22 SES 12 C, Teaching and Learning: Didactics and Motivations
Tertiary educational institutions internationally are increasingly concerned that the teaching they offer is of high quality, meets institutional expectations, and serves students well by ensuring their learning and wellbeing needs are met. Research has shown that student learning can be enhanced by innovative pedagogical approaches (Henard & Roseveare, 2012; Stupans, Scutter, & Pearce, 2010). There are many institutional and student-related drivers for enhancing the quality of teaching at tertiary level; for example, the need to respond to changes in the size and composition of the student intake, accountability to external agencies, changes to curriculum and new technologies, and institutional reorganisation. Many of these external drivers of change are beyond lecturers’ control, but there are also personal motivations that drive lecturers to initiate and implement teaching innovations.
The research reported here draws on data from a wider study of innovative approaches to teaching and learning at one New Zealand university. The study was a strategic initiative to investigate the innovative pedagogical approaches and practices amongst academics, with the goal of determining how best to support and facilitate pedagogical innovations likely to contribute to student engagement and learning. In this paper, we focus on two questions:
What are expert tertiary educators’ personal motivations to initiate and implement teaching innovations?
How do motivations for tertiary teaching innovation relate to educator and student wellbeing?
Self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan, 2017; Ryan and Deci, 2000) helps us understand and explain human motivation, development, and psychological health and wellbeing, and can assist in predicting performance outcomes. Competence, autonomy, and relatedness are the basic universal inter-connected psychological needs, identified in Self-Determination theory, that together affect motivation. The degree to which these needs are met enhances or diminishes functioning, self-motivation, and psychological health and wellbeing. These three concepts are useful for examining academics’ motivations to innovate their teaching, and conditions that can enhance or limit their feelings of autonomy, competence and social connectedness in relation to their teaching.
Narrative case studies were undertaken with eleven award-winning innovative teachers. To construct case studies of innovative practice to share across the institution, the research design was qualitative and included semi-structured interviews, teaching artefacts (e.g., online lectures, assignment descriptions, online teaching sites), student work (e.g., assignments), and focus group interviews with students in relation to the work of selected academics. In addition, online surveys were conducted across the university for educators and students. The data from interviews with academics have been used for this presentation. The three psychological needs from Self-Determination theory provided the framework to describe and discuss the motivation of educators for developing and implementing innovative approaches. Analysis was carried out by the authors independently reading and rereading the interview transcripts, noting instances of motivation related to competence, autonomy, and relatedness, then combining analyses through discussion. Examples of pedagogical innovations are presented, along with analysis of lecturers’ descriptions of the decisions that led to the changes made.
Motivation to innovate practice was largely driven by student-focussed imperatives such as: to enhance student engagement and achievement, to develop useful content and non-content related skills, constructing knowledge, promoting behaviours for further learning and employment. More personally-focussed motivations included: following content and pedagogical passions, wanting to continually develop and improve practice including through using new digital technologies, and maintaining interest in material taught many times. The role of staff and student wellbeing is considered in a discussion of key factors that motivated innovative pedagogies, such as personal satisfaction and enhancing learning-focused lecturer-student relationships and interaction. Self-Determination theory notions of autonomy, competence and relatedness provide understandings that add to and further illuminate previous studies (e.g. Hannan, English & Silver, 1999). Factors that support and encourage the development and implementation of innovative and inspiring teaching practices are also considered.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2017). Self-determination theory. Basic psychological needs in motivation, development and wellness. New York: The Guilford Press. Hannan, A., English, S., & Silver, H. (1999). Why innovate? Some preliminary findings from a research project on ‘Innovations in teaching and learning in higher education’. Studies in Higher Education, 24(3), 279-289. doi: 10.1080/03075079912331379895 Henard, F., & Roseveare, D. (2012). Fostering quality teaching in higher education: Policies and practices. OECD Institutional Management in Higher Education. Downloaded from: https://www.oecd.org/edu/imhe/QT%20policies%20and%20practices.pdf Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and wellbeing. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78. Stupans, I., Scutter, S. & Pearce, K. (2010). Facilitating student learning: Engagement in novel learning opportunities. Innovative Higher Education, 35, 359–366. DOI 10.1007/s10755-010-9148-6
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