchange 8, August 2009, pp. 22-23.

Mezirow, J. (1997) Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice, in: Transformative Learning in Action: Insights from Practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. no. 74, edited by P. Cranton, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, pp. 5–12.

Roche, V. (2003) Being an agent of change, in: Kahn, P. and Baume, D. (eds.) A guide to Staff & Educational Development, Oxon: Routledge.

VALUE 4 Working effectively with diversity and promoting inclusivity (You and I, or we) #SLEC2012


We staff developers are teachers too (Baume, 2003) but also learners, I would add. We help academics and other professionals who support learning in HE to grow and (re-)discover the magic of teaching and learning. We challenge conventional and traditional practices and work in a change environment. Kahn (2003) reminds us that “developers are primarily engaged not in what is normally thought of as academic practice – teaching, research and the like – but rather in the enhancement of academic practice.” (p. 218). And I am so pleased that somebody else said this because it links really well with what I think about academic development. But also, I have asked myself many times: If academic developers would be doing what everybody else is doing already, what would be the point of our existence? Of course, some of the things we suggest disturb people’s practices, bring them in imbalance and are probably disruptive in one way or another. This is a fact and resistance is therefore something we live with. And therefore a genuine interest in others and interpersonal skills are essential to overcome such barriers.

how can we manage?

How can WE manage THIS?

The bottom line is we need to be people people. Pretending to be interested, doesn’t work, nor does pretending to be somebody else. This is something Light et al. (2009) highlights about the teacher who ‘should not feel compelled to adopt a persona that is unnatural or seems to go against the grain of his or her personality’ (p. 124)

We are all unique and we know it. But many times we don’t do anything about it. We just need to remember this and take it into consideration when working with others so that we can interpret our differences as enrichment opportunities and be accepted, respectful and inclusive. One size does not fit all! Our development approaches need to be flexible, bendy and elastic. Our toolkits versatile, adjustable and refreshing. Just like a glass of cold water under the hot summer sun. Our solutions and intervention need to add texture and flavour to what we do. Nobody likes a bland meal! If we want people we work with to love our food, we need to cook it well! And if we want them to request a second serving, third etc. serving we need to become master chefs! We can’t just dish up a ready-meal. Nor can we digest anything for anybody. We need to practise what we preach and learn to cook properly and creatively and use fresh ingredients too! Land (2003) said “Do as I do” rather than “do as I say” and that this “is seen as ultimately a more effective operational approach than the patient development and implementation of policy” (p. 3). Basically this is how I understand modelling. Swennen et al (2008) defines modelling as an opportunity to learn, discover and make sense of specific approaches which academics could use with their own students, through experiencing, reflecting, identifying links to own practice and theory. It is much more valuable if all that thinking and discovery is generated by the academics themselves. The immersive experience acts as the trigger for all this to happen. If we take this magic away, and digest experiences for others, we remove opportunities for discovery, deep, meaningful and perhaps transformative learning. So, let’s just do more of this. 

Let's immerse ourselves

Let's just immerse ourselves, enjoy and discover! What are WE afraid of?

In order to work effectively with diversity and promote inclusivety, academic developers need to be adjust practices to a specific situation, a specific group, a specific individual. Could this mean that we are chameleon developers? Context is king!!! Having a mix of orientations (Land 2003) will be very handy but also remembering that, as Neame (2011) states that  interventionalist approaches work better at initial stages and should be seen as a temporary solution and a way in towards adapting democratic development and the creation of learning communities, collaborations and partnerships to grow and develop together.

Projects are great opportunities to bring people together and it is happens that academic developers not jut initiate projects but also participate in projects set-out by others, not as often perhaps as it could. I love projects, I love working with people from different disciplines. In a way, projects are playgrounds, especially the smaller and shorter ones. People are busy these days probably more than every and we are asked to do more and better with less. That is why probably little projects are more attractive. But also because they cost less!!! But little projects can have a big impact and can generate ongoing engagement, enhancement and innovation of practices. They are wonderful opportunities to learn through experimentation and dialogue, or as Segal (2003) puts it such “projects encourage individuals to test the water and may therfore be a less threatening forum” (p. 129).  I think there are plenty of opportunities for academic developers to engage in project work with colleagues from different disciplines and professional areas and we haven’t really explored these fully. What hinders such vital collaborations?


Baume, D. (2003) Monitoring and evaluating staff and educational development, in: Kahn, P. And Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 76-95.

Kahn, P. (2003)Developing professional expertise in staff and educational development, in: Kahn, P. And Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 212-226.

Land, R. (2003) Orientations to Academic Development in Eggins, H. And Macdonald, R. (eds.) The Scholarship of Academic Development, pp. 34-46. The Society for research into higher Education and Open University Press.

