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.