There is no doubt that regardless of the criticism levelled at the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) it has raised the profile of how important high quality teaching and the associated curriculum is to students and to the Office for Students (OfS). Designing curriculum is a complex and time consuming process and sits alongside a wide range of competing commitments academic colleagues have to undertake. This is where dedicated support for curriculum development can play an integral role in the effective design of curriculum and improvements to the student experience. The Centre for Innovation in Education (CIE) at the University of Liverpool is one such unit and is dedicated to supporting academic colleagues across the institution in the designing of curriculum. Our relationships vary depending on the activities, but we do our best work when the core teaching team see us as integral members of the Programme Development Team. This LTHE Chat will pose questions set by the CIE Team, relating to the work of such departments with a plea to all course/programme teams to reach out to these internal departments as a critical friend at every opportunity.
For more information about the Centre for Innovation in Education please click here
To view the Wakelet for this chat. please click here
Can you be taught how to teach? Is this something that can be reduced to Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) on a PG Cert? Can “experts” in learning and teaching equip novices with the skills they need to be successful teachers?
Well, maybe. But we would like to suggest another way of thinking about this. During a particularly lively LTHEChat, the three of us realised that learning how to teach might be both more complicated and more simple than it had first seemed to be.
We started to think about how we had learned, and what that might tell us about how we might teach. We also recalled times that we have helped others to learn, and thought about how these experiences might help us to talk about learning how to teach. We don’t claim to be experts – far from it – but we hope that the questions that we think are important will also strike a chord with you.
Tonight we are asking six questions, but we also hope to start a larger debate.
Steve Rowett is Digital Education Futures Manager at UCL. He leads a small team exploring the potential for new technologies in teaching and learning across the university’s 75+ departments. Most recently he has been working to promote active learning classroom tools, introducing a new blogging platform for UCL and conducting a review of the institution’s digital learning environment through interviews with staff and students.
Santanu Vasant is the Head of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, at the University of East London.
Leading the team of three Academic Developers and three Learning Technology Advisers plus an administrator within the University, Santanu has a research interest in how staff are developed and empowered to use technology in their practice but also to make better use of the physical learning space as a result. He also has an interest in how we motivate and engage those staff that don’t engage with CPD activity. Santanu has worked in Learning Technology since 2004 and has worked on projects as diverse as the issues of transition and induction into higher education (the subject of his MA Dissertation at UCL’s IOE (2012)), deploying PebblePad and developing activities for reflecting writing in BA Education, PGCert in HE and Business Studies (writing a chapter on this topic in Pebblegogy, 2011). More recently he has written a chapter on Bring Your Own Device Policy and Practice in Smart Learning: teaching and learning with smartphones and tablets in post compulsory education (2015) edited by Andrew Middleton and contributed to the UCIAS Learning Spaces Toolkit (2016). In June this year, he had his latest chapter published entitled ‘Attitudes, Practices and Outcomes Explored through the Use of Social Media’ in Social Media in Higher Education: Case Studies, Reflections and Analysis, edited by Chris Rowell.
Sarah Honeychurch @NomadWarMachine is a Fellow in the Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, where she is investigating ways of making learning, teaching and assessment less stressful and more meaningful for staff and students. She is currently also writing-up a PhD in Education which considers the effects of online peer interaction on learning, and this has led to her interest in lurkers in online communities. Sarah blogs at http://www.nomadwarmachine.co.uk/
To view the Wakelet for this chat, please click here
Working in academia we often feel the pressure to publish. If you speak to most academics about presenting and publishing research they will start talking to you about their subject research. How many of us are publishing or presenting our pedagogic research and how many institutions are encouraging us to do this?
Although a number of institutions have made moves to create greater parity between teaching-focused and research-focused staff, both the support and the need to publish differs considerably between these two groups of staff. Part of the issue comes from many institutions choosing not to submit research in HE pedagogy into the REF. This is a topic that has come under the spotlight recently with a paper published earlier this year by Anne Tierney, which follows up an early publication by Cotton et al. (2017) both of which look at the barriers to inclusion of learning and teaching research in the REF.
One of the areas highlighted in these papers is that for some disciplines, lecturers have no experience of qualitative research or the type of research design needed for education research and therefore do not feel comfortable publishing. This was my own experience, coming from a molecular biology background when I ran very controlled experiments that produced numeric data. My initial pedagogic research was very much about providing evidence to support my own practice and I have found the challenge to be confident enough to publish as a personal barrier to sharing this research with a wider audience.
