Category Archives: SoTL

Higher Education Pedagogic research as Cinderella: Thoughts on recent article by Cotton, Miller and Kneale (2017)

D. R. E. Cotton, W. Miller, and P. Kneale (2017) The Cinderella of academia: Is higher education pedagogic research undervalued in UK research assessment? Studies In Higher Education  http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2016.1276549

I thought I’d share a few thoughts on Cotton et al’s recent paper on the status of pedagogic research. As an HE pedagogic researcher myself, it is tempting to nod my head profusely taking comfort in the knowledge that there are a few people out there who understand the situation.

The central trust of the paper concerns the 2014 Research Excellence Framework and the particular politics surrounding the inclusion and exclusion of HE research in the Education ‘Unit of Assessment’. Cotton et al also touch on the fact that many HE pedagogic researchers have teaching-only contracts or are non-academic staff and are therefore intelligible for the REF. I was a non-academic member of staff in my previous job, so my research, for good or ill, was not visible to the university’s processes. Even though there were advantages to being off the ‘REF radar’, being a ‘non-academic’ meant that my research was somehow invisible to the university.

My main point of interest in this article was the authors’ discussion of the relationship (or lack of relationship) between pedagogic research and Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). I have long been concerned about Boyer’s (1990) separation of SoTL from the ‘Scholarship of Discovery’ (that is original research that advances knowledge):

To most academics, scholarship means reading papers and being informed, not undertaking primary research. So when pedagogic research and SoTL are conflated, it implicitly devalues the former. To make further progress in developing the profile of pedagogic research, and integrate it into research assessment, high quality pedagogic research should be viewed as something quite distinct from SoTL. Whilst it may contribute to teaching enhancement in HE (as may discipline-based research through the research–teaching nexus), until it is viewed inherently as a research endeavour, rather than as ‘scholarship’, submitting HE pedagogic research into the REF will continue to be open to challenge. (Cotton et al 2017)

I played a small role (Masika et al 2016) in the recent HEA-funded SoTL project cited by Cotton et al (Fanghanel et al 2016) carrying out interviews with people in educational development units about SoTL at the institutional level. My personal conclusion in carrying out the interviews was that rather than being contested, SoTL is a concept which few people have any views on. This distinction is important – it is not that people have different understandings of SoTL that is the issue, but that SoTL seems to have an almost mystical, deistic status. We believe SoTL exists, but do not agree what it is and behave as if its existence has no material consequences.

When SoTL and pedagogic research are conflated we end up in a situation where quality research into higher education teaching and learning is given parity of esteem with the practice of reading a book or article on teaching every now and again which is reported institutionally as ‘participating in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning’.

References

Boyer, E. L. (1990), Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

Cotton, D. R. E; W. Miller, and P. Kneale (2017) The Cinderella of academia: Is higher education pedagogic research undervalued in UK research assessment? Studies In Higher Education  http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2016.1276549

Fanghanel, J., J. Pritchard, J. Potter, and G. Wisker. 2016. Defining and Supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL): A Sector Wide Study. HEA Report. https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resource/defining-and-supporting-scholarship-teaching-and-learning-sotl-sector-wide-study.

Masika, Rachel, Wisker, Gina and Canning, John (2016) Defining and supporting the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL): A sector-wide study, SoTL Case Studies[. York: HEA https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resource/defining-and-supporting-scholarship-teaching-and-learning-sotl-sector-wide-study

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Applying for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (Professional Recognition Route)

Added 17/12/2013

See also: Ten useful things to remember when applying for HEA Fellowship­ (D1 and D2, Professional Recognition Route) 

This post is only about becoming a Fellow by Application. The alternative route to Fellowship is through accredited provision (e.g. a Postgraduate Certificate course taken by early career lecturers). I do not discuss the Senior and Principal Fellowships here.

Disclaimer: I don’t work for the Higher Education Academy (HEA) or assess Fellowship applications. These are all my own thoughts/ opinions.

From time to time I have discussions with colleagues asking for my advice about applying for Fellowship of the Higher Education. In some cases they have been advised that it would be a good to get the Fellowship. The application route is aimed mainly at experienced teachers in higher education who have not yet got a fellowship through the professional recognition routes or through membership of the Institute of Learning and Teaching (ILT) prior to about 2005.

Why apply for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)?

There are many reasons why you might apply for the Fellowship. Some universities are aiming to ensure that all academic staff either have the FHEA or are on their way to getting it. After all students do not want to be paying up to £9,000 to be taught by people with have never studied teaching in some form.  An increasing number of jobs are listing FHEA as an ‘essential’ job requirement, as opposed to a ‘desirable’ attribute as was often the case in the past. Those without FHEA may find themselves being unsuccessful in applying for jobs and promotions they are otherwise well qualified for.  Even if your university has no requirements for FHEA there is the possibility that this could change or that you may wish to apply for a job in a university which does have the requirement. With many academics facing redundancy and re-deployment being FHEA-less at a time of great uncertainty could be a potential barrier to taking the next step.

