Let’s infect! #SLEC2012 (week 4)

see, it works

See, it works, but only when we get close(r)

I just love how Charles (a colleague from another institution who is also currently on the SLEC2012 course, how cool is that), or should I say Neame (2011) ;o) visualises Academic Development and the impact it can have:

“In the context of Higher Education practice we might consider a new idea that affects teaching practice to represent the „virus‟. The rate of infectivity of the virus may be high or low, depending on how susceptible or resistant members of an academic community may be to the new idea. That „resistance‟ may be influenced by context, such as the influence of senior managers, or peers within their discipline, for example.” (p. 5)

The above started a mini investigation which took me to Wikipedia to find out how a virus is defined:

“A virus is a small infectious agent that can replicate only inside the living cells of organisms.” (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virus)

Key words for me here were replicate and live. Then I wanted to find out more about infectious agents because it did sound nasty… so I clicked on the hyperlink and got the following:

“A pathogen (Greek: πάθος pathos, “suffering, passion” and γἰγνομαι (γεν-) gignomai (gen-) “I give birth to”) or infectious agent — colloquially, a germ” (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathogen)

Then I stopped my investigation because of the words ‘πάθος’ (passion) and ‘giving birth’. I no longer felt that the analogy sounded negative. I also remembered that passion can be infectious or has infectious powers and this is exactly what academic development could be or become or just be.

We were asked this week to look at Land’s (2003) orientations and reflect on the following questions. I thought to add them here together with my attempt to answer them. Please feel free to challenge if you disagree with any or all my replies, especially if you know me and the way I work.

Which orientations best describe the way in which you work as a leader of educational change?

It is definitely a mix and if I had to decide which one, I am, I wouldn’t be able to.

I think I am definitely romantic and am really keen to help others develop and grow. But I also spot opportunities easily for interventions and changes that have the potential to enhance practices. Also, challenging orthodoxy or current status-quo and more traditional practices is something I do naturally through modelling and being provocative at times. So so pleased to have read the phrase “Do as I do” rather than “do as I say” in Land (2003) and the acknowledgement that this “is seen as ultimately a more effective operational approach than the patient development and implementation of policy” (p. 3). This would be like the doctor telling you smoking is bad for you with a cigarette in his mouth!!! I also reflect on my practice and share these openly with others to encourage a dialogue and also challenge my own ideas and pre-conceptions.

Not sure about the managerial orientation and if this can actually happen effectively without a human touch and a clear understanding of how people function. But maybe I don’t understand it properly… I am sure it is me…

Which of these orientations are most effective in working on which national agendas?

Would it be the opportunitist and romantic one which will make it happen? I know what is expected here is probably more something linked to being political and strategic but I am not sure if this is enough. And I think, one can also be strategic in different ways especially since we work with people and not with robot or machines.

Do Land’s orientations represent a useful model for thinking about staff development and leading educational change?

The orientations defined by Land (2003) are useful and show that a mix of orientations is needed in staff development contexts to support and lead change. Many of us have a variety of orientations within us and within a team we complement each other, or should do this. However, there are challenges there and we need to learn, I think, to be more open and collaborative and recognise and use more effectively strengths within our own teams. We are so much more powerful when we work together… strategically and co-ordinated ;o)

Are there any implications of Land’s list of orientations for your personal work as a leader of educational change?

I can see more clearly what I am not. I am definitely not managerial! Maybe I am too much of a rebel. But can there be strategic rebels? Or, do we actually benefit from strategic rebels?

These orientations provide areas for personal professional development but also raise awareness of doing things differently and doing different things in different situations. This is how I see it. The same applied to learning styles, which I actually call learning habits. It is just too easy to keep doing what we are good at or comfortable with. Why not challenge ourselves to do things differently and do different things altogether. We can’t expect others to learn and develop, if we are not prepared to do the same.

Key for me is, as Neame (2011) states for academic developers to have choice to adopt approaches which they think are suitable in different situations and contexts. One size does not fit all. But we need to remember more democratic approaches enable communities of practice to emerge. Through these will we all start recognising the value and contributions of each other and want to grow to achieve common goals. Also, I was so pleased to read in this paper that at the heart of academic development are people, networks and communities and that we need to learn to learn and develop together.

Something I would also like to investigate further is the social identity theory – Tajfel (in- and out-of group, see http://www.simplypsychology.org/social-identity-theory.html) and how this influences or if, academic development activities and impact.

By the way, do you remember that there was a time, not so long ago, when we were asking students not to use Wikipedia and Google? How (fast) things change…



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

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.