On the other side of this I have often been a consumer of pedagogic research. Either through reflecting on my own practice or helping encouraging others to reflect, finding evidence from the literature to support and help understand what I am doing has been invaluable. Equally at times I have found it frustrating that I have not been able research on some of the topics I have searched for, sometimes knowing that others have done work in the area.
In this tweetchat we will explore ideas around benefits of presenting and publishing pedagogic research, barriers to achieving and hopefully the more prolific publishers amongst us can provide some insights into overcoming these.
Cotton, D. R. E., Miller, W. & Kneale, P. (2018) The Cinderella of academia: Is higher education pedagogic research undervalued in UK research assessment?, Studies in Higher Education, 43:9,1625-1636, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2016.1276549
Tierney, A. (2019) The scholarship of teaching and learning and pedagogic research within the disciplines: should it be included in the research excellence framework?, Studies in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2019.1574732
Isobel is currently Academic Lead: Active and Inclusive Learning at Anglia Ruskin University. During several years spent as a lecturer and course leader she developed a strong interest in using technology to support students creating their own learning. Having worked in both medical and veterinary education she is an advocate of evidence-based practice and brings this ethos to her own teaching practice.
#LTHEchat is partnering once again with #altc for a special edition chat as part of the Annual Conference of the Association for Learning Technology This year we are opening up the #altc #LTHEchat conversation to include questions from Co-Chairs, presenters and organisers of the event focused around the conference themes: student data and learning analytics, creativity across the curriculum, critical frames of reference and learning technology for wider impact.
For this special edition of #LTHEchat, we’ll be asking you to share your thoughts on data, dialogue and doing – ideas that inform your own critical perspectives in learning technology and to look at the bigger picture across the sector.
Please join us at 8pm on Wednesday 28 August 2019.
ALT’s Annual Conference 2019 takes place 3-5 September and is seeking to confront and challenge established assumptions, approaches and accepted truths in relation to key dimensions of digital education, and to advancing our practice and thinking through critical dialogue and reflection, closer scrutiny of evidence and theory, and a stronger commitment to values including creativity, community, social good, openness and porosity, and more democratic access to knowledge and learning.
The conference will be hosted at the University of Edinburgh and co-chaired by Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal and Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services, University of Edinburgh; Louise Jones, independent, and Keith Smyth, Professor of Pedagogy at the University of the Highlands and Islands.
The search for talent and innovation is increasingly becoming a prominent feature in many fields including Higher Education (HE). This follows a common assumption that knowledge capital generates new discoveries and innovations. In the field of HE, one of the many ways in which such concept takes hold is through the international mobility of HE staff – which is growing both in scope and influence. This population is said to diversify HE settings and make them ‘global campuses’ and ‘knowledge hubs’. They are also said to contribute to the creation and diffusion of tacit knowledge through direct interactions (OECD, 2010).
The international mobility of HE academic staff occurs through established channels and partnerships between transnational HE institutions and through career track individuals seeking to fulfil their own career ambitions. Academic institution are increasingly going international and seek to draw upon specific knowledge or abilities from expanded pool of talents. They do this in a number of ways – including creating international knowledge networks through their [foreign] international staff. For HE academic staff, mobility offers an avenue from which to exploit opportunities abroad and realise career goals.
There are several factors that shape international mobility. Skills–based selective policies play an important role in influencing mobility choices, but also in minimising the potential effects of legal and technical constraints including immigration and language barriers. Restrictive policies in the form of immigration and other technical obstacles are often blamed for limiting the international mobility of HE academic staff. Examples include the point–based systems in Australia and the United Kingdom and the H1B visa in the United States. Liberalizing immigration policies is likely to generate more competition for talent, and help with the flow HE academic staff particularly from low – income and non–OECD settings.
The labour market can also hinder international mobility. Figures from OCED on highly skilled academics suggest significant and surprising gaps between international mobility and income, the former being associated with lower earnings in several countries (Auriol et al., 2010).
