All posts by Peter Kahn

Gaining recognition for high quality teaching – in a scholarly fashion?

Higher Education in the UK is in the process of undergoing a major shift. The Teaching Excellence Framework represents a sea change in the way that universities are funded. The framework seeks to assess the quality of teaching in universities, with metrics around student satisfaction, student employability and retention rates all central to the process.

While there are plenty of challenges associated with the framework, as I have made clear in a recent posting on the Telegraph Blog, it is also the case that universities will place a much keener emphasis on the calibre of their teaching staff. We can expect much greater interest in the Higher Education Academy’s Fellowships scheme, which seeks to recognise the commitment of staff to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education.

As part of its wider strategy, the University is heavily promoting its in-house recognition and accreditation framework to enable staff to gain Fellowships with the Academy, ULTRA. In order to gain recognition under this scheme, staff need to prepare a claim against the criteria for the relevant level of Fellowship.

Clearly, one can engage in the process in different ways. For instance, one of the criteria for gaining a Senior Fellowship is as follows:

Successful co-ordination, support, supervision, management and/or mentoring of other colleagues (whether individuals and/or teams) in relation to teaching and learning.

It would be possible to compile evidence against this claim in a relatively straightforward fashion, perhaps demonstrating how someone whom you mentored went on to secure more positive course evaluations from their students; with other evidence aimed at a similar level.

What would it take, though, for someone to compile a claim for a Fellowship that considered how to re-frame or develop his or her approach to mentoring colleagues?

This is the sort of territory that a recent virtual special issue of the journal Teaching in Higher Education set out to address. The issue, which I co-edited, is entitled A scholarly basis for teaching practices in higher education.

The journal has long been committed to critically examining and interrogating the values and presuppositions that underpin teaching in higher education. The articles in the special issue were selected with a view to prompting this sort of criticality amongst those engaging with the HEA Fellowships.

Dr Peter Kahn PFHEA

Director of Studies, EdD in Higher Education

The internationalisation of higher education: two recent studies

Universities are becoming increasingly more international, and at a genuinely rapid rate. An earlier report from the British Council highlighted student global mobility and the emergence of transnational higher education as two of the four most significant trends in the sector worldwide. Transnational education involves students studying towards a qualification from another country while staying in their home country.

It is intriguing, though, that internationalisation can occur whether students are willing to travel to another country, and also when they stay at home while another country comes to them, as it were.

Two of the students who have most recently completed the University’s EdD in Higher Education have highlighted a set of ways forward in relation to these two trends. Dr Jason Beckerman graduated in December 2015, and Sally Stafford will graduate at the next opportunity in July 2016.

Study abroad doesn’t need to be for a full year

Dr Jason Beckerman’s research comes at the issue of student mobility from a fascinating angle. He addressed ways in which short term study abroad trips can result in transformative learning for the students concerned. His study focused on students from New York University Abu Dhabi who travelled to Ethiopia and Sri Lanka. It was clear that the trips affected the way in which students oriented themselves to their future endeavours, and helped students to realise that through their studies they were able to make an impact on the wider world.

The report by the British Council indicated that the number of students studying away from their home country increased from 800,000 students in the mid-1970s to over 3.5 million in 2009. While the increase is impressive, it still represents a genuinely modest proportion of the overall number of students in higher education. In fact, the proportion of students with outbound mobility has remained constant since the 1990s at a little over 2% each year. These figures, though, relate to students undertaking relatively long periods of study abroad. Given the importance of understanding across cultures and countries to global society at large, Beckerman’s thesis supports the contention that greater recognition needs to be paid to short-term study abroad. His thesis is available in the University’s research repository.

J Beckerman cropped 2
Dr Jason Beckerman at his graduation ceremony in December 2015.
Integrating transnational ventures into the institution

Meanwhile, a second report from the British Council on the shape of things to come has noted that it is critical that programmes of transnational education are of a high quality. The report observed that transnational education is becoming an increasingly important component of internationalisation.

Sally Stafford’s research thus addresses a key area for the sector, the need for TNE (transnational education) initiatives to contribute to an institution’s internationalisation strategy. Her thesis was entitled ‘Strengthening institutional management of transnational higher education: Implications derived from a thematic analysis of the Cycle 2 audit reports of the Australian Universities Quality Agency’.

In building a broader knowledge base for those responsible for institutional and programmer strategies guiding transnational education initiatives, Stafford identified the importance of aligning transnational education initiatives with overall university mission and objectives. Other lessons that emerged from her research were the importance of integrating the transnational education venture into institutional structure and its governance and management processes. Her thesis will be available from the University’s research repository after her graduation in July.

