22 SES 08 B, Teaching and Learning: Professionalisation and Leadership
At many universities, there is a lot of effort and recourses invested in supporting teachers and leaders to increase their pedagogical competencies (Gaebel & Zang et al 2018). The group that support such activities, academic developers (ADs), have not only grown in numbers, but they are also expected to take on accruing responsibilities in their engagement with academic staff and leaders across the entire university (Stensaker et al 2017). Thus, their approaches and practice pay a formative impact not only on individual teachers’ classroom practice, but also beyond. However, there is still much we do not know about its inner life and in what way it contributes to higher education teaching. With the approach chosen in this paper, the overriding objective is to contribute with knowledge on how ADs support the development of professional responsibility in higher education teaching.
Sugrue et al (2017) shows in an extended review about ADs work that they are often called upon to support strategic initiatives that involve colleagues and institutional missions. Such expectations may conflict with a number of different practices and traditions. At a more general level, earlier studies have demonstrated how values founded on collegiality and traditional academic practices many times position ADs as “third-person facilitators” in the margin, between and betwixt leaders and academics (Green and Little 2013). With the design chosen in this study, we are specifically interested in the tensions and potentials that might occur in the interface between different academic disciplines. More specifically, we have chosen a case from a Norwegian university where an experienced AD with science of education as her discipline supports colleagues at the Faculty of Dentistry to develop and strengthen professional responsibility in their teaching. There are two strategic motives for this choice. The first is the choice of an experienced AD, which in our case means a person being a senior researcher with expertise in the field of academic development. With this, we position ourselves in relation to the ongoing discussion on whether ADs constitute a profession or not (Solbrekke & Fremstad 2018), which reflects great variations of who ADs are (Harland & Staniforth 2008; Kensington Miller, Brailsford & Gossman 2012). Our second strategic motive, is the choice to focus on the strengthening of professional responsibility in teaching for coming dentists, which teachers at The Faculty of Dentistry themselves have identified as challenging.
For the study, we adopt an understanding of professional responsibility that is embedded in the notion of “professionalism” used to describe capacities that are expected of a professional and the competencies that are required desirable components of high-quality professional work (Englund, 1996). Embedded in this understanding is “the moral base of professionalism” (Sockett, 1993), something of a “moral navigator” guiding professionals in their work. Such guidance is based on the responsibilities professionals are assigned when they become members of a profession regulated by the social trustee contract to serve individuals and society (Brint, 1994; Solbrekke 2007). It also indicates the life-long responsibility of professions to internally renegotiate their values and standards for “high-quality” work (Sockett (1993). From this background, the specific research question is: how can ADs support the development of professional responsibility in higher education teaching by using deliberative communication as a means?
It is our stance that the current and shifting landscape of higher education calls for ADs who are able to enact as deliberative peers in the meaning of facilitating deliberations among all agents in higher education on how the way we best organize education to serve the public good (Kandlbinder 2007). This is at core of professionalism and at core of all work in academia.
This study is an integral part of the research project Formation and Competence building of University Academic Developers, which aims to add knowledge on the formation and competence of ADs’ work. The specific case presented focuses on an AD supporting two teachers at the Faculty of Dentistry at a university in Norway, related to an ongoing process of improving and changing assessment practice used by instructors in supervised clinics. By developing better assessment procedures, with a more coherent and systematic formative assessment form and procedure that both document and communicate students’ capacities, the aim was to improve the competence of the instructors in their task to foster students’ formation in becoming professionally responsible dentists fit for work. With other words, the focus in case is on how the AD support the two teachers to help them improve their teaching practice in which they meet instructors in supervised clinics. The instructors, in the next turn, are the ones given the mandate to assess how well the students’ live up to the formulated "standards" of professional responsibility. The main role of the AD was to lead the process, while also being a critical friend to support the teachers. To do this, the AD organized her work as follows: 1. Pre-conversations with each teacher before they met their group with instructors. The aim was to qualify and discuss the concept of "professional responsibility" and introduce deliberative communication (DC) as a pedagogical means to do that. The central reference here was how DC has been developed by Tomas Englund as a way to structure (in five steps) and inspire to open communication (for a more elaborated explanation, see Englund 2006). 2. Group meetings facilitated by the university teachers, with support of the AD. Here the university teachers were encouraged to use DC as a tool to open up the discussion about professional responsibility and how to assess it. 3. Post-conversations with the AD and the teachers, where they evaluated the group-meetings and their work with understanding of and the assessment of professional responsibility. The data is based on the three empirical sources: I) The AD’s log which document the process and some of her reflections along the way in the project, II) recordings from the pre- and post-conversations between the AD and the university teachers and III) recordings from the teaching practice with the involved AD, the university teacher and the group of instructors.