The competition for talent is fierce, and inevitably, there are those who win (brain gain) and those who lose (brain drain). In HE landscapes, the former tends to be concentrated in a few high–income OECD countries, and the latter in low–income and non–OECD settings. More recent considerations on ‘brain circulation’ have reframed the discourse and highlighted the circularity of knowledge flows. Recent evidence sheds some light on the relationship between students and scientists flows, with individuals going abroad to study and then returning home with the know–how along with acquired innovations and networks (Del Carpio et al., 2016). This suggests brain circulation takes place within wide complex networks of highly skilled and internationally mobile academics, and provides an avenue to counter the effects of brain drain particularly in low – income and non–OECD HE settings.
Auriol, L., Felix, B. & Schaaper, M. (2010) Mapping Careers and Mobilities of Doctorate Holders: draft.
Del Carpio, Ximena, Çağlar Özden, Mauro Testaverde, and Mathis Wagner. (2016). “Reversing Brain Drain: Evidence from Malaysia’s Returning Expert Programme.” Policy Research Working Paper 7875, World Bank, Washington, DC.http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5kmlfbn2ddtd-en.
Dr Hassan Osman is a lead lecturer in research methods in the Faculty of Health & Wellbeing at the University of Bolton. Main academic interests: technology driven pedagogy, accelerated learning & education development in crisis or emergency settings (@drhassanosman1).
Dr Rossana Espinoza is an Online Learning Content Developer at the Centre of Academic Practice Enhancement at Middlesex University, helping staff with active practice based learning, collaborative learning classrooms or social media. She supports the Staff Development Forum as Communications Officer since November 2016 on a pro bono basis. She is passionate about Education and technology (please note the capital E and lower case t!). She is formerly a lecturer in Languages, Business and Research Methods at Coventry University. Find her on Twitter. Find her on LinkedIn.
Despite the increasing ubiquity of the term digital
university, the concept of the digital university remains diffuse. Perceptions
tend to slant in predictable directions: technological determinism; association
within a particular account of education – open online learning for example;
and concentrate on particular accounts of value and quality. We have noted a
tendency to locate the digital in current institutional structures and
processes within the university, instead of asking how the ‘digital’ challenges
those structures and processes, and how in turn they can be reconfigured or
We have been investigating, thinking and writing about how to create an alternative critique and narrative for discussion around the development of universities, with a particular slant on questioning the role of “the digital”. This has culminated in the publication of our book, Conceptualising the digital university: the intersection of policy, pedagogy and practice. In the book, we propose a more holistic, integrated account emerging from our exploration of theory and research. Central to our narrative are questions concerning the extent to which digital technologies and practices can allow us to rethink where the university, our curricula, and the educational opportunities the university provides are located and co-located, and how they can extend current thinking about the development of higher education as a publicgood. Our key areas of development include:
Emphasising the human and social
processes involved in organisational change and the development of digital
practice in the university.
Developing the notion of learning
environments beyond a techno-centric perspective.
Advancing academic practice with
respect to learning and teaching, literacy and human development through the
effective use of digital technologies.
Redefining university participation,
outreach and the common good in a digital age.
We critique the current neoliberal forces that seem to be driving the political agenda around the development of Higher Education. We question the widespread adoption of such terms as education as a service, the business of education and the notion of the student journey. Fee structures, loan repayments, AI and digital technologies seem to be the drivers of current discussions around the future of education. That technology will drive transformation seems to be a given. The actual human element needed for transformation, and the practice of learning and the potential of using Higher Education to bring about meaningful social change is rarely given prominence. In this week’s tweet chat we want to find out about your experiences and thoughts on the notion of the digital university. In particular we want to explore our notion of a digitally distributed curriculum. One in which core values of participation, praxis and public pedagogy are enabled through open scholarship, co-location, co-production and porosity. These enactment of such an open, distributed curriculum could be seen in variety of ways including: more explicit emphasis on the development of agency and personhood across all disciplines, more diverse pedagogical approaches, different uses of digital and physical spaces, more open community development, student work that is openly available and not bounded within institutional digital silos.
