New Teacher Educators - University of Cumbria

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I think I teach the way I like to learn. Whether I like it or
not as a lecturer I think everybody does. We teach the
way we like to learn.
Quote from respondent D
The background to my research part 1
Changes in the national policy context:
• Dearing (1997) Report of the National Committee of Inquiry
into Higher Education recommended setting up programmes
of initial professional development in teaching to promote
teaching as a professional and scholarly activity.
• Dearing also recommended the establishment of the Institute
for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education later changed
to the Higher Education Academy (HEA).
• Establishment of Lifelong Learning UK in 2005 (LLUK) with
responsibility for the professional development of staff working
in higher education in the UK
The background to my research part 2
 The research evidence is unclear as to what has the
greatest influence on university teachers’
development as new teachers.
 Discipline
 Colleagues/departments/learning on the job
 Concept of what good teaching is
 Training courses
A solution looking for a problem to solve?
 “There is no reason to think that, in general, university teaching is
inadequate. There is no reason to think that there is a need to
reform, reorganize, and make accountable the sort of teaching that
goes in universities. There is no reason to think that courses of
teacher training are necessary for university lecturers. There is no
reason to think that such training programs will benefit university
lecturers or their students. There is no reason to think that there is a
need for a professional body to promote the status of university
teaching. There is no reason to think that university lecturers need to
adopt a new ethic or vision to complement, supplement, or resist the
impositions of such a body.”
(Hayes, 2002: 143)
Those who see the academic discipline as the key
influence on the development of new university teachers
argue that:
 “For a would-be academic, the process of developing that identity
and commitment may well begin as an undergraduate, but is likely to
be at its most intense at the postgraduate stage, culminating in the
award of a doctorate...”
(Becher, 1996: 25)
 “...novices are initiated into folkloric discourses and codes of practice
and conventions that condition the way they see the world and
interact with it.”
(Becher, 2001: 48)
Advocates of learning on the job argue that:
 “After three decades of working with undergraduates, I
remain convinced that teaching is best learnt on the job.
The more teaching I do, the more it becomes evident
that, in the university, good teaching is not a separate
and distinct activity from the rest of academic work.”
(Furedi, 2008)
Advocates of the benefits of training courses argue that:
 “On the training programmes teaching was seen to be valued and
the improvement of teaching encouraged. Innovation and change
were supported and openly discussed. In contrast trainees reported
that in their departments teaching was often not valued and that
there was pressure to conform to largely teacher-focused teaching
conventions ... Change was sometimes frowned upon and taken to
imply criticism of more experienced colleagues. The training
programme provided a kind of ‘alternative culture’ that counterbalanced the negative influences of the culture of teachers’
departments. In the absence of a training programme this negative
influence of departments went unchecked.”
(Gibbs and Coffey, 2004: 98)
Research design
• 44 former PGCert students were invited to participate in the
research and 8 were selected – 4 from each campus
representing 8 different subject areas.
• All respondents had successfully completed their PGCert
when invited to take part in the research.
• Respondents completed an open ended questionnaire the
answers to which formed the basis of an individual focused
interview lasting between 1 hour and 1.5 hours.
• Interviews were taped and transcribed with transcripts sent to
participants for checking before they were analysed.
What influence does your subject discipline have on your approach to learning and
teaching?
• I’m dealing with students who come from various different backgrounds, various
specialties, various levels of experience… And that has influenced my own
teaching because I’ve realised that I can’t afford to be narrow and different
specialities will require different approaches.
(Respondent D)
• I would say that there is a very, very strong link between the academic subject
and the way in which I teach and what I teach of necessity.
(Respondent E)
• Aah, I’m not sure … to a certain degree… first of all the fact that I teach in a
science subject rather than [a] humanity subject I think makes a significant affect
on the way things are taught anyway. Things tend to be based much more
around activities, experiments or something equivalent to experiment. However,
[my subject] is not such a hard science as some of the other sciences so it’s
slightly less structured than the lab exercises where you will do this experiment,
you will write up in this form.
(Respondent G)
• I think it’s important to know why and how it operates with other subjects but in
its own right it is very specific.
(Respondent H)
How far is your approach to teaching influenced by your colleagues’
approach?
• But you see my colleague the other day, I would have preferred to see his lecture
on WebCT. I could have read those bullet points quicker than he said them. He
didn’t read them from a screen, but he didn’t impart much more information that
was on the screen, now I could of read that in half the time and then gone and
done something else more fun
(Respondent A)
• there’s a particular chap in the faculty whose approach I really, really liked and I
watched him and thought “yea, you know I’d like to facilitate my ideas the way
that he does it”.
(Respondent C)
• The other colleague I have he tends to be very critical of everything I do and I
don’t think he means it that way he’s very passionate about his students but he
can be very critical to the point where it can be demoralising sometimes. But I
put ear plugs in, I sort of think well no I’m not getting positive feedback here what
you say doesn’t influence me, your style of teaching is different to mine, I cannot
teach the way you teach
(Respondent D)
• You mean the methods of delivery? [long pause] Well what I learn from him is
how to break things down to easy steps. Cause he’s really good in that and
repeating a lot in the lectures…
(Respondent B)
What is good teaching?
