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

infect

“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.

References

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 http://www.social-learning-strategies.com/documents/Wenger_Trayner_DeLaat_Value_creation.pdf

Value 6 Developing people and processes #SLEC2012

blossoming

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.

How?

How?

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?

References

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 http://www.lpt.fi/pblconference/full_papers/07_full_papers.htm [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.

Why?

Why?

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…

References

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 http://www.hull.ac.uk/php/edskas/learning%20styles.pdf

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

Growing

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?

References

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)

curiosity

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.

References

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

experience

  • 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?

References

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 http://www.pedagogy.ir/images/pdf/reflective-practice.pdf [accessed 30 November 2011]

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

in the state of upside down #SLEC2012 (week 4)

I just love that song. It makes me feel good whatever mood I am in and especially when I am feeling down. So uplifting! Full of energy!

I think we would all benefit from the state of upside down for a bit or a bit longer than just a bit to be able to see and experience things from a completely different perspective. How does the world look like upside down? How do we look like upside down? How does everybody else look upside down? And since we can’t all be astronauts and experience what that means literally, maybe we could attempt to explore it at least metaphorically.

Well, as academic developers or agents of change (Elton, 1995; Roche, 2003) I am wondering which changes we promote most. Does it really matter, if these changes are coming from the top, the bottom, outside, inside or from our own individual and collective professional  shopping basket? I think it does even if some try and put us into tiny little shoeboxes with little fresh air to breath, no space to run, no water and sun to grow. Boud (1995) states  that developers should also be able to pursue personal professional interests which are not necessarily aligned with institutional priorities – so pleased that somebody else feels too that this is important – and Eastcott and Thew (2003) remind us also there is a need to  juggle priorities with sensitivity. In the shopping basket of priorities are internal, external and our own agendas. We need to identify ways to be more strategic. We are often told and reminded, to make bigger impact and ‘infect’ as many as possible. This does sound like a war scenario… and it might even feel like one at times…  But even if we loose a battle, we haven’t lost the whole war. I don’t like wars. I don’t like fighting. I think there are other ways to achieve greater things. Could we focus more on construction instead of de-struction? Building bridges that have the power to connect people, ideas, concepts and visions?

So what could we do? Well, we live in turbulent times, as Eastcott and Thew (2003) predicted almost 10 years ago. Today, our times are more turbulant than every and everything is in constant flow. Time never stops and things change all the time faster and faster these days. Just go and watch a movie. What do you notice? Well, I noticed that they are all high-speed. Everything is in zooooooming mode. It is hard to keep up. But what does constant and rapid change mean for our work? What does it mean for the alliances we are forming, re-forming, co-forming? Is there a need to be strategic?

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.

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?

Let's fly together

Let's fly together

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 donkeys. 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.

Am I worthless?

Worthless?

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 but we need alies. This is my personal view on this.

Something else before, I finish this post which is disconnected with all the above, well not completely but it is in a way. My thoughts around teaching real students triggered a discussion with other academic developers in Moodle recently. Some of them also recognise the value in teaching ‘real’ students and I thought to include their observations below:

“Needing to maintain the value of our ‘currency’.  To be able to say to our colleagues “well, when I was teaching students last week…” etc.  That seems very important, now you’ve pointed it out!”

“I agree with you both about the value of maintaining contact with ‘real’ students – without this, we are perhaps too removed from the ‘coal face’ to appreciate the effects of development activities.”

“Somewhere else on this course people have talked about getting currency by working with students and I am becoming aware that after 27 years of teaching I am really, really missing by teaching practice with undergraduate students. I am involved in the educational development of students, but these students are colleagues who are studying on the PgC, and they are very different to work with.”

“I also agree that it is helpful if we maintain contact with ‘real’ students – ie other than our colleagues on PG Certs and the like. Colleagues in Health, such as nurses and midwives, have to maintain their practice by ‘getting their hands dirty’ on the ward with real patients if they want to keep thier professional standing-  I wonder if SEDA should consider including this as a condition of Fellowship.”

“Yes, I’d go with that too, not only on the grounds that so many of you have indicated already, but also because I think it would communicate something to the academic colleagues with whom we’re working most of the time: i.e. that we’re ‘real’ teachers. At the same time it would be quite daunting. Imagine if a teaching educational developer got poor student feedback! Or if colleagues were really not impressed… or were so impressed they succumbed to professional jealousy or intimidation… I sense a minefield to be negotiated, but I would still support the idea. ”

“I agree – seems very logical, so why doesn’t it happen more? Is it because Ed dev is an “HR function and what’s that got to do with students…?” (as many would say). On a pragmatic note (or perhaps as devil’s advocate), how many of us would have access to opportunities to teach ‘real students’, unless we have a foot in two camps (i.e. one ed dev, and one in discipline x or y).  I used to be in that position (it was exhausting), and I know many of us still are, but would enforcing it only serve to emphasise the (false)argument that educational or academic development isn’t a proper disciplinary field in its own right?  So I find myself coming round in a circular argument to the point that all students are real students – even if they are our colleagues on PGCerts etc (or would-be SEDA fellows on an online learning programme!)  Yes, let’s seize opportunites to teach as wide a range of students as possible, but perhaps we shouldn’t worry too much about categorising them.”