The Digitally Distributed Curriculum, Smyth, 2018
Sheila MacNeill is an independent consultant, open educator, writer and artist specialising in all aspects of supporting digital learning and teaching primarily within the UK HE sector. She has over 20 years experience within education working in a range of national and institutional roles covering curriculum design, assessment and feedback, learning analytics, developing digital capabilities, learning spaces and almost everything else in between. She is also the current Chair of ALT (the Association for Learning Technology), the UK’s largest membership organisation supporting the effective use of learning technology. In addition to her busy academic life, Sheila is active on a range of social media and has been blogging for over 13 years on her experiences and thoughts around various aspects of digital learning and teaching – She says it how she sees it!
is Professor of Pedagogy and Head of the Learning and Teaching Academy at the
University of the Highlands and Islands. With a particular interest in digital
education, Keith is known for developing the openly licensed 3E Framework for
technology-enhanced learning and has been involved in a range of projects and
initiatives focused on technology and inclusive educational practice,
co-creative pedagogies and open education. Keith’s recent research with Sheila
MacNeill and Bill Johnston explores the place of the digital in relation to the
co-location of higher education and the curriculum beyond the physical and
virtual confines of universities, and for extending Higher Education as a public
good. These topics are explored in the newly published book Conceptualising the
Digital University: The intersection of policy, pedagogy and practice. Keith
blogs at http://www.3eeducation.org and is on Twitter @smythkrs
Firstly, why Oedipus – why start this brief discussion with the notion of an old historical and mythological figure. Well, most if not all people are familiar with the elements of the Oedipus myth: an infant, born in to a prophecy that predicts that he will kill his father and marry his mother. Despite all efforts by the parents to ensure that that Oedipus avoids or circumvents his ‘fate’, Oedipus ultimately fulfils the Prophecy and succumbs to his fate. Much has been written about the Oedipus Myth, relating to its themes of Fate, agency, and of course Freud and Sexuality; but for the purposes of this discussion, I want to focus on the meaning of the name of the main character: that of OEDIPUS. Oedipus actually means or translates as “swollenfoot”, and refers to an event in Oedipus’s infancy, where, to prevent him from crawling, and walking (and thereby thwarting his destiny), his birth parents pierced and bound his ankles together.
In this sense, the prophecy as prediction, becomes a powerful influence over Oedipus’s life. The prophecy – as PREDICTION – represents the speaking in to being of a future outcome. Karl Popper has some interesting things to say about Oedipus, and what he defines as the “Oedipus Effect”. Oedipus, and the Oedipus Effect, are powerful metaphors for control, ultimately leading to self-fulfilling prophecy. One of my arguments here, in relation to most – if not all – types of formal education, is that through the rigid binding, controlling and measurement of knowledge, we bind the ankles of learners subjected to these systems and frameworks. We produce and reinforce mechanisms that stifle and constrict knowledge and control the activities (and thought processes) of those subjected to them.
Sphinx: The Riddle of Discovery
In the various interpretations of the Oedipus myth, Oedipus, on his journey to recover and understand his heritage – and authentic identity – he is confronted by a Sphinx. As his journey is halted, Oedipus has to solve a riddle posed by the Sphinx, to get past the Sphinx, or, be killed. Thwarting all expectation, Oedipus solves the riddle, and defeats the Sphinx; therefore, Oedipus can continue is journey of discovery – of detection – to locate and understand exactly who he is. The Sphinx is a Chimera – a figure that is an amalgamation of various, strange and unrelated body parts. Mythologically, the Sphinx is often portrayed as a double headed beast. The notion of EDUCATION is also Chimerical in this sense. Education as a word, and a practice, is an amalgamation of two (often contradictory) foundational principles. ‘Education’ derives from two related though quite different terms; in one sense it is derived from the Latin word educare, which means to train or to mould; and, in another, to that of educere, which refers to the leading out of inner knowledge and creativity. As Craft states:
The former, in the tradition of Hobbes and Durkheim, have stressed social conformity, the reproduction of the type, and a curriculum emphasising instruction, obedience and the acquisition of knowledge. The latter, who represent the child-centred tradition, following Rousseau or Froebel, have preferred self-expression, individual curiosity and creativity, and a curriculum embodying choice. (Craft 1984, p. 9)
Bass and Good (2004) corroborate Crafts position and note that educare embodies an educational position that preserves and passes down knowledge, where youths are shaped, ‘in the image of their parents’. Whereas educere promotes alternative forms of educational practice, that set out to recognise and prepare new generations, ‘for the changes that are to come—readying them to create solutions to problems yet unknown. One calls for rote memorization and becoming good workers. The other requires questioning, thinking, and creating’ (Bass and Good 2004, p. 162).
It is the area of educere that I am interested in exploring in relation to pedagogy; essential I would like to explore some practical tactics, that allow us to explore and experiment with different ways of teaching and engaging learners.