It is essential that research into higher education explicitly shapes the things that are to come in higher education. And our congratulations go to these two colleagues for their research, and their doctoral qualifications.

Dr Peter Kahn PFHEA

Director of Studies, EdD in Higher Education

Critical perspectives on methodology in pedagogic research

Does the way in which we conduct research into higher education matter all that much? For instance, research conducted by John Biggs on constructive alignment has had a significant influence on the sector. But did the way that he conduct this research affect the nature of his contribution to knowledge, or the uses to which it could be put?

I have recently written a research paper that addresses these issues. The paper was published in today within the Special Issue of the journal, Teaching in Higher Education, (Volume 20, Issue 4, 2015). The journal itself has now been in existence for 20 years, and this issue of the journal marks out the anniversary. The Special Issue comprises an article from each of the current Executive Editors of the journal, along with contributions from two former editors, Professor Sue Clegg and Professor Jon Nixon. Taken together the contributions highlight a range of different perspectives and approaches to research.

My contribution stems from a critical realist perspective, and argues that the approach taken to pedagogic research does indeed influence the characteristics of the knowledge that emerges, and the uses to which it can be put. There has been a longstanding assumption that higher education represents an emancipatory endeavour, but recent changes in the sector have emphasised the way that higher education can lead to personal advantage rather than to the fulfilment of wider social responsibilities. The study considers ways in which methodology in pedagogic research subsequently affects the sector’s emancipatory potential. There will be many ways in which student learning is affected.

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First graduate from the University’s EdD in Higher Education

We are very pleased to have had our first graduate from the EdD, Rev Dr David Taylor, who is also a colleague here in the University.

David graduation single

The University first began its fully-online EdD programme in Higher Education nearly four years ago, in April 2011. The programme is run from here in the Centre for Lifelong Learning, in partnership with Laureate Online Education.

David attended the recent graduations in December in order to receive his doctoral degree. He is certainly highly positive about his experience on the programme, commenting for instance:

“Socially, the highlights have been the discussions and supervision, with friends and colleagues from around the world. Personally I have regained enthusiasm for learning. The biggest challenge has been to reorganise my life to make the space for the EdD – but I still write 3,000 words a week, which I never could before.”

The networking opportunities on the programme are intriguing, as it has attracted educators from more than 40 countries across the world. The participants on the programme come from a wide range of roles within higher education, and include senior institutional leaders, as well as lecturers, administrators and tutors.

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First students reach the thesis stage of the University’s EdD

The University launched a fully-online Doctor of Education (EdD) programme in Higher Education in April 2011. Today, a group of 15 students from the first cohort on the programme embark on their practitioner research thesis. Many congratulations to these students who have reached this stage in their studies! The first group includes two members of staff at the University itself.

Each of these students will write a 40,000-50,000 report that chronicles an original piece of practitioner research in higher education. They will each be supported by two supervisors, one of whom is a member of staff at the University. The thesis is expected to take between one and two years for a student to complete.

The online EdD is offered by the University in partnership with Laureate Online Education. There are now around 250 students active on the programme, making it one of the largest EdDs in the country, and the largest such programme that is specifically focused on the study of higher education. Students on the programme come from across the entire world.

Dr Peter Kahn, Director of Studies, EdD

Higher education could be different

The title of this blog posting was one of the underlying themes of a conference last month at the University of Edinburgh, organised in conjunction with the Society for Research into Higher Education. The conference ‘Higher Education as if the World Mattered’ contained a good store of ideas for those looking to develop new expressions of university education.

One can look at the conference as a set of researchers responding to Ron Barnett’s suggestion that our current notions of university education are radically impoverished. The ideas in circulation ranged from the fundamental to the eminently practical. Professor Nixon in one keynote address argued that universities need to offer opportunities for ‘dialogical interaction between students and between students and teachers’, but in a way that avoids any shallow or narrow consensus.

Dispositions are often downplayed in higher education, as if the only things that matter are knowledge or competency. Noel Entwistle highlighted the importance of a student’s willingness to apply effort and make their own decisions about learning. Professional education was a particular focus of the conference, with the keynote from Melanie Walker and Monica McLearn highlighting the need for professionals who are focused on the public good.

My own contribution to the conference was on the place that social relations might play in professional education. Imagine what it might be like if professionals learnt further ways to take decisions in light of the perspectives, attitudes and concerns of their clients; and if we all found new paths to joint action between client and professional.

Of course, if you want to realise a new form of education in your own setting then plenty of hard work is still required, but a conference like this can help to open up some new ways forward. (Most of the conference papers are provided as downloadable ‘Event Files’ if you scroll down the conference web page.)