On a more general level, the study offers a critical discussion about ADs' professional roles and responsibilities, which contributes important knowledge to the research field of academic development (see for example: Harland & Staniforth 2008; Kensington-Miller, Brailsford & Gossman (2010; Solbrekke & Fremstad 2018). In the AD's work, she took different roles, both as a more distanced observer and a more active role as an expert in the field. The study contributes knowledge in demonstrating how the AD enact her professional role at the local level, and underlines that this professional role can be characterized as relational and contextually situated. The study also contributes methodological development by studying the enactment and use of the philosophically grounded concept of deliberative communication when used as a pedagogical means (Englund 2006). Empirically the study demonstrates that the university teachers working at the Faculty of Dentistry themselves concluded that the ADs support was a highly valued support that helped them to quality their teaching for instructors in dental clinics. Going beyond the experience from the teachers participating in the study, it can also be concluded that DC provided the teachers with a language that enabled an approach to systematically work with the complex character of the concept of professional responsibility. Altogether the findings can be summarized as although the use DC did not make situations that are areas of conflict within professional responsibilities more visible, it thus provided fruitful means to problematize the assessment of students' professional responsibilities.
Brint, S. (1994): In an Age of Experts. Princeton University Press, Princeton College Press Englund, T. (2006). Deliberative communication: a pragmatist proposal. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 38(5), 503-520 Englund, T. (1996). Are Professional Teachers a Good Thing? In I.Goodson, & A. (eds): Teachers’ Professional Lives (London, Falmer). Gaebel, M., Therese Zhang, T., Bunescu, L. and Stoeber, H. (2018) Trends 2018. Learning and Teaching in the European Higher Education Area, European University Association Green, D. A. & Little, D. (2012) Academic development on the margins, Studies in Higher Education, 38:4, 523-537 Harland, Tony & Staniforth, David (2008) A family of strangers: the fragmented nature of academic development, Teaching in Higher Education, 13:6, 669-678 Kandlbinder, P. (2007) The Challenge of Deliberation for Academic Development. The international journal for academic development, Vol.12:1, 55-59 Kensington-Miller, Barbara, Brailsford, Ian, Gossman, Peter (2010) Developing new academic developers: doing before knowing. International Journal for Academic Development, 17:2, 121-133 Sockett, H. (1993). The Moral Base for Teacher Professionalism. New York: Teachers Solbrekke, Tone og Fremstad, Ester. (2018). Universitets- og høgskolepedagogers profesjonelle ansvar. (Academic Developers’ professional responsibility). Uniped 03 / 2018 (Volum 41) Stensaker, Bjørn (2018) Academic development as cultural work: responding to the organizational complexity of modern higher education institutions, International Journal for Academic Development, 23:4, 274-285 Stensaker, Bjørn; van der Vaart, Rob; Solbrekk, Tone Dyrdal; and Wittek, Line. (2017). The Expansion of Academic Development: The Challenges of Organizational Coordination and Collaboration (19-42). In Stensaker, Bjørn; Bilbow, Graham; Breslow, Lori and Van der Vaart, Rob (eds). Strengthening Teaching and Learning in Research Universities: Strategies and Initiatives for Institutional Change, Springer. Sugrue, Ciaran; Englund, Tomas; Solbrekke, Tone Dyrdal & Fossland, Trine (2017): Trends in the practices of academic developers: trajectories of higher education?, Studies in Higher Education 43:12, 2336-2353
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