22 SES 06 B, Academic Professions and Leadership
Public universities are expected to play a formative role in contemporary societies by providing advanced knowledge through cutting-edge research and graduating students who will engage as responsible citizens in society (Bergan, Harkavy and Land 2013). In exchange for public funding, universities must decide how their societal ‘pacts’ (Solbrekke & Karseth 2006) are enacted, with academic staff, who are largely responsible for research and teaching. University strategic plans are one of the few public documents to express how academic and administrative staff are expected to meet their university’s obligations, especially in light of competing pressures (Morphew et al, 2016). However, how academic staff interpret a strategic plan depends on individuals’ professional values, as well as unique historical, regional, national, political, cultural, and economic contingencies (Delanty 2001; Olsen 2007; Tierney and Lanford 2015). Given, the centrality of strategic plans as public declarations of a university’s aspirations and values, there are compelling reasons for academic leaders and staff to reflect on the plans (Sutphen, et al, in press).
Our research question focuses on how academic developers’ answer the various calls to academic staff put forward in strategic plans. We use three case studies from Norway, Sweden, and the United States to explore how leaders of academic development (AD) units respond to their respective university’s strategic plan. How do the leaders of academic development allocate resources, including other staff members, and decide on the contents of the courses on teaching and learning their units offer to academic staff?
Using textural analysis, this session analyses the aims of teaching and learning in strategic plans from three research-intensive universities in Norway, Sweden, and the United States. We have found similar goals articulated in the three university strategic plans, including goals to: Improve or uphold quality; transform students; further globalise the university; and engage in interdisciplinary teaching and research. We also investigate how leaders of academic development units in the three national contexts develop an understanding of concepts that may be taken fro granted, such as a liberal arts education in the US or bildung in Europe. We then consider the aims of teaching and learning in the strategic plans and how they are put in practice by the leaders of academic development in the three universities.
Through this paper and others undertaken by an international team of researchers (Formation and Competence Building of University Academic Developers), we aim to better understand the formation of academic developers, as well as academic staff in five research-intensive universities, two in Sweden, two in Norway, and one in the United States. We use formation to describe the ways in which individuals are ‘shaped’ and ‘reshaped’ by their experiences and critical reflection on those experiences, which can in turn help them clarify their goals, attitudes, values and ethical stances (Sutphen and de Lange, 2015). As a result of their reflection and experiences, they may change their goals, attitudes, values, and ethical stances (Sutphen, et al, in press) and ultimately their practices.
Our methods include semi-structured interviews of leaders of academic development on each campus. We use deliberative communication (DC), a systematic approach (Englund, 2006) for academic developers to use to clarify their aims,values, and aspirations for academic development. To explore the uses of language in the texts of the plans and interviews, we use an insider/outsider approach (Jacobs, 2005; Sutphen et al, in press). For each of the three plans, there is one insider to the University and two outsiders. The study design seeks to capitalize on insider knowledge while balancing the need for outsiders to question what the insider takes for granted about the institutional context. We take this approach, in part, because we found blurry goals for academic developers in terms of teaching and learning. For example, what does "supporting” teaching mean in a Norwegian, Swedish, or American university? What does “supporting” student transformation mean? How do academic developers translate wide-ranging and broad goals to their practices? What practices do they use to model teaching for student transformation?
We speculate that this project will provide the authors with an approach for reflection with peers on their practices that we will then develop into a structured and organized approach for others to use. We have found that using DC as a practice in this study (and in our day to day work) has led to abductive, iterative conversations that have helped us discern a meaning and purpose of higher education. Ongoing conversations have become a collective and cooperative endeavour, aiding us in our reflection on practices, values, and institutional norms, while at the same time acknowledging our pluralism. Three years into the project, we have found it helpful to be deliberate about our formation, and the concept has helped us better understand the relationships among our practices and values and the aspirations espoused by our universities. Thus, we are more aware of our professional practices, in particular when we are being deliberate or simply reacting to explicit or implicit demands from university leaders or external stakeholders. Thus we offer in this paper a model of how deliberative conversations may be a resource for colleagues to deliberate on their formation.
Bergan, S., Harkavy, I., & van’t Land, H. (2013). 28. Reimagining democratic societies: thoughts for the road. Reimagining Democratic Societies: A New Era of Personal and Social Responsibility, 18, 283. Delanty, G. (2001). Challenging knowledge: The university in the knowledge society. Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press. Englund, Tomas (2006). Deliberative communication: a pragmatist proposal. Journal of Curriculum Studies 38(5), 503-520. Jacobs, C. 2005. “On Being an Insider on the Outside: New Spaces for Integrating Academic Literacies.” Teaching in Higher Education 10 (4): 475–487. Morphew, C. Fumasoli, T. & Stensaker, B. (2016). Changing missions? How the strategic plans of research-intensive universities in Northern Europe and North America balance competing identities. Studies in Higher Education https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2016.1214697, 1-15. Solbrekke, T.D. (Principal Investigator): Formation and Competence Building of University Academic Developers Norges Forskningsråd (under grant number 246745/H20). http://www.uv.uio.no/iped/english/research/projects/solbrekke-formation-and-competence-building/ Solbrekke, T. D., & Sugrue, C. (2014). Professional accreditation of initial teacher education programmes: Teacher educators' strategies—Between ‘accountability’ and ‘professional responsibility’? Teaching and Teacher Education, 37, 11-20. Solbrekke, T.D. & Karseth, B. (2006) Professional responsibility – an issue for higher education? Higher Education 52: 95–119. DOI 10.1007/s10734-004-5762-5 Sutphen, M., Solbrekke, T., and Sugure, C. (2018). Toward Articulating an Academic Praxis by Interrogating University Strategic Plans. Submitted January 22, 2018 to Studies in Higher Education. Sutphen, M. & de Lange, T. (2015). What is formation? A conceptual discussion. Higher Education Research and Development http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2014.956690, 411-419. Tierney, W.G. & Lanford, M. (2015). An investigation of the impact of international branch campuses on organizational culture. Higher Education 70:283-298. DOI 10.1007/s10734-014-9845-7 eir practices? What practices do they use to model teaching for student transformation?
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