Most of those who talk to me about FHEA are experienced academics or educational developers who have ‘never got around to it’. (Newer colleagues tend to get theirs through the accredited provision route). They find the application form somewhat daunting though it is only around 3000 words in total. Unless individuals are strongly encouraged/ forced by their managers, more pressing professional and personal activities take over and the FHEA application is always at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.

The application process

The HEA website helpfully lays out the application process. The centrepiece of your application is the Account of Professional Practice (APP). This is laid out in five sections under which you need to write your evidence. It can seem daunting at first, but all you are really doing is writing about your own practice. Writing about the things you do shouldn’t really be that difficult. The sub-questions in each section are actually there to help and give ideas.

  1. Evidencing A1: Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study
  2. Evidencing A2: Teach and/or support learning
  3. Evidencing A3: Assess and give feedback to learners
  4. Evidencing A4: Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance
  5. Evidencing A5: Engage in continuing professional development in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, incorporating research, scholarship and the evaluation of professional practices

Things to remember.

Essentially the guidance notes and sub-questions are telling you exactly what to write, removing some the ambiguity in the previous form (I got my fellowship in 2008).

‘Learners’ are not just 18-22 year old undergraduates, but could be academic colleagues, evening class students, community learners.  I was not involved in teaching undergraduates when I applied and my ‘learners’ were the academics I ran and organised workshops for.

Similarly assessment and feedback are not just assessed summative assessments, but also formative assessment and feedback. This might include feedback to colleagues, evaluation work or providing academic support to students outside the formal boundaries of their course.

Most importantly the FHEA is a benchmark for all those who teach or support teaching in higher education. In short this is not about being the best, most popular or innovative teacher, but about showing that you are competent to teach in higher education. Awards such as the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme exist to recognise and reward excellent learning and teaching. The FHEA is about competence, not greatness .

Finally

Crucially, this is about you and the things you do and think . Writing about yourself, your experience and your practice can only be beneficial for your development as a teacher in higher education.  Don’t see it as a burden. See the Fellowship application as a great opportunity.

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Free open access research into teaching and learning languages

I am delighted to announce that my new website Yazikopen is now online. Yazikopen links to over 1000 articles into teaching and learning languages. All these articles are open access—in other words they are free to view wherever you are in the world.

Yazik open screenshot

Most academic articles online require a subscription to view or require the reader to purchase the articles individually (£25 for a 16 page pdf document is not unusual). I am fortunate to work at a large university which subscribes to a wide range of paid-for journals, but I hope that Yazikopen will be especially valuable to researchers who do not have access to subscription journals. The expense of most journals makes them out of reach of most school teachers as well as researchers and students working in smaller or poorer institutions, independent (or job-seeking) researchers and individuals in countries where library resources are very limited.

 

Open access logoSomeone has to pay for research somewhere along the line. In some cases the authors pay a publication fee so that their article can be made open access. In the case of other journals there is no fee—the people who run the journal donate their time freely, or their time is paid for by their employers. Yazikopen contains links to both sorts of open access materials. Most importantly Yazikopen helps the people who will benefit most to access research. It is a sorry state of affairs when teachers cannot access research which would help them to become better teachers and academics, researchers and students are unable to access research available to their peers.

Please take a look at the Yazikopen website. It is still a work ‘in progress’—not all the items are keyworded yet, though the free text research works quite well. Please email me admin@yazikopen.org your comments or send to @Yazikopen on Twitter.

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Some new resources online for T&L in HE

Back into the office after a three week(!) break. Just going through the email. Spotted the following on the SEDA list and through them worth a mention. Useful for new and experienced academic staff alike.

1. Preparing to teach An introduction to effective teaching in higher education by Graham Gibbs and Trevor Habeshaw now online

2. Also, a useful bibliography from Mick Healey on

The following bibliographies have been regularly updated since 2005:

1      Active learning and learning styles: a selected bibliography  Active learning and learning styles bibliography

2      Discipline based approaches to supporting learning and teaching: a selected bibliographyDiscipline-based approaches Bibliography

3      Linking research and teaching: a selected bibliography  Linking Research and Teaching Bibliography

4      Pedagogic research and development: a selected bibliography Selected references on pedagogic research

5      The scholarship of teaching and learning: a selected bibliography  SoTL Bibliography

6      The scholarship of engagement: a selected bibliography  The Scholarship of Engagement – a selected bibliography

7      Dissertations and capstone projects: a selected bibliography Dissertations and Capstone Projects Bibliography

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