Tag Archives: Research

Reducing the ‘them and us’ of professional and academic staff – what the Times Higher didn’t say!

Like most authors, Carroll and I were delighted to have our paper on the contribution of professional staff to student outcomes published by the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management recently. We were also excited to hear that the article had attracted the attention of the THE  and we agreed to discuss our research with one of their journalists.

Serendipitously, Carroll was visiting our university at the time. Our conversation with the THE journalist, however, was a little disappointing. Despite our best efforts, the journalist chose to focus on just a few (negative) points. This has led to discussions on various forums, both in the UK and Australia, and we have felt it necessary to ‘put the record straight’ on several occasions. The main thrust of our paper was that professional staff develop pedagogical partnerships with academic staff, other professional staff and with students. Effective working is about collaboration and co-operation to achieve optimal student outcomes – and that the part professional staff play in those partnerships needs to be recognised in a systemic manner.

partners

Contrary to the view headlined in the THE, our study actually suggests there is a reduction in the ‘them and us’ tension, particularly as professional staff become more qualified. Nevertheless, some professional staff we interviewed felt under-appreciated by senior management. The sort of recognition (or lack thereof) in our study was systemic. Participants reported a perceived lack of acknowledgement as an equal partner in such things as enhancement plans, or recognition as a co-author on reports, etc. This systemic lack of recognition was evident in both our case studies.

It also needs to be understood that our methodology deliberately chose to take the perspective of professional staff – that is, we interviewed professional staff, but only professional staff. Hence the question of ‘why?’, behind some of our findings, remains to be explored. This was an ideological decision, with the aim of giving ‘voice’ to professional staff.

protest

The methodology was case study and included two cases – one from Australia and the other from the UK. As such, the findings pertain specifically to those cases, but may provide some insights into similar cases elsewhere. The recommendations from our paper include the following:

  • Professional staff role descriptors need to make clear the nature of their contribution to student outcomes, to ensure smart recruitment of people with the right set of skills and values.
  • Promotion of more overtly collaborative initiatives between professional staff and academic colleagues for retention, persistence and success, and raise awareness of pedagogical partnerships.
  • Care must be taken, by all levels of management, to recognise and value all contributors to the pedagogical partnerships that promote successful student outcomes.
  • The binary divide of pay scales and other rewards and benefits need to be reviewed, not only to take account of emerging blended HE professionals, but simply to remove a significant barrier to true partnering.
  • Length of service makes professional staff an important resource, but consideration is needed to ensure succession planning and sustainability of service.
  • Equality of opportunity for development and scholarly activity for professional staff enhances their job satisfaction and retention, which is is ultimately beneficial to student outcomes and the institution — a more engaged and motivated body of professional staff is both more willing, and able, to provide quality professional services.

We hope that this posting ‘sets the record straight’, and inspires you to read the full article.

 

Dr Julie-Anne Regan, University of Liverpool

Dr Carroll Graham UTS, Sydney Australia

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

EdD residency and graduation

July has been a rewarding month for the Centre for Lifelong Learning and all involved with the EdD. We ran our second residency and celebrated two further graduates from the programme.

The residency is an opportunity for students on the programme to come to see the university, share their experiences and ideas and meet with staff. It is an optional extra as the programme is fully online. Students came from all five continents for four intensive and enjoyable days at the Foresight Centre (pictured above).

Whilst there is plenty to report I think the residency is far better summed up by Gertrude Rompre’s reflections on her experience and on the notion of ‘doctorateness’:

 

Donning the robe of doctorateness: Reflecting on the EdD Residency at the University of Liverpool

I will admit that it is a somewhat vain question: “What will our doctoral robes look like when we graduate from the Online EdD Programme from the University of Liverpool?” On the other hand, perhaps it’s not such a trivial question. As a learner who needs to begin with the end in mind, imagining myself dressed in the appropriate robes, crossing the platform, and hearing my name spoken as the degree of Doctor of Education was conferred upon me, is an important part of my learning process. I need to visualize the end while I am still very near to the beginning. These reflections on the EdD Residency revolve around the ways the residency allowed me to both envision the end but also challenged me to embrace the journey and the present moment, a multi-dimensional approach to doctoral study that, I suspect, is key to success.