Light, G. Cox, R. & Calkins. S. (2009) Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.The Reflective Professional, London: Sage Publications.

Neame, C. (2011)  Exploring Models of Development of Professional Practice in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: What Can We Learn from Biology and Marketing? Educate~ Vol. 11, No. 1, 2011, pp. 9-19.

Segal, R. (2003) Working on educational development projects, in: Kahn, P. And Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 128-142.

Swennen, A., Lunenberg, M., & Korthagen, F. (2008) Preach what you teach! Teacher educators and congruent teaching. Teachers and Teaching; theory and practice, 14(5,6), pp. 531-542.

VALUE 2 scholarship, professionalism and ethical practice: evaluating vs measuring? #SLEC2012 (week 6)


Academic development is about quality enhancement and as such it should involve active experimentation and action research (Cowen, 2003) and scholarly activities with colleagues and students to inform practice. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat! Curiosity drives creativity, scholarship, drives, research  and learning. Creative and critical thinking together with creative expression and innovation are vital part of what we do.

This is indeed what attracted me to become an academic developer. I challenge myself and others and I love that my job is full of surprises, full of learning opportunities and rich in experiences and co-development. It is about being innovative and pushing the boundaries, experimenting and evaluating interventions to improve practices further. Not just challenging others, but also our own ideas, perceptions, behaviours, views, knowledge and skills.

I am scared of heights but together we can do it

I am scared of heights but together we can do it. Help me, will you?

Sometimes, however, I feel that we are lost in policies and strategies and measures… do we always know what we try to measure? Why do we measure? Also, do we perhaps confuse evaluating and measuring? Or is it the same thing? I don’t know and I would welcome any comments on this. Wisker (2006) reminds us that “evaluation is increasingly important to our work, our status and effectiveness” (p. 2) and Baume (2003) also says that “monitoring and evaluation are an integral part of good practice right from the start of any development activity, rather than optional add-ons;” (p. 77) Baume (2003) continues by saying that there is a need “to make monitoring and evaluation as natural as breathing” (p. 93). This sounds all really good and useful and necessary for what academic development stands for and what can be achieved. But I do feel that Quality Assurance it increasingly occupying or taking over our work… and limiting time for Quality Enhancement, which would enable us to adopt a more enquiry-based approach to evaluating academic development. But then Thew (2003) notes that there is “a strong movement in HE to achieve quality assurance through quality enhancement.” (p. 239) and if this is the case, these are good news for all of us.

I found the following very powerful and meaningful:

“Change, development and learning belong to the same family of concepts; as such, staff in higher education might properly have a professional interest in their relationship and in acquiring skills to purposely change the activities and contexts in which they operate. The important point is that we learn these skills ourselves and we continue to refine them through reflection on self-managed action.” Pennington (2003, p. 19)

empty chairs = emptiness?

empty chairs = empty minds, empty practices?

And if this is true, or one way of looking at things, how can we or should we measure impact? Bums on seats seems to work for number crunchers. But where lies the real impact of staff development? Stefani (2003) says that “attention might more fruitfully be paid not so much to what we do as to why and how we do it and what we achieve.” (pp.10-11) Anf this would be helpful, what can we achieve and how do we know that we have achieved it?

I would say that our work can be measured – or better, evaluated, by looking at the application and transformation of practices – through evidence-based practice and collaborative peer reviewed pedagogical research and scholarly activities conducted within learning communities that include staff and students. This is something that I am doing but am not emphasising or ‘selling’ openly with my students. I generally, don’t like talking about the research that I am doing, I just do it. Perhaps I should talk more about it in order to gain more credibility especially since I usually adapt high-risk strategies.

Part of being a professional in academic/educational development but also a teacher in HE more widely, means to recognise and accept diversity as an opportunity to enrich practices; enable and deepen stimulating engagement for all; motivate and enthuse and create learning communities and communities of practice. Also, we need to be continuously alert of our own positionality and pre-conceptions and beliefs and become reflective and reflexive practitioners who recognise and seize opportunies for further and continuous professional development to evaluate and enhance our own practice further through engagement in research and other scholarly activities and have the  freedom to pursue our professional interests linked to learning and teaching that might not be linked to institutional priorities.

We also need to remember that we will enjoy the journey more if we go with others, so making professional friendships and participating in communities of developers (Kahn, 2003) will enrich us and define who we are, who we want to become, how and why.

Comments on the above are very welcome.


Baume, D. (2003) Monitoring and evaluating staff and educational development, in: Kahn, P. And Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 76-95.

Cowan, J. (2003) Learning from experience, in: Kahn, P. And Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 192-211.

Kahn, P. (2003)Developing professional expertise in staff and educational development, in: Kahn, P. And Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 212-226.

Pennington, G. (2003) Guidelines for Promoting and Facilitating Change, Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) Generic Centre.

