What is the ‘third space’?
Third space is a term used in a HE context primarily to describe activity taking place between academic and professional settings (Whitchurch, 2008 and 2013) – in contemporary HE more and more roles have been and are being developed that are based in this third space (e.g. retention support officers, widening participation and access staff, employability roles, learning developers, educational developers, learning technologists etc), but many academics (e.g discipline specific lecturers) and professional staff (e.g counsellors, librarians, disability advisors) also do key work in this third space to support student learning, and enhance teaching practice.
Within HE settings and in media discussion about HE there is sometimes a tension between academic and professional settings, which can lead to limitations on effective working across silos. If we want to enhance teaching and support learning and student experiences more effectively, we would argue that we need to value the third spaces we engage in. So for example projects to support retention or employability are likely to take place in this third space drawing on professional staff, academic staff, students and others to develop enhanced practices and approaches – these developments can only really be effective if third space activity is valued and recognised.
Using the term ‘integrated practice’
Earlier this year we published an edited collection exploring third space working (McIntosh and Nutt, 2022a), drawing on the accounts and experiences of a range of staff working in HE talking about their work in third spaces. In exploring the many ways in which staff and students are working together ‘in-between’ academic and professional settings we have argued for the term ‘integrated practice’ as a useful way of defining what we are doing and why it is important that we work together across the conventional line markers in HE.
Our own particular perspective on third space working and integrated practice is that networking, and working together is key to success (McIntosh and Nutt, 2002b). We would argue that building relationships with others across silo boundaries enables us to enhance student learning experiences.
This is the final LTHEChat before Christmas, so we encourage you to come join us in working and thinking together, in sharing experiences and learning and in the spirit of Christmas, perhaps to wear your Christmas hats and jumpers (even if we cant see them!) and nibble on a mince pie while we consider the possibilities of third space working together.
McIntosh, E. and Nutt, D. (2022a) (editors) The Impact of the Integrated Practitioner in Higher Education: studies in the third space London: Routledge.
McIntosh, E. and Nutt, D. (2022b). The Impact of the Integrated Practitioner: Perspectives on Integrated Practice to Enhance Student Success. Student Success, 13(2), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.5204/ssj.2430
Whitchurch, C. (2008) Shifting Identities and Blurring Boundaries: The emergence of third space professionals in UK higher education, Higher Education Quarterly 62 (4) 377-396
Whitchurch, C. (2012) Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education: The Rise of Third Space Professionals (London, Routledge).
Dr Emily McIntosh has held a variety of senior management roles in learning, teaching and the student experience in several UK universities. She is joining the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) as Director of Student Success in January 2023. Her expertise includes institutional leadership for learning, teaching and student success, including student transition, technology enhanced learning (TEL), academic practice, equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), academic advising, and student engagement. Emily is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA, 2017) and a National Teaching Fellow (NTF, 2021). She was a founding Board member and Trustee of UK Advising and Tutoring (UKAT) from 2016-2021 is Academic Board Member of the NACADA Center for Research at Kansas State University, United States. She is also an Independent Member of the Board of Corporation for the Trafford College Group. Emily has always had a keen interest in all things student success and has published monographs, chapters and articles on a wide variety of topics from academic advising, personal tutoring and peer learning to integrated practice. She is on twitter: @emilythemac.
Dr Diane Nutt (PFHEA) is an Independent HE Consultant based in York, UK. Diane established the European First Year Experience Network and Annual Conference Series in 2006. She was chair of the network and organising committee until 2021. She is also on the International Advisory Board for the USA National Resource Center for First Year Experience and Students in Transition. She has been a bookseller, a Sociology lecturer, an educational developer and head of a student retention team. In 2015 she set up as an independent HE consultant, often describing herself as having two heads: one focused on student first year experiences and transitions; the other directing her passion for career development for staff working in higher education in a variety of roles spanning academic, professional and third space settings. On twitter @dixxyd (and now also on mastodon @email@example.com)