In relation to the notion of ‘tactics’ here, Michel de Certeau’s work The Practice of Everyday Life (1984), is useful. De Certeau articulates the meaning of tactic by firstly establishing a counter definition for the notion of ‘strategy’. For de Certeau, strategy encompasses a set of processes and activities that enable those who rule and administer the parameters of a particular space to influence and, through the legislative power of policy, dominate it. Through mechanisms of regulation and governance a legally identified body (such as the university) establishes and promotes the types of actions and behaviour expected within that space. As de Certeau notes:
I call a strategy the calculation (or manipulation) of power relationships that becomes possible as soon as [an entity] with will and power (a business, an army, a city, a scientific institution) can be isolated. It postulates a place that can be delimited as its own and serve as the base from which relations with an exteriority composed of targets or threats (customers or competitors, enemies, the country surrounding the city, objectives and objects of research, etc.) can be managed. (de Certeau 1984, pp. 35–36)
In contrast, for de Certeau, the definition and subversive purpose of the tactic is quite different; it poses a direct challenge and micro political contradiction to strategy, and any associated expectations as penned and distributed by corporate strategists. As de Certeau notes:
The space of a tactic is the space of the other. Thus it must play on and with a terrain imposed on it and organized by the law of a foreign power. It does not have the means to keep to itself, at a distance, in a position of withdrawal, foresight, and self-collection: it is a manoeuvre “within the enemy’s field of vision,” … It operates in isolated actions, blow by blow. It takes advantage of “opportunities” and depends on them … In short, a tactic is an art of the weak. (de Certeau 1984, p. 37).
In sum, whilst individuals (both students and practitioners) are expected to conform to the flows and webs of strategic prescription, we can explore tactics that enable us to thwart structural and strategic pressures in their entirety. At the level of the individual, anti-conformist tactics can be conceived and creatively invoked so that performative expectations, determined by the policies and rules of the organisation can be implemented in manipulated ways. As such, recognising possibilities to ‘un-bine’ ankles, (and minds, and thoughts, and imaginations).
Bass, R. V., & Good, J. W. (2004). Educare and Educere: Is a Balance Possible in the Educational System? The Educational Forum, 68, 161-168.
Craft, M. (1984). Education for Diversity. In M. Craft (Ed.), Education and Cultural Pluralism (pp. 5-25). London: The Falmer Press.
de Certeau, M. (1984). The Practice of Everyday Life. (S. Randall, Trans.) Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hammond, C. A. (2017). Machiavelli, Tactics and Utopia. In M. Daley, K. Orr, & J. Petrie (Eds.), The Principal: Power and Professionalism in FE. London: Trentham.
Craig A. Hammond is Programme Leader for Education Studies at Liverpool John Moores University; prior to moving to LJMU, Craig taught across further education and college based higher education (CBHE) for 18 years. From 2015 to 2017 Craig was the Research and Scholarship Leader at University Centre Blackburn College. In addition to writing and publishing, he teaches across a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Gaining is PhD in Sociology from Lancaster University in 2012, he gained recognition as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) in 2015 for his college-based work on research and scholarship. His recent publications Hope, Utopia and Creativity in Higher Education: Pedagogical Tactics for Alternative Futures (Bloomsbury, 2018), and ‘Folds, Fractals and Bricolages for Hope: Some Conceptual and Pedagogical Tactics for a Creative Higher Education’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), address and develop concepts and practices associated with democratic learning and radical creativity.
In addition to being one of the co-convenors of the BERA ‘Higher Education’ Special Interest Group, he is Deputy Editor for the education journal PRISM, an editor and event organiser with the Cultural Difference and Social Solidarity Network (CDSS), and Vice-Chair of the LJMU Centre for Educational Research Centre, along with coordinating the Critical Pedagogies research theme.
The ‘Hidden Curriculum’ refers to the tacit, unintended, unacknowledged
lessons that are passed on alongside the formal curriculum. Education acts as a
form of socialisation after all, and alongside the subject matter, we also implicitly
inculcate norms, values and beliefs through our practices, language and even
the architecture around us.
These implicit ‘moral’ lessons may help to create a positive
learning environment and socialise students into the characteristic discourses
and practices of their discipline as well as other socially desirable ‘graduate’
attributes, but they may also more
problematically reinforce social injustice and inequality- invisible lessons about gender, class,
sexuality or race. It’s not just a matter of the individual teacher’s practice;
as part of the curriculum, the institution and the discipline, it’s also systemic.
