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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Principal Fellowship awarded!

The Centre for Lifelong Learning is delighted to announce that Dr Peter Kahn has achieved Principal Fellowship of the University of Liverpool Teaching Recognition and Accreditation (ULTRA) framework and the Higher Education Academy.

Dr Kahn, who works in Educational Development, was awarded the Fellowship by a panel of peers, including an experienced external accreditor. Principal Fellowship is granted in recognition of extensive experience and impact at strategic level in relation to learning and teaching. Through his academic practice, Dr Kahn demonstrated successful leadership to enhance student learning across the University and beyond. His attainment of Principal Fellowship is a significant achievement.

Dr Kahn said:

“I am pleased to have secured this recognition. The panel commented on my thought leadership around educational innovation in higher education, accompanied by spheres of influence to facilitate change in delivery. I am keenly aware that any innovation requires dedication from many people. My attention is particularly taken up now with the University’s professional doctorate in higher education, but I will continue to promote ideas for educational innovation that disrupt and enhance existing practice (see @Peter_Kahn and on LinkedIn)”

ULTRA has been developed to provide an experience-based route to recognition of skills and expertise for any experienced member of staff that teaches or supports learning. Staff can apply to ULTRA in one of four categories, and Dr Kahn will be working alongside colleagues in Educational Development to encourage and support colleagues to apply for Fellowship through the ULTRA Framework.

Further information is available on the Educational Development website, or contact Dr Janis McIntyre at Janis.mcintyre@liverpool.ac.uk

Poster Day Online – the advantages of presenting research online

Poster Day online has now been run as an alternative event to the campus Poster Day (an annual one-day event where Postgraduate Researchers showcase their work, this year held on the 26th of March) for seven years. Originally set up for off-site students, but with a now wider intake, we are expecting over 150 submissions this year, including both posters and videos. So as the two events diverge in focus further, what is the participants’ experience and what have we learnt from the online event format?

The statistics alone reveal a high degree of interaction, since all online discussions are recorded. In 2014, we had over 120 participants, who with visitors contributed over 1000 comments and responses, which together comprise an aggregate of over 91000 words. There were some very lengthy responses to questions, but it is probably not surprising that most PhD researchers are keen to respond to questions and discuss their research.

The event appears to show a strong sense of community. We do have an attendance requirement for formal completion, requiring participants to respond to at least two other posters, explicitly encouraging   cross-faculty discussions which clearly helps to start the discussions. Examination of the data shows that over two-thirds of participants contribute in excess of the formal requirements, with 20% contributing six or more comments on other posters.

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Towards an Inclusive Department

Many colleagues across the University will be aware of the University’s Access Agreement responsibilities.  The challenge of evaluating our Access Agreement is huge, with no steer from HEFCE and the complexities presented in the many facets of our Access Agreement work . . .  What form such an evaluation should take was a major headache.

Led by Dr. Mark O’Brien of the Centre for Lifelong Learning, working with Widening Participation champions from across the university as well as Educational Opportunities, the project has led to the development of an approach to evaluation which is at once appreciative and realistic aiming to inform our development as a university at strategic and operational level. The full report is available at http://www.liv.ac.uk/cll/reports, entitled ‘Widening Participation and Fair Access at the University of Liverpool by Dr Mark O’Brien’.

In this blog post I want to focus on the emerging theme of ‘the inclusive department’.  By asking individuals and groups to identify what in their professional experience are the key features of apparently successful departmental activities, and then using rigorous data analysis, drilling down to local level, the evaluator was able to confirm, explain or expand on many such professional insights. The result is a list of features (some of which are found in most areas, while no department would boast all of them).

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