I would really be interested to find out how our current PGCAP students feel about the above and if it would indeed make a difference to them if we, academic developers, also had the opportunity to teach ‘real’ students.

References

Boud, D. (1995) Meeting the Challenges, in Brew, A. (ed.) Directions in Staff Development, Buckingham: The Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press, pp. 203-223.

Eastcott, D. and Thew, N. (2003) Working creatively with national agendas, in: Kahn, P. and Baume, D. (eds.) A guide to Staff & Educational Development, Oxon: Routledge.

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.

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…

 

References

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.

no magic = no discovery = no deep learning #SLEC2012 (week 3) @pgcap

eureka

eureka

Higher Education is changing and Academic Development is no different. While, in Wisker (2003) we read

“Ten years ago, we [staff developers] might have had to be self-starters who decided what to do in a very hands-on fashion, working with the few who turned up to lunchtime workshops and innovations sessions, and then went away and tried out good ideas in the classroom, perhaps never spreading good practice any further. Now we are much more central in our functions, much more likely to ensure that what we organize and deliver is in alignment with strategic priorities. We are also, however, in danger perhaps of addressing the needs of only a few stakeholders, serving the masters with their hunger for paper rather than working with the practitioners.” (p. 25)

… and this was written almost 10 years ago…

To work with practitioners and other stakeholders, including the students is indeed vital for academic developers. I am recognising the importance of this and am in ongoing conversations with academics and increasingly with students to co-design and co-deliver staff development initiatives which are tailored to specific needs.

One size doesn’t fit all! When will we recognise this and more importantly, do something about it? I would like to go a step further and suggest that it is also important, for us Academic Developers, to teach ‘real’ students and not just talk about teaching real students. This has been something I do miss within my current role and am currently exploring possibilities to do something about it. Also the plan is to engage academics further in the PGCAP programme and especially the core module and turn collaborations into partnerships and shared ownership. I can see benefits from such an approach for academic developers and the wider academic community. These initiatives, these relationships above all, have the power to really place academic development central stage in what is happening and finally move away from the grey-zone of an institution. Too often we are still excluded or play a peripheral role in what is happening linked to teaching and learning. Forced partnerships are like pre-arranged marriages… not sure if they can really work. We need the freedom to build relationships but we also need to know how to do this properly and effectively.

Resistance is there and will be there. The question is how can it be reduced. I would agree with Wisker (2003) that the deficit model, where the top identifies what is wrong and puts staff development in place to make it better, won’t work. Wisker (2003) reminds us that

“academics in particular are notorious in their distaste for and rejection of this kind of industrial and commercial problem-orientated model and can assiduously refuse it, ignoring the learning process that is supposed to be part of the development.” (p. 27)

and my experience confirms this but I wouldn’t say that it is the majority and maybe generalising this can be problematic. What is needed are joined initiatives, where academic developers, academics and students come together because they want to enhance academic practice and the student experience not just because somebody has forced them to work together. I seem to repeat myself but I have to say it again, I am afraid. It is all about creating relationships with people and working and learning together to achieve a common goal. I can’t see how we can achieve anything of value and that will have a lasting impact. Inspired also by the ‘steering group’ approach mentioned in Rose and Buckley (1999) and I would like to investigate this model further to identify how it can work in our institutional context.

my seat

my seat

Wisker (2003) also talks about how we, academic developers, do things and how easy it is, too easy?, to just do the things we like, we feel comfortable with without challenging, stretching ourselves and others. I am sure this is common in other professions too, but also in our private lives. How many times do we just cook the things we have cooked before? How many times do we keep sitting in the same seat in the train? How many times do we walk down the same road? I try to avoid this repetitive behaviour in my professional and private life (why should we let monotony govern us?) … placing myself in the high-risk or firing zone. Curiosity killed the cat is one of the idiomatic expressions I never understood or could relate to. I think curiosity is a vital characteristic of and for learning.

let's just have a look

let's just have a look

I feel that modelling plays an important role in Teacher Education and Academic Development is part of this. It is the perfect time, space and place to be experimental, risky and innovative in a safe and supportive environment. Do we understand what modelling is? For me, modelling has nothing to do with demonstrating. Maybe people think that modelling is actually demonstrating. Modelling is an immersive and highly participatory and active learning approach. It enables learning to emerge  through immersion in experiencing a particular approach. However, we need to remember it will never be the perfect version. Could there ever be such a thing?

My role is to make people think, un-think, re-think, co-think and consider alternative approaches, attitudes and behaviours but also to act, re-act, pro-act and co-act to make learning exciting and stimulating. 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.

I would be very interested to find out what you think about this.

References

Rose, E. And Buckley, S. (1999) Self-directed Work Teams, American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), Alexandria (VA).

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), 531-542.

Wisker, G. (2003) Carrying out a needs analysis: from intuition to rigour, in: Kahn, P. and Baume, D. (eds.) A guide to Staff & Educational Development, Oxon: Routledge.