Stefani, Lorraine (2003) What is staff and educational development? in: Kahn, P. And Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 9 – 23.

Thew, N. (2003) Personal and professional development: strategies for coping and for growth, in: Kahn, P. And Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 227-240.

Wisker, G. (2006) Educational Development – How do we know it’s working? How do we know how well we are doing? , Educational Developments Issue 7.3,  pp. 11-17.

VALUE 5 continuing reflection on professional practice: to reflect? (week 5) #SLEC2012


  • When: Yesterday, today, tomorrow, now and later
  • Who: I, others, you and we
  • Why: Good, crap, better, change, new
  • What: Messy, thinking, analysing, connecting, learning, acting
  • How: Conversations with self and others, together

The above popped into my head when I started thinking what reflection means to me. The bullet points capture well why I reflect and what I get out of it. We don’t just learn through experiences. Learning is not an automated or mechanical process. Cowan (2003) suggests that “we learn from what we take from that experience. “ (p. 192). For me, every experience is an opportunity to stop for a little or a bit, listen to internal and external voices, evaluate, refine and adjust, learn and experiment again. Cowen reminds us that “active experimentation” is both a valuable and (currently) somewhat neglected component of […] personal and professional development” (p. 193) and I am wondering why we prefer to play it safe (or not play at all actually!!!)… Is it dangerous to experiment and for whom?  Should we not become active experimenters and include our students in such exciting and stimulating activities?

distorted realities, a waste of time?

distorted realities, a waste of time?

Reflection is an integral part of my practice as an academic developer. I reflect in- and on-action as Schön (1987) and for-action (Cowan, 2003). I love to capture my messy and (sometimes) complex and ill-defined explorative reflective stories in a variety of ways and engage even deeper with them through this creative and critical process. For a while now, I capture my reflections online. Some people think that reflections are better kept private. I am noot sure about this. If I focus on what I am taking from an experience it won’t harm anybody. But, this is something that needs to be learnt and it is too easy to blame others for our shortcomings… I have done a few gaffes myself… Models by Kolb (1984) and Gibbs (1988) can be extremely useful when scaffolding and developing reflection. I see sharing reflections as a window to connect with others, experiences, thoughts, ideas and emotions and learn through conversations. Basically it is an opportunity to turn monologues into dialogues. Yes, learning is conversational. We learn so much more from each other and together! Of course we need time and space for ourselves to think and switch-off from the world for a while but not for ever, not for long. When will we recognise this and do something about it?

Writing my reflections down and creating visual stories enable me to re-live my experiences, emotional ups and downs (and in this sense it is therapeutic too). Yes emotions distort our experiences (Moon, 2004), thoughts and ideas but they do help us learn, un-learn and re-learn through deep reflection, analysis and trying to make sense of what we feel and why.  This is why I reflect and have embedded reflection organically in my practice. Making reflection an add-on won’t work. Well, I don’t think it can work in the long-term. However, an add-on can be the start leading to full integration in practice when it is recognised to be a useful learning activity. Biggs (1999) notes that “a reflection in a mirror is an exact replica of what is in front of it. Reflection in professional practice, however, gives back not what it is, but what might be, an improvement on the original.” (p. 6) Therefore, deep and critical reflection as well as reflexivity (Giddens, 1999) are vital if we want to grow as professionals in our ever changing globalised world.   It is a way to keep in touch and question who we are, what we do and how, but also who we want to become and why. Roebuck (2007) referring to  Prpic (2005) states that “It is proposed that reflexive practice, which incorporates deep or quality reflective practice, can be described as a process of inquiry which facilitates appreciation and understanding of contextualised views (outside of the learner’s own experience), a deeper learning experience, the development of ideas, and consideration of or actual change.” (p. 79) Reflexivity will indeed help us step-outside ourselves, our identity and become more objective, tolerant and inclusive towards anything and anybody we think and feel is alien.

experiencing other worlds

experiencing other worlds - do I have to?


Biggs, J. (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Cowan, J. (2003) Learning from experience, in: Kahn, P. And Baume, D. (eds.) A Guide to Staff and Educational Development, SEDA, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 192-211.

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by Doing. A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods, Birmingham: SCED.

Kolb, D. A. (1987) Experiential Learning, Experience as a source for learning and development, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

Moon, J. (2004) A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning. Theory and Practice, Oxon: Routledge.

Prpic, J. (2005). Managing academic change through reflexive practice: A quest for new views. Research and Development in Higher Education, 28, pp. 399-406.

Roebuck, J. (2007) Reflexive practice: To enhance student learning, Designing for Effective Learning, Journal of Learning Design. Vol. 2, No. 1, available at [accessed 30 November 2011]

Schön D.A. (1987) ‘Educating the Reflective Practitioner’ , San Francisco Jossey Bass.