Envisioning the end

Paul Ricoeur suggests that “imagination is the power to open to new possibilities, to discover another way of seeing” (Ricoeur, 1995, 281). The EdD Residency served to fuel our collective imaginations as doctoral students. One of the ways this was done was through student presentations and pecha kuchas. Pecha kucha presentations – 20 images described for 20 seconds each – were new to most of the participants. The exercise proved to be a highlight. A format which challenged us to think about our research interests in a concise and creative fashion, the pecha kucha allowed us to exercise the faculty of the imagination and envision our future doctorateness.

The term, ‘doctorateness’, is a strange one. It is a word cobbled together, however, to describe an important process. It points to the deeper reality underlying the doctorate, the fact that we are creating for ourselves a new identity, an identity where we will be addressed as “Dr.” Early on in our doctoral studies, we explored that theme of becoming a doctoral practitioner. It is only now, at the residency, that I am realizing the depth of the transformation into which I have plunged myself. For example, I commented, at dinner, to Dr. Willis how I have noticed faculty colleagues in my own institution engaging with me in a different way now that they know that I am a doctoral student. He reminded me that it was a two-way street and that I, likely, am entering into the dialogue with a new set of vocabulary and contexts as well. Doctorateness is creeping up on me!

Continue reading EdD residency and graduation

Being Strategic and Collaborative in Academia

For academic staff, being strategic in their career planning and being part of effective collaborative networks appears to be essential ingredients for a successful academic endeavour. At the Centre for Lifelong Learning, as part of our academic development remit we recently held two workshops exploring these broad topics with groups of academic staff from the university’s three faculties.

The workshops were led by Professor Shelda Debowski  who has extensive knowledge and experience in academic and senior management roles in higher education.

DebowskiThe workshops were delivered in a participatory manner and Liverpool academics were keen to share their experiences of making strategic decisions in their careers as well as how they manage and develop their collaborative networks in relation to their research and professional activities.

Professor Debowski provided an in-depth analysis of the higher education sector based on her experiences in both academic and senior management roles. This clarified the expectations stemming from academic and funding institutions and supported workshop participants towards reflecting on and sharing their own perceptions of higher education whilst recognising at the same time the role they play in this highly competitive and global environment.

Both workshops provided insights to good practice in planning academic careers and participating academic staff discussed disciplinary and interdisciplinary practices regarding strategic career planning and collaborative work in teaching and research.

Summaries from each workshop together with key observations by Professor Debowski are available in the videos provided below. In addition, Professor Debowski offered her top suggestions for being strategic in making choices for an academic career and for establishing and maintaining effective collaborations.

 

Resources from the workshops

Short video overview of being a Strategic Academic: https://stream.liv.ac.uk/yphvjj9y

Short video overview of establishing and maintaining collaborative relationships: https://stream.liv.ac.uk/tqg7rnkv

Click links to open online pdf documents:

Tips to Develop your Academic Strategy

Tips for Successful Collaboration

 

Dr Christos Petichakis – c.petichakis@liv.ac.uk

Critical Pedagogy Against the Mass Market?

Last year, a small group of researchers at Liverpool set out to understand how principles of ‘critical pedagogy’ – the approach to teaching that insists students must play an active and leading role in their own learning strategies – are being implemented in the University of Liverpool.

The research focused upon a small number of modules that apply principles of critical pedagogy in that way students are assessed. It drew upon in-depth interviews with a sample of the staff members that co-ordinate eight modules in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences to explore how successfully those principles are applied in the assessment of those modules.

In our research we found a range of innovative and sometimes challenging ways that module leaders sought apply the core aims of critical pedagogy. We found a range of forms of assessment that:

  • allow the structure of learning to be defined by student learners’ lived reality, rather than a predetermined or designed structure.
  • encourage students to be ‘free learners’, able to challenge the physical and ideological structure of their pedagogical environment and relationships.
  • move students to action and involvement in the world in ways that promote and further the causes of social justice and democracy.

The module leaders we spoke to were committed to allowing students to challenge the dominant ways of reading the world, and to do so in a more open ways. The key motivation for others was to introduce to students an understanding of the social and political dimensions of their subject. There is evidence that such approaches to assessment are important for ensuring the engagement of a more diverse range of participants in education. Critical pedagogy approaches can be important to a widening participation agenda.

Continue reading Critical Pedagogy Against the Mass Market?

Third Doctorate in Higher Education awarded

The Educational Development Division is delighted to announce our third Doctorate in Higher Education (EdD). Dr Alicia Salaz had a successful viva in April. She works in the library of Carnegie Mellon University – Qatar. Her thesis is titled: International Branch Campus Faculty Member Experiences of the Academic Library.