It could be right there in the way we expect students to write ‘properly’, the
personal qualities we reward in our marking schemes, in the phrasing of an
assignment or feedback, in the dynamics of a seminar or furniture of a lecture
room. Academic Literacies theory tells us that learning takes place in a
strongly hierarchical context of power and authority, not just regarding the
knowledge that is right and wrong, but about identities and voices that are
As the Hidden Curriculum is, well, hidden, it is difficult to engage with, interrogate or contest. Some
students with greater cultural capital may pick these invisible lessons up
unproblematically, others may find themselves struggling to guess the secret rules
of the game or feel a strong sense of dissonance with what is being presented
as ‘right’ or ‘natural’. They can be left bewildered and disempowered by mixed
messages when in the hidden curriculum clashes with the official one or with
their own prior experiences of education. We may ourselves be unaware of these
incidental learning outcomes around how a ‘good student’ thinks and behaves,
unwittingly passing on our own socialisation, unexamined and unchallenged.
Without examining our hidden curriculum, we cannot make deliberate or ethical decisions
about what we’re encouraging students to learn.
Are we helping students to enact the necessary
epistemological or methodological implications of their discipline in HE, or is
it rather about their ability to fulfil socio-cultural conventions which have
more to do with class, race or gender than actual learning? The Hidden
Curriculum in Higher Education often implicitly demands that students reject
their own ways of making and articulating meaning, their own identities and
ways of knowing and seeing the world, as being less valid than those of the
university, alienating them from their own learning. Could this be contested
This tweetchat will explore our encounters with the Hidden
Curriculum asking how both we and our students can uncover it, articulate it
and, where desirable, challenge it together through a process of emancipatory
Lea, M. and Street, B. (1998) ‘Student Writing in Higher
Education: An Academic Literacies Approach’, Studies in Higher Education,
23(2), pp. 157-172.
Lillis, T. (2001) Student
Writing: Access, Regulation, Desire. London and New York: Routledge.
Snyder, B. R. (1970) The
Hidden Curriculum. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press
Margolis, E. (ed.) (2001) The Hidden Curriculum in Higher Education. London and New York:
A brief biography:
Dr Helen Webster is a Learning Developer and head of the Writing Development Centre at Newcastle University. She works in a central, student-facing role across the institution, helping students at all levels and in all disciplines negotiate the complex conventions and practices of UK Higher Education, and reflect on their own study strategies to become successful independent learners.
She is interested in developing interprofessional models and approaches for this emerging profession, particularly around one-to-one work. A qualified teacher, Senior Fellow of the HEA and Certified Leading Practitioner of Learning Development, she is also an executive steering group member for the Association of Learning Developers in Higher Education. She blogs at https://rattusscholasticus.wordpress.com
When defining teaching excellence I can only talk about an institution-specific culture, and what it looks like at my institution, Harper Adams. Here it’s based on interactiveness, where colleagues are really engaging with students and thinking outside the box in terms of delivery. This could be as simple as thinking about how to deliver similar information in a different way, for example, colleagues may present information in webinars or livestreams. To create this culture, encouraging staff to talk about teaching excellence is key.
As a result of attending the Teaching Excellence Programme (TEP) in 2017, I’m trying to be more active in terms of talking to people about teaching excellence. This includes discussing the concept, asking how we can measure/ achieve it and how that might relate to a TEF submission. I’m probably the annoying person that keeps nattering at colleagues about the same thing! While our TEF narrative is authored by senior colleagues, like other teaching-active staff, I have an interest in contributing to the data we’re collecting and what it demonstrates about Harper Adams.
I was fortunate to get some internal funding to run a project to understand the staff perspective on the drivers and barriers to teaching excellence, which will be published externally. In addition to this, I’ve run conference workshops at both Edge Hill and Plymouth University and will be hosting a #LTHE chat on Wednesday 15 May. This project was integral to understand institution-specific teaching excellence, with one of the recommendations being that it is rerun on a larger scale to gather wider viewpoints.
Before I took part in TEP I was looking to gain a sense of where my practice was in terms of the sector and also where I sat within my institution in terms of my contribution in this particular area. My desire to take part was very self-driven, I wanted to be able to bring some useful recommendations back to base. I found that the first masterclass around teaching excellence absolutely set the context of why we were there. After that, there were useful refresher exercises and group conversation which helped me with sense checking that I was still up to speed with good practice.