Dr Peter Kahn, Centre for Lifelong Learning

Information session on the EdD in Higher Education with the Vice Chancellor

Colleagues are invited to find out more about the University’s Doctorate of Education (EdD) at an event hosted by the Vice-Chancellor on Monday, 12 November, at the Victoria Gallery & Museum.

The University of Liverpool’s Doctor of Education – Higher Education (EdD) is a professional doctoral programme focussed on the latest practice, research, and leadership thinking within Higher Education environments. The programme places great emphasis on the development of a deep understanding of universities, operating in a global context, as places of learning and as learning institutions.

The session, from 5.30pm-8pm, will give staff the opportunity to learn more about the programme, which is delivered online by the University in partnership with Laureate. There are discounts available to staff here at the University who enrol on this programme. As Director of Studies for the programme I will be giving a short presentation, along with my colleague Professor Clare Pickles, Laureate’s Director of Online Studies. This will be followed by a questions and answer session with staff who are currently working towards the qualification.  There will be networking and light refreshments from 7pm onwards. Any enquires in the first instance, do contact Lynn McClymont, Senior Administrator Online Programmes at the University who will be happy to help.  Lynn can be contacted on extension 50574 or by email:

Dr Peter Kahn, Director of Studies for the online EdD

Developing capacity for collaborative research

Research conducted in the 21st century increasingly seems to involve collaboration. We can clearly see this in relation to research across disciplines or in meeting pressing global challenges around the environment, health, world food supplies or energy.

Collaborative relationships are also required when looking to commercialise research or to secure research funding in the first place. Even in the arts and humanities, scholars increasingly work together in a range of less formal ways, as through the increased prevalence of web-based social networking. It’s not surprising, therefore, that there has been a growing interest in recent years in helping researchers to develop the professional capacities that are involved in engaging in collaborative research. The UK organisation that promotes the development of researchers in higher education institutions and research institutes, Vitae, has developed a model for researcher development that includes a focus on working with others. The model is the Researcher Development Framework (RDF).
In relation to collaboration with others, the RDF suggests that researchers move from awareness, to actual collaborative working, and then onto taking responsibility for developing collaborative ventures.  Alongside this, it highlights the increasing importance of working with external partners. But how straightforward is it to move from one level of expertise in this area to another? Two of us here in Educational Development, along with another colleague, recently conducted undertook a study of this territory, building on earlier work in a book Collaborative Working in Higher Education. The resulting paper was published in a recent issue (Volume 3, Issue 1) of the Internal Journal of Researcher Development.  It outlines a conceptual model of collaborative working, and uses it to analyse how the development of capacity for collaborative research is seen in the RDF. We can pull out some of the findings from the paper’s abstract:

The paper highlights the contribution that theory can make to the practice of researcher development … it identifies gaps within the (Researcher Development Framework) that pertain to relational, disciplinary, situational and other elements. The paper articulates insights for the development of the capacity of researchers for collaborative working that prioritise dialogue that is situated within given contexts for research.

For instance, collaborations that incorporate partners coming from particularly disparate settings need to build in opportunities to discuss each other’s vantage points, while individuals with capacities to support this exchange (e.g. familiarity with relevant technology, language skills or prior industrial experience) are well placed to take a lead in collaborative research even at an early stage of their career. Given the widespread use that is now being made of the RDF across the sector and the ongoing need for researchers to develop their capacity for collaborative working, we believe that it is important to explore a range of perspectives on developing capacity for collaborative research.


Peter Kahn (Director of Studies for our fully-online EdD in Higher Education) and Christos Petichakis (coordinator for the university’s researcher development programme)

Head of French Awarded National Teaching Fellowship

A National Teaching Fellowship has been awarded to Dr Robert Blackwood, Head of French in the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies. He received the award at a celebratory dinner in London on the 5th October 2011. The award was made for his innovative work on the teaching of linguistics, for using web-based social networking to support students in their year abroad, and for his contributions to the national discussion on personal development planning with the British Council.

This prestigious award comes from the Higher Education Academy, as part of its programme of work to raise the status of learning and teaching and to celebrate individuals who make a significant impact in higher education. Teaching Fellowship award winners were chosen from around 200 nominations submitted by higher education institutions across England and Northern Ireland. Dr Blackwood receives £10,000 to support further professional development in higher education.

In introducing sociolinguistics to the curriculum, Dr Blackwood has taught students about the diverse ways in which the French language is used by its speakers, especially in terms of their gender, ethnicity, geographic origins, and age. He encourages undergraduates to draw on their own experiences of language use during their Year Abroad in order to place students at the centre of their own learning experience. He oversaw the development of an on-line private social network which provides the ideal space for year-abroad supervision in the form of both academic and pastoral support, working closely with colleagues from the eLearning Unit in the Centre for Lifelong Learning.

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