She used phenomenography to investigate the perceptions and experiences of academic libraries by faculty members across a variety of disciplines working in international branch campuses. The main research question asked how faculty members experience the academic library, with the objective of identifying qualitative variations in experience within this group. The findings of her research addressed established practical problems related to library value and identity, and have implications for practice in both the development and evaluation of library services for faculty members, as well as communication about those services with faculty members.

Alicia acknowledges that:

“Four years ago I was, intellectually, a fundamentally different person” and that the work has represented a “personal transformation”.

Alicia-Salaz

Continue reading Third Doctorate in Higher Education awarded

Excellence in learning and teaching

One of the recommendations from a recent Internal Periodic Review of Educational Developments was that we should blow our trumpet more, letting University colleagues know how well we can support them in learning and teaching (L&T). So, I am taking this thinly disguised and uncharacteristic opportunity to do just that.

Ray Land and George Gordon have recently published a report on an HEA funded small scale international study on Teaching Excellence Initiatives. In it they debate teaching excellence and how it has broken out of the confines of individual HEIs to be linked to discussions of individual performance.

Land and Georges’ study looked at practice in promoting excellence in L&T. They acknowledge that excellence itself is contested and the quality of teaching, especially the difference between satisfactory and excellent, is hard to judge. HEI initiatives can, they argue, be described as moving from novice to expert, something like the way the UK Professional Standards Framework is described in four levels, and how our own ULTRA Framework is articulated.

The study points out that most UK, Australian and NZ Universities (at least) encourage or require academics to take a course in teaching as part of probation, thus aiming to ensure competence in teaching. Many HEI’s offer rewards for excellence in the form of prizes or funding to develop practice or even pay increments (proficiency level). Going beyond, advanced proficiency including teaching and expert status is rewarded with prizes, citations such as Vice Chancellor awards, National teaching Fellowships (we have five at Liverpool) or Principal Fellows (four at Liverpool) are classed as high recognition.

Continue reading Excellence in learning and teaching

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.

Continue reading Critical perspectives on methodology in pedagogic research

Research staff broaden their horizons at a regional career management event

On the 18th of December 2013 we hosted the Broadening Horizons event at the University of Liverpool as part of the Liverpool Research Staff Development Programme.

32 research staff (primarily postdocs) from the north-west region (Universities of Liverpool, Manchester, Liverpool John Moores and Manchester Metropolitan) attended a full day event and were involved in activities providing them with the opportunity to reflect on their career aspirations within and outside academia. The event endorses the 2008 Concordat to support the career development of researchers, namely by demonstrating the importance for researchers to be proactive in planning and pursuing an engaging and rewarding career.

Structure of the event and feedback

During the event, participants were assigned in groups of between six and seven members and they participated in activities that provided opportunities for discussing career options with their peers, reflecting on their current role and developing personalised strategies to pursue their career ambitions. Throughout the day, participants were encouraged to be open-minded in their plans whilst remaining realistic and being supported by their peers and tutors.

Continue reading Research staff broaden their horizons at a regional career management event

CPD for Educational Research

A new series of CPD workshops, run by Educational Development, has been introduced this semester. The series aims to support staff who are interested in investigating learning and teaching practice.

The focus of the series is the development of participants’ skills and knowledge in educational/pedagogical research. These lunchtime workshops have proved very popular, with the first session, ‘Ethics in Educational Research’ being fully-booked. This seminar provided an opportunity for participants to consider some of the ethical issues that might arise in their research.

Colleagues in the University presented information on the process of applying for ethical approval, and shared their experiences of undertaking an educational study. Following the presentations, there was an opportunity for questions and discussion. A short video related to processes and procedures for ethical approval is available as well as a presentation on sharing practice. A recent introductory workshop on questionnaire and survey design for educational research was second in the series. It was a very useful session that aimed to show participants how to avoid common pitfalls in sampling and question design.

A few places are still available for the next workshop which takes place on 19 November. The topic is an introduction to quantitative data analysis in educational research. If you are interested in this session, please go to http://www.liv.ac.uk/cll/booking/ to book your place. The series will continue in the second semester, with a focus on qualitative research methods for educational studies. Please look out for further details in the University announcements, or contact me at Janis.mcintyre@liverpool.ac.uk if you would like to be added to our mailing list.

Janis McIntyre