I took part in TEP because I wanted to access a wider viewpoint and internal staff development wouldn’t have offered the same breadth. I was able to share viewpoints with colleagues from different institutions, as attending events like this mean that automatically you’re in the room with people from different places.
I thoroughly enjoyed the TEP. The pre-correspondence was well organised and we were encouraged to make contact with fellow group members before the first workshop, which created a welcoming and approachable environment in which I felt that any questions I had would not be seen as silly. This environment is representative of the culture I have helped create a Harper Adams, one in which teaching excellence is discussed and engaged with by staff.
is a Lecturer in Student Academic & Professional Development at Harper
Adams University, specialising in the design and delivery of animal and
veterinary-related Workforce Development.
Emily joined the staff at Harper Adams as a Project Coordinator in 2006. In 2008, Emily was appointed Business Development Manager where she co-developed a number of animal- and veterinary related courses. Emily’s commitment to enhancing practice is illustrated by her successful completion of postgraduate teaching and learning qualifications. In 2012, Emily took up an academic post and achieved Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy in May 2015. To date, Emily’s excellent practice has been recognised through the ASPIRE Excellence Awards (in 2008-9, for Sharing and Developing Excellence and in 2015-16, for Innovating and Sharing Excellent Practice). In 2017/18, Emily started work on an internally funded Aspire Development Fellowship exploring the drivers and barriers to teaching excellence.
PGRs have very different opportunities
to teach. Some institutions (or departments) rely on PGRs to deliver teaching
but provide limited or no support for their development. Others value and
nurture this as a vital career stage, recognising that for those PGRs interested
in pursuing an academic career, being immersed in teaching activities is part
of the ‘academic apprenticeship’ of the PhD, and that these teaching opportunities
will enable their PGRs to enter a competitive academic jobs market in a stronger
position. Some may choose not to involve PGRs in teaching at all, citing reasons
of teaching quality or exploitation of PGRs (whose primary focus should be on
The discourse around Postgraduates
who teach (PGWT*) is also varied- from celebrating and valuing their ‘unique
niche’ and ‘key strengths’ (Winstone and Moore, 2017), to referring
to them in deficit terms- “you’ll just be getting a PhD teacher for this
session”, or “we’re not going to fob you off with a PhD student”. With the
backdrop of fees and the pervasive value for money narrative, students too may
feel that they are getting something ‘less’ if some of their teaching is
delivered by a ‘novice academic’.
Yet there is much evidence to
suggest that PGWT bring something valuable to the table. As near-peers,
students often perceive them to bring a more personal contact which can impact
on retention (Reeves et al 2016) and this ‘relaxed and comfortable interaction’
can play an important role in student learning (Nasser & Fresko, 2018).
Their enthusiasm, the fact that they are often adept at guiding students
through threshold concepts and their ability to ‘exploit the research-teaching
nexus to the maximum’ (Fairbrother, 2012) are also highlighted as strengths.
And what of the PGWT themselves. PGWT
can be described as having role conflict (Park & Ramos, 2002) as they
negotiate the dual identity – and liminal space – of being both student
and teacher. They are often given teaching responsibilities without ongoing support
or development, or with little opportunity to experience the full range of
teaching and learning activities. Yet Ryan (2015) highlights that “providing students with structured
training in the pedagogical fundamentals will not only enhance the GTAs ability
to carry out their role as teachers, but it will also improve the undergraduate
learning experience”. So how can those who work in development
or academic roles best support them?
This Tweetchat will uncover and
explore some of these issues. The questions are designed to be responded to by both
PGWT and those who support or work with them.
* The term PGWT is used broadly, to describe all doctoral students
who teach including PhD students with limited teaching and those on GTA
Fairbrother, H. (2012)
Creating space: Maximising the potential of the Graduate Teaching Assistant
role, Teaching in Higher
Education, 17:3, 353-358
Nasser-Abu Alhija, F. and Fresko,
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Catherine Lillie is a Teaching Enhancement Advisor at the
University of Hull. The main focus of her role is developing and delivering teaching and learning
support for PGRs and early career academics through a range of accredited and
credit-bearing programmes, and non-accredited provision. She is a Senior Fellow
of the HEA and is a part-time doctoral student at Lancaster University.