When Phil Race opened the recent Developing the Developers conference in a shower of teaching taxonomies and post-it notes, you could be forgive for thinking that not much had changed since the first SEDA Annual Conference six years ago. You would be wrong. From Phil’s new take on Bloom’s taxonomy of teaching verbs to Carol Baume’s summary of the current national scene, it was clear that much had moved on. Three kinds of change could perhaps be identified: (a) educational developers were engaging more thoughtfully with the research issues than ever before; (b) new kinds of developer were emerging, often with a specialist interest in for example new technologies; and (c) developers were becoming more closely involved in the strategic thinking of their institutions. Kyriaki Anagnostopoulou and Michelle Haynes’ session on ‘Managing Ch@nge’ seemed to accommodate all three themes, with a bonus point for twenty-first century spelling.
Each of these new demands – the focus on research-led practice, the increasing specialisation among staff working as ‘developers’, and the strategic focus on institutional change – require specialist resources. This issue of Educational Developments aims to provide some timely materials for educational developers and their allies. Graham Gibbs’ article on the Impact of Institutional Learning and Teaching Strategies (page 12) details some of the strategic changes that have taken place, and that remain to be undertaken, in the role of staff and educational developers. In a survey of 134 institutional strategies he finds evidence of ‘extraordinarily rapid’ change. Developers have become more ‘strategic’, ‘proactive’, ‘mainstream’ and ‘accountable’ in their institutions, but at the same time have sacrificed a degree of tactical autonomy. The devolution of budgets for development away from central services poses problems for coordination of effort, even while it supports a more diverse ecology of development practices.
Lewis Elton’s article (page 1) explores of a further paradox of the growing strategic importance of educational development: its tendency to be identified with management initiatives, particularly around issues of ‘quality’. Elton’s call for quality assurance measures based on a commitment to quality enhancement and collegiality suggests one way in which a strategic alignment with ‘management’ can be used to promote developmental values. His words are invaluable as a guide to current Funding Council politics as well as a call to arms. Gina Wisker’s article on page 8 provides a view of how a single institution has supported educational development within the broad strategic environment described by Gibbs and Elton.
Within the broad theme of specialisation, Judith Vincent (page 5) considers some staff development issues in Foundation Degrees and Graduate Apprenticeships. These two initiatives suggest new ways of bridging higher education and the world of work, respectively at the beginning and end of a traditional undergraduate programme. If these initiatives are to benefit students, they require staff and educational developers to work with other specialists in areas such as key skills, course design and work-based learning. Tina Overton (page 15) looks at a second growing area of specialism in learning and teaching – problem based learning – and reviews some web resources to support educational development in this area.
Finally, two articles look in more detail at educational development practice itself. Helen Gale reviews a SEDA ‘Networking the Networks’ meeting and asks some difficult questions about why networking is such an obviously ‘good thing’. And a research study reported by Helen Beetham sets out to ask ‘How do representations of our practice enable change to happen?’ Like teaching staff, it appears that educational developers too must examine the nuances of our own practice if we are to survive the present educational climate and surf the whitewaters of continuous change.
This issue contains articles on:
Quality Assurance through Quality Enhancement
Lewis Elton, University College London.
Foundation Degrees – some staff development issues
Dr Judith Vincent, Dean of Students, Thames Valley University.
Learning and Teaching Strategies in Action: Fellowships and Learning Research at APU
Gina Wisker FSEDA, Director of Learning and Teaching Development, Anglia Polytechnic University.
Would You Recognise a Network If You Bumped into One?
Helen Gale, Centre for Learning and Teaching, University of Wolverhampton
The Impact of Institutional Learning and Teaching Strategies on the Nature of Educational Development
Graham Gibbs, TQEF National Co-ordination Team, Centre for Higher Education Practice, The Open University.
Web Resources for Problem Based Learning
Tina Overton, Director, LTSN Physical Sciences, University of Hull.
How Do Representations of Our Practice Enable Change to Happen?
Helen Beetham, Research Fellow, SoURCE, The Open University.
David Baume FSEDA, Director of Teaching Development, Centre for Higher Education Practice, The Open University.