Professional Development Challenges in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education
Professor Sally Brown hosted a well-known tweetchat, #LTHEchat, last Wednesday 14th June from 8 to 9pm. The questions focused on a series of professional development challenges for HE professionals, which raise very important questions HE professionals need to ask themselves to stay current, healthy and happy.
LTHE chatters, who covered several backgrounds from academic staff, academic developers, educational technologists, learning and development professionals, found it very useful to participate in this insightful online conversation. What follows is the blog posting circulated prior to the tweetchat.
In our new book to be published with Palgrave in the summer of 2017, ‘Professionalism in practice: key directions in higher education learning, teaching and assessment’ (Sambell, K., Brown, S and Graham L.), Kay Linda and I have concluded with a series of seven challenges for readers around translating action into transformative change to benefit our students, our universities and ourselves, and these challenges will form the basis of my Tweetchat, in which my two co-authors aim to engage too.
Higher Education Institutions are not always happy places to work nowadays, since there is an increasing emphasis on performativity, multi-tasking and target achievement. Our aim in writing the book was to help to make the lives of those working in higher education careers more productive, positive and pleasurable, while simultaneously improving the lot of students who are the focus of our work. So for this tweetchat, we hope that by engaging with some of our challenges, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you are doing the worthwhile job effectively of fostering excellent practices and positive student experiences as committed and dynamic professionals. So are you prepared to make a commitment to:
- Self-challenge: some educational innovations might feel unfamiliar or challenging. If there are aspects of practice you find force you out of your comfort zone, for example, using innovative technologies to assess, flipping learning or doing role plays with groups, what strategies can you use to overcome these hurdles? Are there ‘buddies’ you can access who can help you along the way (and are there some things you can help them with reciprocally)?
- Ongoing professional development; in just about every profession, there is an expectation to undertake periodic and productive developmental activity. How much time are you able to commit to professional updating? As well as pedagogic courses and conferences, are you able to access informal self-development opportunities like Tweetchats like our own #lthechat) and engagement with MOOCs? How much time can you allocate to reading about Learning, Teaching and Assessment, and are your prime sources for updating books, articles, professional magazines (like SEDA’s Educational Developments) or electronic publications? How do you prioritise your reading?
- Partnerships with students: your learners have a high stake in the professional work you undertake. To what extent do you work with student representatives and others to enhance curriculum design, delivery and assessment (Healey, 2014)? How much account do you take of feedback from current students to improve the experiences of subsequent cohorts? To what extent do your systems allow (or require in the UK) students to be involved in quality assurance activities? Do you take every available opportunity to learn from your students?
- Inclusivity: how can you, in your live and virtual classrooms, work towards equivalence of experience if not identicality? How can you combat some of the barriers that society puts in place to disable some learners? In planning assignments, do you build in reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities from the outset, rather than waiting for contingencies to arrive and designing alternatives at the last minute (Waterfield, West and Parker, 2006)? Are you careful about not making assumptions about students’ domestic and personal circumstances? For example, refugees and students from ‘Looked After’ backgrounds, that is from foster or child-care homes, do not always have family to turn to for help or advice, and not all students live in traditional family contexts.
- Engaging with communities of practice around learning, teaching and assessment. To what extent are you able to engage with the pedagogic strands within your professional, regulatory or subject bodies? Where you work in an institution which has Faculty or University/college wide commitment to CPD, how much can you contribute to your LTA conferences and workshops? Can you contribute to institutional design and delivery of your Post Graduate certificate programmes in Academic Practice/ Learning and Teaching in Higher Education? What can you do to foster developmental approaches to teaching observation? How can you best share your good practice with others within and beyond your own HEI, nationally and internationally?
- Cross-cultural capability: higher education nowadays has global reach and cross-cultural expectations (Jones and Killick, 2013). Do you use teaching, learning and assessment practices that some students in your classrooms find unfamiliar and alien? How do you go about finding out what kinds of experiences they have had to date of teaching, learning and assessment, the last of which is often very different? Do you support international colleagues to understand how national quality systems work in your country? Is your curriculum designed to showcase international practice in case studies and the like?
- Paying forward: it is likely that you have in your career benefitted from support from more experienced colleagues. How can you bring on the next generation of teachers and learning support staff? Can you take under your wing colleagues new to teaching, (and particularly assessment), not only to help them flourish, but also to assure the standards of the curriculum provision you share? To what extent can you mentor colleagues seeking professional accreditation or career advancement? How can you be a good academic citizen?
Healey, M., 2014, February. Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. In Workshop Presented at University College Cork (Vol. 12, pp. 15-00).
Jones, E. and Killick, D., 2013. Graduate attributes and the internationalized curriculum: Embedding a global outlook in disciplinary learning outcomes. Journal of Studies in International Education, 17(2), pp.165-182.
Waterfield, J., West, R. and Parker, M., 2006. Supporting inclusive practice: developing an assessment toolkit. Towards Inclusive Learning in Higher Education: Developing Curricula for Disabled Students, Routledge: London, pp.79-94.
This blog post was originally published on the LTHEchat website prior to the tweetchat entitled Professional Development Challenges in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.
Professor Sally Brown is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education Diversity in Teaching and Learning at Leeds Metropolitan University and was until July 2010 Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academic). She is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth and Adjunct Professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast and James Cook University (both in Queensland, Australia). Sally has worked in education for more than forty years and was, for five years, Director of Membership Services for the Institute for Learning and Teaching, prior to which she worked at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle for almost 20 years as a lecturer, educational developer and Head of Quality Enhancement.
She is a National Teaching Fellow and was awarded a £200,000 NTFS grant for three years to research Innovative Assessment at Master’s level. She is widely published, largely in the field of teaching, learning and assessment. Sally is an independent consultant and workshop facilitator who offers keynote addresses at conferences and events in the UK and internationally.