Stefani (2003) argues that the complexity of the role of Ed. Dev. coupled with a general lack of common understanding of the development aspect means we might better focus our attention on articulating why and how we do things instead of what be do. I agree with the focus on what we achieve but feel that our key stakeholders such as PVC academics don’t really care about the why or how. They want action and results. This has been highlighted to me recently by our move into Human Resources. We seem to be fighting a battle to articulate why we are different from HR and that how we do things does not always sit easy with how things are done from a HR perspective. One of the bigger issues in on the use of online toolkits. Having done many of them myself, they are very much in the compliance / tick-box type of e-learning. For me this is not what Ed Dev is about. It appears to be more important to see big numbers of staff completing such toolkits rather than being concerned with whether we actual bring about changes in staff that benefit the student experience.
So have we failed to articulate the why and how or does it just not matter in the current climate?
I like the ideas mentioned from Hicks (1999) who offers 3 key ideas on Ed Dev which are pedagogically sound, discipline relevant & impact on the students’ learning. These are noble ideas which resonate with me.
This prompted me to think of our new feedback policy. Good pedagogy suggests that timely feedback is crucial and yet it also needs to be ‘high-value’ (Hounsell 2007). The university where I work has implemented a policy for reducing the time taken to give feedback to students with the aim of improving students learning (or possibly more cynically improving the scores the students give in the NSS!) Yet anecdotally there are suggestions that whilst the speed has gone up the quality has gone down which I would suggest will lead to poorer student learning. As Ed developers we know from experience and the literature that there are ways of speeding up feedback and retaining the quality but the policy is a big stick and we are but small carrots!!! The hope is that the policy and the attendant challenges to the quality of the feedback will give us an ‘in’ in terms of being able to develop this area with large numbers of staff. Is this how we must operate; influence the policy first then pick up the work that falls from this?
On Page 17 Stefani unfortunately falls into denigrating my own most recent discipline area. She writes “educational developers are, one hopes, adopting a scholarly rather than a training focus” This seems to imply that training is not scholarly yet I spent 7 years convincing training professionals that their work should be scholarly and that is was pointless if it was not based on sound pedagogy and research. If I seem over sensitive to this it is because of the messages I hear in my own unit in relation to Human Resource Development (HRD). “We don’t just do training”. As though training is some lesser endeavour not worthy of our intellect. Should we not be equipping our lecturers with the skills to teach more effectively through training and development underpinned by pedagogic research. It is the training aspect that often provides the ‘in’ and the motivation that allows us to then draw this out into helping staff to understand the pedagogic underpinnings.
This is all a bit random at the moment and possibly it won’t start to take shape until I have the chance to interact with peers and read their posts. So no conclusions as yet but watch this space…
Hicks, O. (1999) Integration of central and departmental development: reflections from Australia, International Journal for Academic Development, vol.4 no.1 pp 43-51
Hounsell, D. (2007) ‘Towards More Sustainable Feedback’ in Boud, D. & Falchikov, N. (2007) Rethinking Assessment in Higher Education, London: Routledge
Stefani, L. (2003) What is Staff and Educational Development? in Kahn, P. & Baume, D. (2003) A Guide to Staff & Educational Development, Abingdon: Routledge