 It’s not about [students] coming in with nothing and leaving with something it’s
about [them] coming in with something and making it a lot better.
(Respondent A)
 I think [teaching] works a lot better if the student works with the information first
and comes up with the ‘this is what I want to know’ and then I as a lecturer could
then be one of a range of resources from which they might find out more
information about that but I’m only one.
(Respondent C)
 Well certain things are hard facts and they have to be told, so I … will do some
lecturing but then I’ll make them fill in the gaps so they do group work to fill in the
gaps. In a lecture? Yeah,
(Respondent D)
 it’s the approach that makes a student engage with you, I don’t have to be an
expert to teach the students. If you are an expert, what my experience is, if you
are an expert in your field you are tying to teach a level one group of students
something, and after three hours they’re gone because they don’t understand
what you are talking about
(Respondent F)
What contribution did the PGCert make to your development as
a university teacher?
•
•
•
•
I benefited from, I think and my students benefited from it as well.
(respondent F)
It has made me aware of the different approaches you can use to work with groups
particularly the options for group based assessment. It has also given me confidence
to try more innovative methods not just in lectures but also in seminars.
(Respondent H)
It was interesting, I actually found it very useful. In what way? It greatly expanded
my understanding of thinking about different ways of teaching. And it gave me a
framework to hang things on rather than just discovering as I went along. I’d only
been in teaching for 2½ years when I took that so I found that very useful.
(Respondent G)
The PG Cert particularly doing it very early on in my career … gave me that bit of a
chance to sit back slightly to read some theory and obviously to attend some lectures
and group discussions and to talk to colleagues, you know from across different
faculties as well and to wrestle with some theory and relate that theory to the practice
of teaching, so for me personally it worked out very well doing the PG Cert
(Respondent C)
What did you get from the PGCert?
 I mean your course enlightened me and made me aware of these starting
points. In the old days before your course, the students were all the same in
that they came in and they sat down and the delivery was like a blanket you
threw it over them.
(Respondent A)
 Something I found very helpful was the talking about and then experiencing
the creative approach and the group discussion of writing things down, all
those kind of things, some which were new to me, I hadn’t see that done
before. I found that helpful.
(Respondent C)
 I realised I could change the way I teach instead of the old approach I was
used to which was teacher talks and you listen and write notes.
(Respondent D)
 I’m much more confident in my approach, and I’m much more eager to
change a lot of things, in my approach. And, you know, be a bit progressive
and try to change things
(Respondent F)
What my research found was :
 The Influence of an academic discipline on a new university teacher’s
development is variable with some seeing strong links to their academic
discipline and therefore the way that discipline should be taught and others
seeing the subject matter as being less important than the students they are
required to teach.
 The influence of colleagues and departmental cultures is also very variable
but most respondents were able to identify at least one positive role model
who had influenced their development although there were some exceptions.
 The PGCert was seen by all the respondents as both a positive experience
and a beneficial one which went beyond confidence building into opening up
dialogues with colleagues from other departments and disciplines as well as
having the knowledge to try new ideas and develop new practices.
What my findings suggest is:
 There is a clear benefit to be gained from the provision of discipline specific
training and development in teaching but not at the expense of displacing or
replacing the generic aspects of learning and teaching which are cross
disciplinary. The lack of a consistent view in terms of the impact of
disciplinary areas on individual teachers’ approaches to teaching may point
to a product/process dichotomy the resolution of which is dependent on a
range of other factors.
 Learning on the job can help new lecturers develop relevant discipline
specific skills and knowledge in relation to teaching but there is a risk that
poor or inconsistent role modelling at the departmental level may act as a
obstacle to the development of effective teaching.
 PGCerts are likely to be most effective when they model good practice whilst
providing the kind of learning environment in which participants can meet
and exchange ideas and explore and experiment with new techniques and
new approaches which seek to move beyond knowledge transfer into active
engagement with ideas and principles.
References:
 Becher, T. (1996). Academic Tribes and Territories: intellectual enquiry and the
cultures of disciplines. Bury St Edmunds: SRHE and Open University Press.
 Becher, T. (2001). Academic Tribes and Territories: intellectual enquiry and the
cultures of disciplines. (2nd edition) Bury St Edmunds: SRHE and Open University
Press.
 Furedi, F (2008) Feeding a fine hunger. Times Higher Education Supplement
8th October.
 Gibbs, G. Coffey, M (2004) The Impact Of Training Of University Teachers on their
Teaching Skills, their Approach to Teaching and the Approach to Learning of their
Students Active Learning in Higher Education, Vol. 5, No. 1, 87-100
 Hayes, D (2002) `Taking the Hemlock? The New Sophistry of Teacher Training in
Higher Education' in D. Hayes and R. Wynyard (eds), The McDonaldization of Higher
Education, Bergin & Garvey, Westport, p.143 – 158
 National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education. (1997). Higher Education in the
Learning Society Report of the National Committee chaired by Sir Ron Dearing.
London: HMSO.
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